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THE GRID AND THE RIVER: Philadelphia’s Green Places 1682-1876 By Elizabeth Milroy Gr’86 (Penn State Press, 2016, $64.95.) Many Philadelphians are familiar with William Penn’s vision of a “greene country towne,” and today the city’s public parks cover more than 10,000 acres—roughly 11 percent of its area. In this richly illustrated history, Milroy—professor and head of art history at Drexel University—examines how patterns of use and representations of green spaces informed notions of community and identity, and documents how changing attitudes toward the environment affected the city’s physical appearance and its inhabitants. Buy this book

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WORST. PRESIDENT. EVER. James Buchanan, The Potus Rating Game, and the Legacy of the Least of the Lesser Presidents By Robert Strauss, faculty (Lyons Press, 2016, $26.95.) As he recounts James Buchanan’s tumultuous single term, Strauss humorously explores the American obsession with our presidents and the concept of ranking our heads of state. A presidential history buff, Strauss has taught nonfiction writing at Penn since 1999. Buy this book

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BEFORE I DO: A Legal Guide to Marriage, Gay and Otherwise By Elizabeth F. Schwartz C’93 (The New Press, 2016, $14.95) In this handbook of practical considerations for couples considering marriage, leading gay-rights attorney Elizabeth F. Schwartz explains the legal and financial consequences of tying the knot. Buy this book

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NEITHER SNOW NOR RAIN: A History of the United States Postal Service By Devin Leonard C’81 (Grove Press, 2016, $26.00) From its origins under Benjamin Franklin to its efforts to adapt in the era of Amazon.com and FedEx, the history of the USPS is replete with colorful characters, post-office vignettes, and battles with government officials bent on privatizing the system. Leonard, now a staff writer at Bloomberg Businessweek, illuminates the enormous impact of the postal service on American life and ponders the institution’s unclear future. Buy this book

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QUESTIONING RETURN By Beth Kissileff G’93 Gr’98 (Mandel Vilar Press, 2016, $19.95.) In Kissileff’s debut novel, graduate student Wendy Goldberg spends a year in Jerusalem pondering the 700,000 American Jews who “return” to Israel and to traditional religious practice. Having set out on what she assumes is a path to academic glory, Goldberg quickly finds herself confronted with unanswerable questions of faith and identity, and gradually finds wisdom and love in unforeseen places. Buy this book

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