July 17, 2020
“I’m Booked.” – SEC Literature to Read This Summer
By: SEC Staff
SECU (Twitter: @TheSECU)
Is there ever a bad time to dive into a good book? We don’t think so. And we agree with all the bookworms that there’s something about the summer sunshine and warm weather that makes pleasure reading feel like a little slice of paradise.
From noteworthy graduates to esteemed faculty, no matter your genre, there is an acclaimed literary work out there with a connection to your favorite SEC university. And we are here to help you find it with several “SEC titles” worth adding to your summer reading list.
Alabama – “Forrest Gump” by Winston Groom
Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump in a crimson jersey is an iconic image for University of Alabama alumni and fans, but the novel by the same name is a must read. In the novel, Winston Groom, a Mobile native and Alabama graduate, channels his personal experience into a modern folk hero, including his tour of duty in the Vietnam War and his time in Tuscaloosa. “Forrest Gump” has sold 1.7 million copies to date, bolstered by Hanks’ Oscar-winning depiction in the film adaptation.
Arkansas – “True Grit” by Charles Portis
How do you measure a great Western? Perhaps when both John Wayne and Jeff Bridges play your protagonist in separate films. Charles Portis, a University of Arkansas alumnus, only penned five novels before passing away earlier this year, but those were enough to leave a lasting legacy as one of the 20th century’s most celebrated authors in the genre.
Auburn – “First Man” by James R. Hansen
Auburn University Professor Emeritus James Hansen isn’t the first man to write about the life and accomplishments of Neil Armstrong, but in 2005, he did pen the “first and only definitive authorized account” of the legendary astronaut. From his upbringing and personal life to his historic flight on board Apollo 11, this biography chronicles one of the country’s most noteworthy citizens, and it provides the template for the critically acclaimed 2018 film.
Florida – “Under the Tuscan Sun” by Frances Mayes
If you read to escape, the Italian countryside seems like a pretty good place to go, and University of Florida graduate Frances Mayes takes you there. This relaxing memoir, which inspired the popular film, follows a noteworthy UF graduate as she and her husband renovate a Tuscan villa over the course of several summers – learning about Italy’s culture and history along the way. If you need another reason to pick up this New York Times bestseller, it also includes several chapters of recipes!
Georgia – “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens
After earning a degree from the University of Georgia, enjoying a career in conservation, and penning a handful of wildlife memoirs, Delia Owens’ debut novel wasn’t just an accomplishment – it set the literary world on fire. A coming-of-age tale blended with a murder mystery, this work spent 30 weeks at the top of the New York Times bestseller list and led Amazon’s list of Most Sold Books in fiction.
Kentucky – “New Collected Poems” by Wendell Berry
Wendell Berry is about as Kentucky as it gets. He received two degrees from the University of Kentucky, taught Creative Writing for more than a decade, and he still resides in nearby Port Royal. Berry has built quite a legacy in the field, penning a wealth of poems, novels, and essays to complement his activism and passion for sustainable farming.
John Maxwell Hamilton spent more than two decades in the field before joining the faculty ranks at LSU, and he’s authored or co-authored ten texts about a profession increasingly under fire. His 2009 “Roving Eye” chronicles the history of American reporters abroad, examining how the challenges of foreign correspondence – from language barriers to national security – call for skillful, tenacious, and unbiased media coverage.
Ole Miss – “Heavy” by Kiese Laymon
Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi, Kiese Laymon’s latest memoir isn’t just a gripping personal account of his upbringing in Mississippi and the dynamics of familial relationships – it’s one of the most lauded nonfiction works of 2018. “Heavy” won the Andrew Carnegie Medal and was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize, not to mention being named to dozens of best-of lists from outlets like NPR, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.
Mississippi State – “Bleachers” by John Grisham
With a law degree and nearly a decade of criminal law experience, it’s no surprise John Grisham became one of the top names in courtroom fiction. And after attending both Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi, he’s no stranger to college football either. Granted, his legal thrillers are highly acclaimed and well known, “Bleachers” is sure to satisfy the football fan in you.
Missouri – “Roundabout” by Phong Nguyen
On the surface, University of Missouri Professor Phong Nguyen’s novel seems like a standard text, chronicling an accountant’s decision to leave his job and family to embark on a road trip. But this story examines the literary process through a protagonist who knows he is an author’s creation. And if you look closely, you’ll see this “improvisational fiction” is missing something – the letter “e,” which is nowhere to be found in the text.
South Carolina – “Head Off & Split” by Nikky Finney
As the winner of the SIBA Book Award for Poetry, the GCLS Award for Poetry, and the prestigious National Book Award for Poetry, this collection could fill a trophy case all on its own. University of South Carolina Professor Nikky Finney’s brilliant pieces provide an artful examination of some seminal Southern figures, from Senator Strom Thurmond and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Hurricane Katrina survivors.
Tennessee – “Leaving Orbit” by Margaret Lazarus Dean
Venturing into outer space is undoubtedly one of mankind’s greatest achievements, and it often makes for a fascinating read, too. While teaching Creative Writing at the University of Tennessee, Professor Margaret Lazarus Dean for years spent her spare time researching NASA’s last three space shuttle launches from Cape Canaveral. The result, “Leaving Orbit,” is a creative work of nonfiction chronicling the end of an era that captured America’s imagination for half a century.
Texas A&M – “Remaking Horror” by James Francis Jr.
No genre of film has become so ready-made for recycling than horror, particularly during the last two decades. James Francis, Jr., a horror scholar and Texas A&M University graduate, traces the lineage of the horror remake back to Gus Van Sant’s 1998 update of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” analyzing the industry phenomenon through more than two dozen movies.
Vanderbilt – “Pimps Up, Ho’s Down: Hip Hop’s Hold on Young Black Women” by Tracy Denean Sharpley-Whiting
Hip-hop has dominated popular music for decades, but it hasn’t exactly been an empowering medium for women. Vanderbilt University Professor Tracy Sharpley-Whiting – a 2020 SEC Faculty Achievement Award winner – breaks down the complicated relationship between the genre that engaged young Black women while simultaneously propagating a culture of unveiled misogyny. This is a must read for anyone interested in music, pop culture or the African American experience.