Faculty Books

In recent years, a handful of scientists has been racing to explain a disturbing aspect of our universe: only 4 percent of it consists of the matter that makes up you, me, and every star and planet. The rest is completely unknown.

Richard Panek tells the dramatic story of how scientists reached this cosmos-shattering conclusion. In vivid detail, he narrates the quest to find the “dark” matter and an even more bizarre substance called dark energy that make up 96 percent of the universe. This is perhaps the greatest mystery in all of science, and solving it will bring fame, funding, and certainly a Nobel Prize. Based on hundreds of interviews and in-depth, on-site reporting, the book offers an intimate portrait of the bitter rivalries and fruitful collaborations, the eureka moments and blind alleys, that have redefined science and reinvented the universe.


Poetry. The poems in SAY SO are at once rigorously formal and wildly experimental. Human utterance—be it prayer or plea or pun or turn of phrase or epithet—is one of SAY SO’s primary pistons; poetic tradition—rhyme, meter, form, rhetoric—is another; the beauty and betrayals of the body, or bodies—echoed in the beauty and betrayal of language itself—is a third. Together, these forces provide the pressure that makes SAY SO move and brings these poems to life.


When Danielle Evans’s short story “Virgins” was published in The Paris Review in late 2007, it announced the arrival of a bold new voice. Written when she was only twenty-three, Evans’s story of two black, blue-collar fifteen-year-old girls’ flirtation with adulthood for one night was startling in its pitch-perfect examination of race, class, and the shifting terrain of adolescence.

Now this debut collection delivers on the promise of that early story. In “Harvest,” a college student’s unplanned pregnancy forces her to confront her own feelings of inadequacy in comparison to her white classmates. In “Jellyfish,” a father’s misguided attempt to rescue a gift for his grown daughter from an apartment collapse magnifies all he doesn’t know about her. And in “Snakes,” the mixed-race daughter of intellectuals recounts the disastrous summer she spent with her white grandmother and cousin, a summer that has unforeseen repercussions in the present.

Striking in their emotional immediacy, the stories in Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self are based in a world where inequality is reality but where the insecurities of adolescence and young adulthood, and the tensions within family and the community, are sometimes the biggest complicating forces in one’s sense of identity and the choices one makes.


The stories of Ocean State roll over the reader like a wave. Family pleasures, marriage, the essential moments and mysteries of a seemingly ordinary world that break into magical territory before we can brace ourselves—Jean McGarry puts us in life’s rough seas with what the New York Times has called a “deft, comic, and devastatingly precise” hand.


Warren Ziller moved his family to Southern California in search of a charmed life, and to all appearances, he found it: a gated community not far from the beach, amid the affluent splendor of the 1980s. But the Zillers’ American dream is about to be rudely interrupted. Warren has squandered their savings on a bad real estate investment, which he conceals from his wife, Camille, who misreads his secrecy as a sign of an affair. Their children, Dustin, Lyle, and Jonas, have grown as distant as satellites, too busy with their own betrayals and rebellions to notice their parents’ distress. When tragedy strikes, the Zillers are forced to move to Warren’s abandoned housing development in the desert. In this comically bleak new home, each must reckon with what’s led them there and who’s to blame—and whether they can summon the forgiveness needed to hold the family together.

With penetrating insights into modern life and an uncanny eye for everyday absurdities, Eric Puchner delivers a wildly funny, heartbreaking, and thoroughly original portrait of an American family.


By turns playful and serious, the poems in Dora Malech’s long-awaited second collection, Shore Ordered Ocean, revel in the inherent tensions and pleasures of sense, sound and syntax, reveal the resonance in the offhand utterance, seek the unexpected in aphorism and cliché, and tap into the paradoxical freedom of formality. This is an extraordinary collection of highly idiosyncratic poems that explore place, politics, the body, love, art, and more.


