E.M. Rose, “The Murder of William Norwich: The Origins of Blood Libel in the Middle Ages,” Oxford University Press.

Rose, a Princeton-based historian who has taught at Johns Hopkins, Villanova, Princeton, and Baruch/CUNY, documents the 12th century case of William of Norwich, a young apprentice leatherworker who was found murdered, his body showing signs of torture. The story spread that it was a ritual murder, performed by Jews in imitation of the Crucifixion as a mockery of Christianity. The outline of William’s tale eventually gained currency far beyond Norwich, and the idea that Jews engaged in ritual murder became firmly rooted in the European imagination.

Although no charge of ritual murder has withstood historical scrutiny, the concept of the blood libel is so emotionally charged and deeply rooted in cultural memory that it endures even today.

Wendy Laura Belcher, “The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros: A Seventeenth-Century African Biography of an Ethiopian Woman,” Princeton University Press.

Belcher’s book is the first English translation of the earliest-known book-length biography of an African woman, and one of the few lives of an African woman written by Africans before the 19th century.

Belcher, associate professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University, provides a picture of the experiences and thoughts of Africans, especially women, before the modern era.

One of the earliest stories of African resistance to European influence, this biography also provides a picture of domestic life, including Walatta Petros’s life-long relationship with a female companion.

Hal Foster, “The Bad New Days: Art, Criticism, Emergency,” Verso Books.

A prominent art theorist and professor of art and archaeology at Princeton, Foster examines the evolution of art and criticism over the last 25 years, exploring their dynamic relation to the general condition of emergency instilled by neoliberalism and the war on terror.

Against the claim that art making has become so heterogeneous as to defy historical analysis, Foster argues that the critic must still articulate a clear account of the contemporary in all its complexity.

Judy Auer Shaw, “The Raritan River: Our Landscape, Our Legacy,” Rutgers University Press.

Shaw, director of the Sustainable Raritan River Initiative and senior research specialist at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, details the Raritan’s striking biodiversity and the variety of human activities that take place along its banks, tracing its story through history and demonstrating how we can work together to better steward the area’s natural resources for future generations.

With over 350 photographs and 20 paintings, the book documents the challenges faced by the 90-mile long river, which hosts the longest contiguous wildlife corridor in the state and is a vital source of recreation and drinking water for millions of residents. At the same time, however, decades of extensive urbanization and industrialization in the region have led to reduced water quality and severely damaged wildlife habitats.

Roy Scranton, “Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of Civilization,” City Lights Publishers.

Expanding on a November 10, 2013, essay in the New York Times (the most E-mailed article on the day it appeared), Scranton describes his reaction to the world of rising seas, increasing temperatures, and extreme weather. He foresees conflict, famine, plagues, and riots, with human-caused climate change posing a danger to political and economic stability, and to civilization, as well.

Scranton, a war veteran, journalist, author, and Princeton PhD candidate, is the contributing editor of “Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War,” a compilation of short stories by veterans of the Iraq war.

Daniel Hoffman-Schwartz, Barbara Natalie Nagel, and Lauren Shizuko Stone, editors, “Flirtations: Rhetoric and Aesthetics This Side of Seduction,” Fordham University Press.

Hoffman-Schwartz, an associate research scholar in the department of Comparative Literature at Princeton; Nagel, who teaches in the German Department at Princeton, and Stone, a German professor at the University of Colorado, explore the distinction between flirtation and seduction.

Their anthology considers that both the discourse and the critique of seduction are unified by their shared obsession with a very determinate end: power. In contrast, flirtation is the game in which no one seems to gain the upper hand and no one seems to surrender.

Paul G. E. Clemens, “Rutgers since 1945: A History of the State University of New Jersey,” Rutgers University Press.

Rutgers, a small men’s liberal arts college in the 1940s, has been transformed since then into the major public research university it is today.

Clemens, a professor of history at Rutgers, notes that a critical decision was “the creation of Livingston College, and with it a recognition that Rutgers would try to meet its responsibility to provide a college education for the rapidly growing New Jersey high school population . . . Livingston, which was coeducational, made the admission of women to Rutgers College virtually inevitable and forced the university to a planning crossroads.”


Hester Young, “The Gates of Evangeline,” Penguin Publishing.

Hester Young has a master’s degree in English with a creative writing concentration from the University of Hawaii. She lives with her husband and two children in Lawrenceville.

The protagonist of Young’s new novel is a New York journalist named Charlotte “Charlie” Cates. But an important element is the setting: Louisiana. As Young wrote at the blog Crime­ThrillerGirl.com:

“Louisiana is the kind of place that almost writes a mystery for you. From the moment you first turn down an old, unpaved driveway and see that curtain of Spanish moss hanging from the trees, you’ll feel secrets. I often feel that I did not really choose it as my setting at all. It chose me.

“Louisiana came to me the same way that it appears to my protagonist: in a dream. I was sitting in a rowboat across from a young boy. The child told me his name and age. Let me tell you how I died, he said. I didn’t know then that I had stumbled upon the opening of a novel. The dream stayed with me for months . . . The only way to exorcise a story is to tell it.

Maria Imbalzano, “Dancing in the Sand,” WildRosePublishing.com.

Maria Imbalzano, the well-known divorce attorney at Stark & Stark in Lawrenceville, has written her second novel, about an accomplished dance major at NYU, pursuing her dream of becoming a professional in a national dance company. But a celebratory weekend in Newport, where she meets the man of her fantasies, has devastating consequences that change her life forever.

Her first book, “Unchained Memories,” was published in 2014 and had sales of more than 17,000. Her website is www.mariaimbalzano.com.

R.G. Belsky, “Shooting for the Stars,” Atria Books.

Belsky, a former newspaper editor now living in Princeton, sets his novel some thirty years ago, when a movie star was shot to death by a crazed fan in New York City, who then killed himself. The police ruled it a murder-suicide, the case was closed, and the beloved starlet faded away into history. But when New York Daily News reporter Gil Malloy re-investigates the death, long-buried secrets emerge and he begins to uncover the trail of a new serial killer. And more people are dying. Now, before he can solve the current crimes, Gil must find out what really happened to the movie star all those years ago.

A former editor at the Daily News and New York Post, Belsky has also served as managing editor at NBCNews.com , where he worked with Brian Williams and the Today show and oversaw content on the NBCNews website. His previous novels include “Playing Dead” and Loverboy.” His website: www.rgbelsky.com.

Belsky says there are several scenes in the book centered on the New Jersey shore. And, he notes, “I wrote a lot of the book at Small World Coffee on Witherspoon and the Starbucks on Nassau in Princeton.”

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