The Arts

Winter Reading
It’s a good time to dive into a book or three.

By Pippa Jack / January–March 2021
January 11th, 2021

If you’re reading this, you’ve made it to 2021, which in itself is cause for celebration. Brighter days are ahead, but for now, the nights are long and our social interactions are few. It’s a good time to dive into a book or three. One of the perks of working for BAM is getting notice—and often copies—of some of the multitude of books that Brown alumni and professors publish each year, and while we feature a handful in every issue, it seemed like the perfect moment to double down.    

Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control by Watson Fellow Stephen Kinzer tells a story so incredible that if it weren’t for the photographs that accompany our story—many of which are also in Kinzer’s book—I’d have wondered if it wasn’t a sci-fi novel rather than a painstakingly researched historical account. Drugs, and their use and abuse, are also a theme for political science professor Peter Andreas in his book Killer High: A History of War in Six Drugs, a sweeping account of the historical significance of mind-altering substances in the wars between nations. Both books were published in late 2019 and we had planned to run stories on them last year but postponed when the pandemic hit. 

I tore through another book edited by a political science professor, Corey Brettschneider, this fall. Decisions and Dissents of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Selection is an accessible introduction to Ginsburg’s often fiery writing and the evolution of her ideas over her remarkable career. And as a former classicist, I was intrigued by the premise of The Immortality Key: The Secret History of the Religion with No Name by Brian C. Muraresku ’02. Muraresku spent 13 years tracking down clues to his hypothesis that the mysteries of Eleusis, a spiritual hub of Greece for thousands of years, centered on psychedelics—a tradition that may have lived on in the form of early Christian sacraments. It’s in my Kindle queue. Other books we cover this issue include the novel A Good True Thai by Sunisa Manning ’07, set during a bloody and little known chapter of Thai history in the 1970s and 1980s, and Silk Road Recipes, in which Gulmira Propper ’17 introduces readers to her family’s traditional Uyghur cooking.

The big excitement for us at the magazine this December was launching our new email newsletter, BAM! If you haven’t received one yet, update your email address at, or by emailing us at The newsletter comes out near the beginning of every month, and besides giving you a digital access point for reading and sharing magazine stories, there are extras such as alumni newsmakers, stand-out music tracks from the wide world of Brown-connected bands, and a crossword devised by Ross Trudeau ’06, complete with Brown-themed clues. We hope it’s a bright spot in your inbox. Happy reading—and listening, and solving!

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Related Issue
January–March 2021