Summer Reading List 2017

seven books stacked horizontally

The books on this summer’s list were written by alumni and faculty in anthropology, political science, English, biological sciences, modern languages and classics, gender and race studies, and geological sciences.

As you enjoy your summer months, read through these books written by A&S faculty (and one alumnus) from several departments:

Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, by E.O. Wilson

Written by one of The University of Alabama’s most distinguished alumni, Half-Earth proposes a plan to preserve our planet’s biodiversity.  In order to solve a problem as seemingly insurmountable as extinction, Wilson suggests an incredible plan: dedicate half of Earth’s surface to nature. In order to be successful, Half-Earth explains, we must first understand what the biosphere is, why it’s essential, and the threats that face it.

Evolution Education in the American South, Edited by Christopher D. Lynn, Amanda L. Glaze, William A. Evans, Laura K. Reed (Anthropology, cdlynn@ua.edu; Biological Sciences, lreed1@ua.edu)

Though steeped in controversy surrounding the teaching and learning of evolution, the South also provides an abundance of evolution research, against a backdrop of extraordinary diversity in species and culture.

Building off of the long-running ALLELE speakers’ series, the book integrates research in the natural and social sciences with chapters on evolution education, history, and culture.

“University and secondary school educators can use this volume to provide context and resources for teaching and understanding evolution from many perspectives,” said Reed.

Morality After Calvin: Theodore Beza’s Christian Censor and Reformed Ethics, by Kirk Summers (Modern Languages and Classics, ksummers@ua.edu)

John Calvin, French theologian, pastor, and reformer during the Protestant Reformation, is well known for his views on predestination and the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation. Gaps still remain, however, in our understanding of how the movement changed immediately following his death. In particular, the exact nature of the ethical and moral principles that guided the next generation remain a mystery. Summers addresses this gap by examining a work by Calvin’s successor at Geneva.

“I organize the book around a previously unstudied work of Theodore Beza, titled Cato the Christian Censor (1591),” Summers said. In Morality After Calvin, Summers illustrates how, contrary to common belief, reformers after Calvin used his ideas to “enact an optimistic, pastorally oriented program of renewal and restoration.”

“I hope that readers of this book will come away with a fresh appreciation for the contributions made in this otherwise neglected period,” Summers said.

Off Message, by Joel Brouwer (English, joel.brouwer@ua.edu)

Brouwer describes Off Message as a book of poems on diverse subjects — social media, drone strikes, marriage, Achilles, and IBM’s chess-playing computer, to name a few.

“But the underlying theme throughout,” explains Brouwer, “is a concern that language is too often used to obscure the truth rather than reveal it,” a concern the book’s title gestures toward.

Right Wing Critics of American Conservatism, by George Hawley (Political Science, ghawley@as.ua.edu)

The American conservative movement as we know it faces an existential crisis as the nation’s demographics shift away from the movement’s core constituents—older white middle-class Christians. It is the American conservatism that we don’t know that concerns George Hawley in his new book.

During its ascendancy, Hawley said, leaders within the conservative establishment policed the movement’s boundaries, keeping alternative versions of conservatism out of view. Returning those neglected voices to the story, Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism offers a more complete, complex, and nuanced account of the American right, past and present. By understanding these alternative right-wing movements, Hawley says, we will have a better sense of what may ultimately replace conservatism.

“I wrote this book over the course of 2014, confident that the mainstream conservative movement we have known for the last five decades was much weaker than it appeared and could be brought down by a challenger from the right more easily than anyone expected,” said Dr. Hawley. “The two years since Donald Trump announced his candidacy have confirmed my suspicion.”

Sister Nun, by Shanti Weiland (English, sweiland@ua.edu)

Winner of the Negative Capability Press Book Competition, this book of poetry follows “Sister Nun” as she escapes from a convent in which she was not held captive. Through various adventures, such as wrestling alligators and time traveling, the collection of poems explores Sister Nun’s identity, sexuality, and path to enlightenment across her 215-year lifetime.

Weiland explains, “It is Sister Nun’s loneliness that pushes her to live her post-convent life so expansively. Anything is better to her than feeling ‘safe’ in an ill-fitted cage. She feels an urgency to strike out, with both clumsiness and grace, to find herself.”

A State of Knowledge of the Natural, Cultural, and Economic Resources of the Greater Mobile-Tensaw River Area, Edited by Gregory A. Waselkov, Fred Andrus & Glenn E. Plumb (Geological Sciences, fandrus@ua.edu)

Also known as “America’s Amazon,” the Greater Mobile-Tensaw River Area is one of the natural and cultural wonders of North America.  In addition to supporting many endangered and threatened species, the area is also home to over 200 species of birds and among the highest diversity of turtles and tree species.  On top of natural bounty, the region is steeped in human history, including its role in European settlement of America and the American Civil War.  

This volume — available for free online — calls attention to the connectivity between the area’s natural and cultural history, economics, and personal reflection, and acknowledges challenges from human encroachment.

Educational Reconstruction, by Hilary Green (Gender and Race Studies, hngreen1@ua.edu)

Following the Civil War, the goal of Reconstruction was to bring about national unity and provide freedmen with civil rights, like access to public schools.  This book addresses how a sustainable African American educational system was created in Richmond, Virginia and Mobile, Alabama during this period.

“The inspiration for the work came from a simple question asked by my mother — was there anything positive that survived Reconstruction other than the Black church?” said Green.

As Green researched the first 25 years of African American public schools, she discovered how black Richmonders and black Mobilians can serve as role models today, as they demanded quality schools and laid the foundation for public school education, community activism, and middle-class leadership essential for the 20th century.