December 13, 2010
By Kim Cobb
It’s easy to overlook the treasures in your own backyard, but books published over the past year by members of the SMU community offer a variety of appealing choices for holiday gift giving. Here is a sampling of those books:
Johan Elverskog’s Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010) is being enthusiastically recommended by faculty campuswide this holiday season. SMU’s associate professor of religious studies and Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences maps a history of the transformative Buddhist-Muslim interaction along this ancient trade route between China and the Mediterranean Sea. Contemporary readers are likely familiar with the relationship between Buddhism and Islam only through the filter of one violent incident – the Spring 2001 destruction of the treasured, mountainside Bamiyan Buddha statues by the Afghan Taliban. There’s so much more to discover, and Elverskog opens the door to the real history of a rich cultural and religious exchange that has occurred over more than 1,000 years. Available at the SMU Bookstore and through online sellers Amazon.com and Borders.com.
There’s a special appeal to entertaining on porches, decks and even modest backyard slabs, even in the cooler months. Porch Parties (Chronicle Books), a book on easy outdoor entertaining published in May 2010 by SMU Public Information Officer Denise Gee, helps the reader set the stage with warm décor and ambience, some uncomplicated food ideas, then adds the instructions for pouring everything from a Bellini to an alcohol-free Blueberry Shrub. Along the way, she gives you a little bit of history (Did you know the Bellini was invented at Harry’s Bar in Venice?) and lovely photos of comfortable places to sip and nibble. Gee was an editor with Better Homes and Gardens and Southern Living magazines, and you’ll know from the photographs in her book that she embraces vintage over fussy. The book is about providing a warm welcome - even if you decide to wait until spring to apply her ideas. Available through on-line seller Amazon.com.
SMU alumna Callan Harrison, a December 2009 sociology graduate, knew what she was writing about when she penned the children’s book, The Girl Who Learned Differently (Shelton School, 2010). Callan was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder when she was in fourth grade and later enrolled in a specialized school where she learned to play to her academic strengths. When she arrived at SMU, Harrison worked with a campus specialist to tap the resources she needed to succeed in college. By the time she graduated, she had a completed book that shares – through a child’s eyes – what she has learned along her occasionally rocky but ultimately successful academic path. There are plenty of books out there that talk about conditions like ADHD and dyslexia from an adult perspective, but not many that help children feel good about themselves when they think they’re not smart enough. This book has a big heart and lively illustrations drawn by children with learning differences. Available through http://www.shelton.org/education/components/scrapbook/default.php?sectiondetailid=2905
Willard Spiegelman’s Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness (Picador, 2010) was new in 2009, but was released in paperback in August, so we’re bringing it back for this year’s holiday list. SMU’s Duwain E. Hughes Jr. Distinguished Professor of English in Dedman College (affectionately known to some as the natty professor) approached the collection of essays as an exploration of achieving happiness. For Spiegelman, the road to contentment involves dancing, reading, walking, looking, listening, swimming and writing. Publishers Weekly said, "Spiegelman ... is no self-help guru, but he is an intelligent, well-read and kindly soul." Available through online sellers Amazon.com and Borders.com.
