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Ten scholarly stocking stuffers

Thursday, December 01, 2016

LAWRENCE — Santa Claus can fit a lot more than toy trains and dolls in his sleigh, and University of Kansas professors have published a number of recent books and other works that would make excellent holidays gifts. Here are 10 suggestions.

One book that considers the reason for the season is KU Theatre Department Professor Henry Bial’s “Playing God: The Bible on the Broadway Stage,” published last year by University of Michigan Press. Bial says 121 adaptations of the Good Book, notably “Jesus Christ Superstar,” have made it to the Broadway stage, and critics praised the author’s analysis of the phenomenon.

Did you mean to catch Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq” in the theater but missed it? A star-studded cast brings Lee’s adaptation of the Greek tragi-comedy “Lysistrata” to life in contemporary Chicago. Lee and KU Professor of Film and Media Studies Kevin Willmott shared screenwriting credit on “Chi-Raq.” It can be purchased in DVD form or streamed through various services, including iTunes and Amazon Video.

Sticking with film studies, prolific writer and Associate Professor John Tibbetts has a couple of recent books that would make good gifts, depending on the recipient’s taste. Last year, Tibbetts drew on his 40-year career in journalism to publish “Those Who Made It: Speaking with the Legends of Hollywood.” Excerpts from interviews with Spielberg, Altman, Bradbury and many more will captivate the movie buff in your life. If, however, you know a horror-fiction fan, try Tibbetts’ most recent book, “The Gothic Worlds of Peter Straub,” for a critical look at Stephen King’s collaborator.

If there is an alternative rock fan on your list, Assistant Professor of Music Theory Brad Osborn’s new book, “Everything in its Right Place: Analyzing Radiohead,” might be a good choice. Osborn is the first author to probe deeply into the British band’s lyrics, music and the relationship between the two.

Art lovers might appreciate a copy of “Albert Bloch and the Blue Rider: The Munich Years” by Professor Emeritus of German Frank Baron and photographer Jon Blumb. It’s a re-examination of the St. Louis artist who was associated with the early 20th century European modern art movement known as the Blue Rider. An even more revisionist work is “Rethinking Andrew Wyeth,” edited by Art History Professor David Cateforis. The book attempts to refute the critical shellacking Wyeth’s realism received after the advent of pop art.

If you are still wondering how Donald Trump won the presidential election, “Debating the Donald,” with a chapter by KU debate program director Brett Bricker, is one place to start. It examines Trump’s debate performances in sweeping to the Republican nomination. Perhaps a related tale is “Journalism’s Lost Generation: The Un-doing of U.S. Newspaper Newsrooms” by Professor of Journalism Scott Reinardy. It draws on 10 years’ worth of the author’s research into the state of 21st century newspaper journalism.

Finally, there is “On the Wing: Insects, Pterosaurs, Birds, Bats and the Evolution of Flight” by David Alexander, associate scientist in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Alexander tracks the evolution of flight over 350 million years and offers fascinating facts, including how some creatures bathe, sleep and even mate while in flight.