Reading List

Celebrating Emory Faculty Books of 2014

Kay Hinton

If you have a wide-ranging appetite for a great diversity of narrative subjects, find a cozy chair with hours aplenty to explore Emory faculty publications of the past year. Their pages will take you around the world, back in time, and on journeys through the mysteries of the human mind. Here’s a sampling of the impressive fare that Emory faculty produced in 2014—although, as Provost Claire Sterk reminds us, faculty contributions go beyond what can be contained within the covers of books.

“Emory’s faculty are dedicated teachers and scholars whose expertise is recognized by honors and awards, research grants, citations, and the publication of journal articles and books,” Sterk says. “Their passion and knowledge spread from conference proceedings to global field studies to the written page.”

The Letters of Samuel Beckett, 1957–1965.

Edited by George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dann Gunn, and Lois More Overbeck, a research associate at the James T. Laney School of Graduate Studies and a visiting lecturer in the Department of Theater Studies

Volume three in this acclaimed series has a great deal to stimulate interest. Ironically, the same eclectic fellow who uttered the words “Try again. Fail again. Fail better” was beginning to contend with runaway success in this time period. As a result, Beckett’s range of correspondents expands. Beckett divulges details of writing How It Is, his first novel in a decade. And, for the first time, Beckett has a woman as his chief correspondent—Barbara Bray, a respected translator. They met during the production of his radio play All That Fall. She would later say that it took thirty seconds to fall in love with him. According to the Independent, Letters is “a beautifully wrought publication and, thanks to its four editors, it has an artistry all its own.”

History Lessons: A Memoir of Madness, Memory, and the Brain.

By Clifton Crais, professor in the Department of History

For those moved to tears easily, prepare for a river. Crais offers a haunting account of his childhood—the parts he can remember. He suffers from chronic childhood amnesia, the most common and least understood form of the disorder. Crais grew up in New Orleans with an alcoholic mother who tried to drown him in the bathtub at the age of three. A year later, she tried to kill herself.

As Crais notes of his training as a historian, “I have spent a lifetime sifting through the records of others . . . revealing the hidden patterns of our common past.” And yet—“It’s my own life I can’t remember.” He turns to plane tickets, postmarks, court and medical records, and crumbling photo albums for answers. And he consults experts about the neuroscience of memory. In the end, Crais reaches, if not an epiphany, at least accommodation with what is. “There is something different now,” he writes. “It’s not memory but still powerful: the knowledge that helps fill in the blank spaces where a child once walked all those lost years ago.”

A Climate of Crisis: America in the Age of Environmentalism.

By Patrick Allitt, Cahoon Family Professor of American History

Although environmentalism has been widely reported for more than four decades, this is the first general intellectual history of the movement. Allitt takes readers back, well beyond the first Earth Day in April 1970. In his mind, the movement owes its birth to the “mood of crisis created by the first atom bombs and the Cold War arms race,” which influenced ideas about population, resources, and climate change.

Does the media hype the dangers to the planet? The answer is almost certainly, in part because the science is complicated. As Allitt notes, “Only when scientists’ cautious conclusions were turned into thrilling headlines predicting disaster would citizens take notice.”

Vaccine Nation: America’s Changing Relationship with Immunization.

By Elena Conis, assistant professor in the Department of History

The sugar cube that many of us remember containing our polio vaccine was a treat for the tongue. The recent history of vaccination in the US is more bitter, but it wasn’t always so.

As Conis reports, in 1943 New York health official Leona Baumgartner reported results of a poll exploring Americans’ attitudes toward immunization: more than 90 percent trusted in vaccines. This is a far cry from conditions in the new millennium, as the role of the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine in autism is debated endlessly; the vaccine against HPV (human papillomavirus) sparked controversy when lawmakers attempted to require it for sixth graders; and parents marched on Washington. As Conis points out, “The larger debate over vaccination . . . wasn’t just about vaccine risks. At a deeper level, it was a debate about the roles of children in our society, our heath care politics, gender relations, chronic disease risks, and more.”

The Accidental Scholar.

By Jagdish N. Sheth, Kellstadt Professor of Marketing at Goizueta Business School, with John Yow

Philip Kotler of Northwestern University writes the foreword to Sheth’s autobiography, and his curiosity about Sheth becomes our own. What about Sheth’s phenomenally successful career in business and education could possibly be “accidental,” as the title implies?

There is no denying that change has been Sheth’s constant. In addition to working in virtually every area of business, he has been on the faculty at a half dozen different American universities. Along the way, this rolling stone has gathered quite a bit of wisdom to share.

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