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reed magazine logoJune 2010

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Books by Reedies

Adam Penenberg ’86

Viral Loop: From Facebook to Twitter, How Today’s Smartest Businesses Grow Themselves

(Hyperion, 2009)
Golden Leaf

Adam Penenberg ’86 goes viral. Photograph by Marc Golbert

In this appealing and insightful book, Adam surveys the brave new world of Web 2.0, delivering an insider’s view of how we ended up permanently turned on, plugged in and never off. Through a series of engaging anecdotes, Viral Loop takes the reader from the incubation through the fledgling to the multimillion dollar stage of several Internet success stories such as Facebook, eBay, Flickr, PayPal and Hotmail. Lovelorn programmers may experience a profound case of “I could have thought of that,” when they read about the creation of Hot Or Not, the attractiveness-rating site that was born over a few Heinekens and changed the world — or at least the World Wide Web.

A business writer for Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, and Salon, Adam is perhaps best known for exposing the New Republic’s Stephen Glass as a fabricator, a role immortalized in the film Shattered Glass. In this book, he delivers more than mere fly-on-the-wall reporting: he also explores the imperative “viral factor” of these Internet triumphs, demonstrating how it was the chain-letter quality of these ideas (forward this to five of your friends) that made them so successful. He has even come up with a formula to determine the viral coefficient of individuals and companies, (to download the related iPhone app, visit www.viralloop.com).

Whether or not readers care about their own viral coefficients, the book should be required reading for aspiring entrepreneurs. The stories are both cautionary and inspirational (most of the people interviewed wound up selling their concept for many millions, despite shaky profitability). And everyone following our transformation into a fully wired and connected society should be interested in the book’s other conclusions (print media is dead, forget privacy). While it’s easy to find gloom and doom in our growing tendency to conduct our lives on a 10- (or even two-) inch screen, Viral Loop asserts that as human beings we are biologically wired to connect and to spread. The “viral” quality of the most successful sites is the same property that has enabled our species to propagate across the planet. To “friend” is to be. —Audrey Van Buskirk

Susan Subak ’82

Rescue and Flight: American Relief Workers Who Defied the Nazis

(University of Nebraska Press, 2010)
Rescue and Flight

Some Reed assignments don’t fade away. In 1981, Susan wrote a history paper on the Roosevelt administration’s response to the Holocaust, and was left with a gnawing question that she set about answering more than 20 years later. In the class at Reed, she learned about Oskar Schindler and about the village of Le Chambon, but where were American individuals and organizations?

“I knew they had existed,” she says. “My father, through a chance meeting with an American family, had been able to immigrate to the U.S. after Hitler took over his native Austria. After helping my father, the couple, who worked for the Unitarian church, went on to found a Unitarian organization devoted to rescue. How significant was this program for refugees I wondered, and why had the people involved gone unrecognized? Many years later, I opened some declassified intelligence files at the National Archives, and my quest began again.”

After years of research, Susan uncovered the untold story of the Unitarian Service Committee, which rescued European refugees during World War II, and the remarkable individuals who made it happen.

The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet

Myrlin Hermes ’96

The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet

(Harper Perennial, 2010)

The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet imagines Shakespeare’s characters, as well as the Bard himself, together at Wittenberg University, grappling with questions of skepticism, seduction, sexuality, philosophy, literature, and love. Brimming with wit and allusion, Myrlin’s novel draws on Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays to think afresh about Hamlet and his relationships. Myrlin’s intimate knowledge of Shakespeare and Elizabethan England makes this book a pleasure to read; such is her affection for his characters is such that they truly come to life in this novel. —Alix Vollum ’12

Peace and Conflict

Ted Gurr ’57 is founding coauthor of Peace and Conflict 2010 (Paradigm Press, 2009)—now in a fifth edition. Peace and Conflict is a biennial publication that provides key data about national and international conflicts ranging from acts of terrorism to internal strife to full-fledged war.

An article, “Got Up By Philaura B Stebbins” by Eli Leon ’57, was published in the winter/spring 2010 issue of Vermont History. The article represents Eli’s first signature quilt article and features a quilt made between 1862 and 1896.

Big Ecology

David Coleman ’60, professor emeritus in the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia, has published Big Ecology (UC Press, 2010), which documents his “historically fruitful” collaborations studying large ecosystems in the U.S. David notes that the concept of the ecosystem—a local biological community and its interactions with its environment—has given rise to many institutions and research programs, and he provides an insider account of this important and fascinating trend toward big science.

Bright-Sided

Barbara Ehrenreich ’63 has written Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America (Metropolitan Books, 2009). Barbara examines the cultural role of positive thinking, an idea that has grown from a marginal 19th-century healing technique into “a dominant, almost mandatory, cultural attitude.”

The Angry Earth

Dennis McGilvray ’65 is coeditor with Michele R. Gamburd of Tsunami Recovery in Sri Lanka: Ethnic and Regional Dimensions (Routledge, 2010). It has been five years since the Indian Ocean tsunami struck the coast of Sri Lanka, demolishing beachfront communities and killing over 30,000 Tamils, Muslims, and Sinhalese. This book offers a multidisciplinary set of essays about how Sri Lankans have coped with the deluge of international aid in the midst of an ongoing civil war. Chapters explore the effects of national ethnic politics, regional inequalities in aid distribution, cultural constructions of charity, religious interpretations of the tsunami, women’s dowry and home ownership, and competition between international NGOs. Dennis is professor and chair of anthropology at the University of Colorado–Boulder.

Floats Horse-Floats or Horse-Flows

Leslie Scalapino ’66, who is currently teaching at Mills College in Oakland, California, is the author of Floats Horse-Floats or Horse-Flows. The novel, which has been described as poetic, politically engaged, and startling in its beauty, was published in March by Starcherone Press.

Moving Image Cataloging

Martha Mikkelson Yee ’69, cataloging supervisor of the UCLA Film & Television Archive, has published the books Moving Image Cataloging (Libraries Unlimited, 2007) and Improving Online Public Access Catalogs (American Library Association, 1998). To view a list of articles and publications, and a delightful image by her husband, Wei Yee ’67, visit her homepage, myee.bol.ucla.edu/.

reed magazine logoJune 2010