In The Art Student’s War, his sixth novel, Brad Leithauser has brought off a double feat of imagination: a keen and affectionate rendering of an artist as a young woman and a loving historical portrait of a now-vanished Detroit in its heyday.

The story opens on a sunny spring day as a pretty woman, in a crowded wartime city, climbs aboard a streetcar. She is heading home, where another war—a domestic war—is about to erupt.

The year is 1943. Our heroine, Bianca Paradiso, is eighteen and an art student. She goes by Bea with friends and family, but she is Bianca in that world of private ambition where she dreams of creating canvases deserving of space on a museum’s walls. She is determined to observe everything, and there is much to see in a thriving, sleepless city where automobile production has been halted in favor of fighter planes and tanks, and where wounded soldiers have begun to appear with disturbing frequency.

The glorious pursuit of art and the harrowing pursuit of military victory eventually merge when Bea is asked to draw portraits of wounded young soldiers in a local hospital. Suddenly, bewilderingly, she must deal with lives maimed at their outset, and with headlong romantic yearnings that demand more of her than she feels prepared to give. And she must do so at a time when dangerous revelations—emotional detonations—are occurring in her own family.

Rich, humorous, and grippingly written, The Art Student’s War is Leithauser’s finest novel to date—a view both global and intimate in its portrayal of one family caught up in the personal and national drama of the Second World War.


A stunning investigation of the roots of the first moon landing 40 years ago. This illuminating story of the dawn of the space age reaches back to the reactionary modernism of the Third Reich, using the life of “rocket scientist” Wernher von Braun as its narrative path through the crumbling of Weimar Germany and the rise of the Nazi regime. Von Braun, a blinkered opportunist who could apply only tunnel vision to his meteoric career, stands as an archetype of myriad twentieth century technologists who thrived under regimes of military secrecy and unlimited money. His seamless transformation from developer of the deadly V-2 ballistic missile for Hitler to an American celebrity as the supposed genius behind the golden years of the U.S. space program in the 1950s and 1960s raises haunting questions about the culture of the Cold War, the shared values of technology in totalitarian and democratic societies, and the imperatives of material progress.


The Swallow Anthology of New American Poets gathers the work of 35 of the most compelling and talented new poets writing today. Groundbreaking anthologies of this kind come along once in a generation and, in time, define that generation. The Swallow Anthology identifies a group of poets who have recently begun to make an important mark on contemporary poetry, and their accomplishment and influence will only grow with time. The poets of The Swallow Anthology do not constitute a school or movement; rather they are a group of unique artists working at the top of their craft. As editor David Yezzi writes in his introduction, “Here is a group of poets who have, perhaps for the first time since the modernist revolution, returned to a happy détente between warring camps. This is a new kind of poet, who, dissatisfied with the climate of extremes, has found a balance between innovation and received form, the terror beneath the classical and the order underpinning the romantic. This new unified sensibility is no watered–down admixture, no easy compromise, but, rather, the vital spirit behind the most accomplished poetry being written by America’s new poets.”Poets include: Craig Arnold, David Barber, Rick Barot, Priscilla Becker, Geoffrey Brock, Dan Brown, Peter Campion, Bill Coyle, Morri Creech, Erica Dawson, Ben Downing, Andrew Feld, John Foy, Jason Gray, George Green, Joseph Harrison, Ernest Hilbert, Adam Kirsch, Joanie Mackowski, Eric McHenry, Molly McQuade, Joshua Mehigan, Wilmer Mills, Joe Osterhaus, J. Allyn Rosser, A. E. Stallings, Pimone Triplett, Catherine Tufariello, Deborah Warren, Rachel Wetzsteon, Greg Williamson, Christian Wiman, Mark Wunderlich, David Yezzi, and C. Dale Young.


Brad Leithauser’s “most satisfying collection in years” (Library Journal), a bracing poetic journey that begins in a warm, peopled world and concludes in a cooler and more private place, embracing love of the human and natural world in all its states.