Contact: Ellen Sterner
SMU News & Media Relations
(214) 768-7650


July 5, 2002


DALLAS (SMU) -- With the lazy days of summer in full swing, several SMU faculty and staff members have offered their recommendations for good summer reading. Their choices range from humor and drama to poetry and mysteries as well as theology and self-help.

From Chris Peck, Belo Distinguished Chair in Journalism, Meadows School of the Arts:

Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” offers fascinating insight into how small things in life can, in fact, lead to big changes in society. A wonderful lesson for academics and anyone who wonders whether their work, in fact, can make a difference.

In addition, I’d recommend Annie Proulx’s quirky, life-sized stories about cowboys and other misfits in Wyoming. As a native of the state, I found her portraits in “Close Range: Wyoming Stories” to be her best writing since “The Shipping News.”

From John C. Holbert, Lois Craddock Perkins Professor of Homiletics, Perkins School of Theology:

Philip Yancey, an open-minded (and open-hearted) evangelical Christian author, takes a brief look at 13 fellow strugglers and their lives and written work in “Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church.” These are the people, he says, who have nurtured and energized his faith, especially when it seemed to lag and when the traditional church was of little aid. Some names are very famous (Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi); some are not (Dr. Paul Brand). Some overtly religious (G.K. Chesterton), some less so (Annie Dillard, Feodor Dostoyevsky). Here is a book for pilgrims whose journey is less a straight interstate highway than a twisting mountain road with few guardrails. After reading these ruminations, you probably will rush out to grab some of the wonderful works that have helped Yancey. And that will be precisely what he hopes you will do.

From Jerry Magar, Director of Organizational Effectiveness:

Forrest Gump would agree: “Naked,” a collection of short essays by David Sedaris, is like a box of chocolates. If you bite into a piece you don’t like, stuff it back into the box (bitten-side down, of course) and move on to the next one. You’ll soon find one that hits the spot. “Naked” offers a glimpse into the quirky, usually raunchy, sometimes disturbing, but always amusing mind of Sedaris’ childhood in ways we all can relate to (even if we don't want to admit it). From Walter Mitty-like daydreams of starring in his own TV show (complete with a Proboscis monkey as sidekick) to memories of his father’s fear-inducing parenting tactics, Sedaris finds humor and humanity in the most unlikely of places. And eventually, like that last piece of neglected, half-eaten chocolate, you somehow return to it and find yourself enjoying it after all. Oh, and about the title: Depending upon your expectations, it may disappoint, but the book is sure not to.

From Gillian McCombs, Dean and Director, Central University Libraries:

My first pick for summer reading has to be Larry McMurtry’s latest novel “Sin Killer.” I had never read a McMurtry book until I came to Texas. After starting with “Duane’s Depressed,” I was hooked. Since visiting Archer City and the McMurtry bookstore this spring, I am even more excited about sitting down with the novel, which takes an English family up the Missouri River in 1830.

But summer is always the time when, lying in air-conditioned comfort, I look longingly out at my garden that is too hot to work in most of the time. I am therefore in the mood to be enchanted by the poetic treatise “A Garden From a Hundred Packets of Seed” by James Fenton, former professor of poetry at Oxford. Only 125 pages long, the book contains phrases like “Why should the flower gardener ... not ask: What do I feel like growing this year? What delights me? What bores me? What is ravishing? What is revolting?” I will dream happily of an English herbaceous border, knowing that little of what Fenton describes will ever sprout in Texas. But what is summer for if not dreaming?

From Elizabeth Mills, Senior Editor and Director of Development, Southwest Review:

Cleopatra Mathis’ 2001 volume of poetry “What To Tip the Boatman?” is a strong collection that, especially after Sept. 11, will resonate with the experiences of many. Mathis writes about a difficult year during which she lost her gifted teen-age daughter to mental illness and possibly suicide; Mathis never says for certain. This is a mature work of large, subterranean movements that students of poetry will want to know.