Good books make great gifts

Published 12:35 am Monday, December 21, 2009

Maybe you share a couple of characteristic with me. First, when it is time to choose your next book, do you ask folks what they have read and enjoyed recently? Second, when early December arrives, do you realize there are several holes to fill on your gift list? Be calm! I asked a few friends and colleagues what they’ve read and would recommend for holiday gift giving. Here’s the list (everyone works at Delta State except as noted):

Wayne Blansett, vice president for Student Affairs, recommends a local favorite, Rick Cleveland’s, “Boo: A Life In Baseball, Well-Lived.” Most who read this column will know or know about Coach Ferriss, and this is a wonderful account of his life and his contributions to the lives of others.

Luther Brown, associate dean for Delta Regional Development, suggests “Give My Poor Heart Ease” by Bill Ferris and “Cotton And Race In The Making Of America” by Gene Dattel. The first is a collection of oral histories from bluesmen and church women, and the second explains how the economics of cotton and racial politics were inextricably linked.

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Leslie Griffin, dean of Education, offers three books for your list: “Better: A Surgeon’s Notes On Performance” by Atul Gawande; “The Everlasting Stream: A True Story Of Rabbits, Guns, Friendship, And Family” by Walt Harrington; and “Five Thousand Days Like This One: An American Family History” by Jane Brox. Each of these teaches life lessons — ethical behavior, traditions that cross human barriers and the importance of family history in rural communities.

Claudia Limbert, president of Mississippi University for Women, recommends “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett. (Several others also had this book on their lists.) Dr. Limbert says, “It is beautifully and skillfully written with authentic voices and a narrative that pays close attention to the history of the early 1960s.” It is set in Jackson, Mississippi.

Ann Lotven, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, suggests “True Compass” by Edward Kennedy, an autobiography by the late senator, and “The Bishop’s Boys: A Life Of Wilbur And Orville Wright” by Tom Crouch. This latter book shows how family experiences contributed to the inventors’ success.

Albert Nylander, dean of Graduate Studies, reached back to 1937 for his recommendation: “How To Win Friends And Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. Dr. Nylander says it is a wonderful family book, and he and his wife share it with their children as they travel in their car. His 12-year-old son finds lessons he can apply in relationships with friends.

Collier Parker, dean of Arts and Sciences, adds to the list with “Cradle To Cradle: Remaking The Way We Make Things” by William McDonough and Michael Brangart. An American architect and a German chemist offer new thinking about simple and complex designs that can be used and reused.

Greg Redlin, vice president for Finance and Administration, suggests Philip Roth’s “Patrimony.” This nearly 20-year-old book shares a personal view of the relationship between an aged father and his son as the father lives through his final months. Ro Ann, Greg’s wife, is an artist in the kitchen and recommends “Screen Doors And Sweet Tea: Recipes And Tales From A Southern Cook” by Martha Hall Foose.

And what do the Hilperts recommend? Pat enjoyed “The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity” by William Paul Young, the story of a father’s loss and the events that bring him closer to his faith. I found both entertainment and substance in a biography, “Satchel: The Life And Times Of An American Legend” by Larry Tye. It relates the challenges and triumphs of Satchel Paige, the amazingly talented black baseball pitcher whose career spanned the first half of the 20th century.

Just by chance the list began and ended with books about baseball pitchers. In between there are recommendations for nearly every taste. Maybe you can find something for yourself or for the folks on your holiday list. Enjoy!

John Hilpert is the president of Delta State University.