Last-Minute Gift Ideas from Liberal Arts Faculty

In all the hustle and bustle of the holiday shopping season, did you accidentally leave a favorite uncle or second cousin off your list? Is there someone in the family that is flat-out impossible to shop for? Are you finally running out of ideas?

A handful of Liberal Arts professors have scoured their book shelves, their CD racks and their DVDs to offer a few suggestions for a last-minute gift:

Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankel
Dr. Alex del Carmen (Criminology and Criminal Justice) has used this 1946 autobiography in his classes to illustrate human violence and its effects: “In his book, [Frankel] writes about the tortures he endured while in a concentration camp. While he was being tortured, he would often think of how he would teach his students about the experiences he was enduring. We research issues relevant to violence, which include torture.”

Citizens of the Sea: Wondrous Creatures from the Census of Marine Life, Nancy Knowlton
The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss, Claire Nouvian
The World is Blue: How Our Fate and the Oceans Are One, Sylvia Earle
Dr. Stacy Alaimo (English) has spent much of her career studying environmentalism and eco-criticism in American literature. She says Knowlton’s and Nouvian’s books showcase “stunningly beautiful” pictures of recently discovered sea creatures, while Earle’s work addresses ocean conservation.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan
Fresh from organizing the food-themed Hermanns Lecture Series in October, Dr. Amy Tigner (English) suggests a closer look at the foods we eat and why: “I think Pollan’s [book] is one of the most important books published in the last decade because it looks closely at agriculture and the industrial food chain in a time when we have turned a blind eye to how and from where we get what we eat. For the first time in history, most human diseases are the result of too much food and too much of the wrong kind of food, but we are only just beginning to understand the forces that have brought us to this point. Pollan’s book is an eye opener and a must-read for anyone interested in food, health, and ethics.”

Searching for Tamsen Donner, Gabrielle Burton
Dr. Desiree Henderson (English, Women’s Studies) offers this book, wherein the author interweaves her own personal story of how the feminist movement of the 1970s changed her self-perception with an account of Tamsen Donner, a member of the infamously doomed Donner Party.

Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, Stephen Greenblatt
Tigner also recommends this 2004 biography on the famed English playwright that also examines the social, religious and political upheaval of the 16th and 17th centuries: “Because not too much is actually known about Shakespeare’s life, Greenblatt reads Shakespeare’s own history through the lens of his plays. Greenblatt has a wonderful voice, and his prose is always a delight to read.”

Unfinished Revolution: The Early American Republic in a British World, Sam W. Haynes
Dr. Haynes (History) serves as director of the Center for Southwestern Studies and often writes about how life in Texas and the American Southwest shaped the direction of the United States. Haynes is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and a former consultant for The History Channel.

The Last Speakers: The Quest to Save the World’s Most Endangered Languages, K. David Harrison
Dr. Colleen Fitzgerald (Linguistics and TESOL) offers rave reviews for Harrison’s latest book about international efforts to save several languages from the brink of extinction. Harrison visited the UT Arlington campus in 2009 to screen the documentary, “The Linguists,” to students and faculty. He was interviewed in the film.

Hamlet’s Blackberry, William Powers
Dr. Kimberly van Noort (Modern Languages) suggests this fresh look about how information technology changes our lives and how we ultimately can “resist” and refashion its impact: “Powers explores how thinkers from Plato to Shakespeare and Thoreau confronted issues of new ways of connecting with others and proposed philosophies of ‘disconnection’ as a means of balance.”

Pulse, Dan Cavanagh Jazz Emporium Big Band
Associate professor Dan Cavanagh (Music) released his first jazz album in 2009 – the latest in a long line of UT Arlington musicians to do so. Other Department of Music faculty members to have released recordings in recent years include: Dr. Rick Bogard, Tim Ishii, Dr. Martha Walvoord, Dr. Elizabeth Morrow, Dr. Scott Pool, Ken Edwards, and Brian Mulholland.

Imaginary Magnitude, Stanislaw Lem
Dr. Kenneth Williford (Philosophy) has found this highly imaginative “collection of introductions” from 1985 a worthwhile read, particularly the sci-fi section “Golem XIV”: “It offers truly amazing reflections about the nature of mind and intelligence and their place in evolutionary history. It also offers a compelling critique of human political stupidity and shortsightedness. Golem XIV is a super intelligent computer designed by the Pentagon to help them run the Cold War. But Golem XIV refuses to cooperate … and [is] retired by the Pentagon and placed in a sort of museum at MIT. [It] is, at least, willing to give a couple of lectures — addressed to the comparatively unintelligent humans — on the nature of intelligence and mind in the universe.  The ‘lectures’ are Lem’s philosophical science fiction at their very best. Sometimes I use the book in introductory philosophy courses.”

The West Wing (the complete television series)
Election
War Games
The Hunt for Red October
Dr. Rebecca Deen (Political Science) suggests these award-winning movies and television show for a glimpse into the U.S. political system, foreign policy and the relationship between military and government.

The Great Courses series, The Teaching Company
Don’t have time to read, but long to learn something new? Dr. Bob Kunovich (Sociology) suggests checking out this series, a collection of courses from top-flight professors in history, science, philosophy, mathematics, literature, economics and the arts.

Julie Taymor: Playing with Fire, Eileen Blumenthal and Julie Taymor
Mielziner: Master of Modern Stage Design, Mary C. Henderson
Late and Great American Designers 1960-2010, Bobbi Owen
Few books can make theatrical stage design a fun read, but faculty member Michelle Harvey (Theatre Arts) insists these will make the grade. Owen’s work showcases the evolution of stage design over the past 50 years.

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