Picture three recent college graduates – a theist, an atheist and an agnostic – piling into a compact car for a cross-country trip to California. In The God Dialogues: A Philosophical Journey (Oxford, 2010), authors Torin Alter and SMU’s Robert J. Howell turn the trio’s road warrior conversations into debates about the big questions surrounding morality and theism, God's existence, probability and the rationality of belief, and the relationship between faith and reason. The physical landmarks along the way, from Niagara Falls to Las Vegas, serve to jump start the conversations. Reviewers have called it accessible, balanced, and “a darned good book.” Howell, associate professor of philosophy in Dedman College, advises, “I do want to rock the boat, but it’s not a full-fledged assault on anyone’s views. Almost all the arguments that we put forward in the book are for the existence of God.” Available through online seller Amazon.com or through the publisher at: http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Philosophy/Religion/?view=usa&ci=9780195395594
Ever wondered how the folks in the advertising industry come up with those zany ideas? The Creative Process Illustrated: How Advertising’s Big Ideas Are Born (How, 2010) from SMU’s W. Glenn Griffin and his colleague at the University of Oregon, Deborah Morrison, introduces the reader to the thinking strategies of the advertising industry’s creative directors, art directors and copywriters. The clever illustrations look as though they were drawn on an office whiteboard during a lively brainstorming session. Griffin, who teaches courses in creativity and portfolio development and leads the Method Creative program at SMU's Temerlin Advertising Institute in the Meadows School of the Arts, told How Magazine that he hopes readers will derive a real appreciation for the humanity behind great advertising work: “Second, I hope that anyone who's searching for inspiration or needs a push to be more creative (no matter what work that they do) will find it in our book.” The book was written with advertising students in mind, but it’s a great read for anyone who wants to stretch their own creativity muscle. Available at the SMU Bookstore and through online sellers Amazon.com and Borders.com.
The next time you’re looking for a recipe for Cow Patty Cookies or Diet Dr. Pepper Congealed Salad, an SMU mechanical engineer may be your best source. The Texas Church Supper and Family Reunion Cookbook (Savory House 2010), by SMU’s Dona Mularkey and her friend Dolores Runyon delivers the good stuff with the folksy names that you look for at potluck dinners. It’s a small book – only 4.25 X 5.25 inches – but includes more than 100 recipes, some of which have been handed down from generation to generation. As one reviewer put it, “You might not want to take Wino Pot Roast to the church supper, but it could liven up a family get-together.” Mularkey is a senior lecturer in the Mechanical Engineering Department in the Lyle School of Engineering and also teaches on deployed U.S. Navy ships during the summer months for Central Texas College. Available through online seller Amazon.com or through the publisher at: http://www.savoryhousepress.com/index.php?act=viewProd&productId=22
Reviewers are using words like “lovely, nuanced, poignant and visceral” to describe Song of the Orange Moons (Blooming Tree Press, 2010,) a first novel from Lori Ann Stephens, a lecturer who teaches writing in the English Department in SMU’s Dedman College. The book is a coming-of-age story, following the lives of three girls who find lasting strength in the power of their friendships as they journey through a charismatic church, a Depression-era orphanage and an orthodox Jewish boarding school. Stephens explains that her first attempt at storytelling was called Lolly and the Eagle's Way – written in the fourth grade with her older sister and their best friend, Michelle. Because she was the youngest, Stephens didn’t get to do much more than illustrate the story: “Now I draw characters with keystrokes instead of brushstrokes,” she says. The book is available at the SMU Bookstore , as well as through online seller Borders.com.
For enthusiasts who never miss a Meadows Museum exhibition, and for people who are still kicking themselves because they let one get by, three color catalogues for 2010 museum exhibitions would suit different tastes.
Decorative art aficionados would likely appreciate the volume that accompanied the world's first major exhibition to showcase the exceptional art collection of King Charles IV of Spain (1748-1819), Royal Splendor in the Enlightenment: Charles IV of Spain, Patron and Collector.
Those more inclined toward modern art will likely enjoy the volume that accompanied Spanish Muse: A Contemporary Response.The exhibition, which closed Dec. 12, showcased contemporary works of art whose creators have been inspired by art produced or collected in Spain.
For traditionalists, the volume El Greco’s Pentecost in a New Context: Prado at the Meadows Volume I, accompanies the exhibition, which continues through Feb. 6. This is the first exhibition resulting from a three-year partnership between the Meadows Museum and the Prado Museum in Madrid, which will include the loan of three major paintings from the Prado, interdisciplinary research at SMU, an unprecedented fellowship exchange between the two museums, and a range of public programs.
The three catalogues are available in the Meadows Museum Shop or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: SMU faculty produced an admirable assortment of texts this year, but we are restricting our holiday list to those that most fit a general reading audience.
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