Spinner in Chief: How Presidents Sell Their Policies and Themselves
Stephen J. Farnsworth, Assistant Professor, Communication
Farnsworth determines how presidents, as well as presidential candidates, use the vast variety of media to support their strategies and beliefs throughout Spinner in Chief (Paradigm Publishers, September 2008). Farnsworth also portrays the misrepresentations of presidents and presidential candidates through television, the Internet, and newspapers. The book assesses the total image of the country’s outlook of the future and the function it takes within public policy making.
The Pear as One Example: New and Selected Poems, 1984–2008
Eric Pankey, Professor, English
Pankey contributes to his previous seven collections with a variety of new, exceptional poems.
A major asset to Pankey’s poems has been his brilliant use of extraordinary language. Throughout The Pear as One Example (Ausable Press, April 2008), he uses the body to discover different elements of the world and how it works. Pankey takes the basic essentials of life and transforms it into a mythical language.
The Charismatic Community: Shi’ite Identity in Early Islam
Maria Massi-Dakake, Associate Professor, Religious Studies
The Charismatic Community (SUNY Press, January 2008) takes a close look at how Shi’ism provides a collective individuality in the community of Islam. Dakake studies the growth of the religion throughout early Islam and analyzes the logical aspects that created uniqueness throughout this communal religion.
Neuroergonomics: The Brain at Work
Raja Parasuraman, University Professor, Psychology, and Matthew Rizzo
In Neuroergonomics (Oxford University Press, February 2008), not only do Parasuraman and Rizzo explain the different parts of the brain and how they work, they also describe various research methods starting at the basic and working up to the more complex, enabling a further essential understanding of human beings. This book combines science and the functions of the brain to illustrate previous studies, as well as new and potential findings.
Religion and the Making of Nat Turner’s Virginia
Randolph Ferguson Scully, Assistant Professor, History
In Religion and the Making of Nat Turner’s Virginia (University of Virginia Press, August 2008), Scully portrays a new interpretation of the rise of evangelical Christianity in the early American South by reconstructing the complex, biracial history of the Baptist movement in southeastern Virginia. Focusing on this region and its religious history, the book highlights the subject of intense national scrutiny of the 1831 revolt led by the enslaved preacher and prophet Nat Turner. Scully explains how the conflict of interrelated ideas about race, slavery, household, family, and patriarchy that constituted the state’s social order took over and shaped Virginia.
Closed Minds? Politics and Ideology in American Universities
A. Lee Fritschler, Professor and Director of Executive Education; Jeremy D. Mayer, Associate Professor; and Bruce L. R. Smith, Visiting Professor, School of Public Policy
Examining how American universities have withdrawn from the world of politics, Closed Minds (Brookings Institution Press, September 2008) is based on a study the three authors created in 2007 of 1,270 professors at 169 research universities. The major question raised throughout the book is whether students are dominated by professors’ political views throughout the classroom. The data were collected from interviews, focus groups, and a national survey made by the authors, as well as Fritschler, Mayer, and Smith’s past experiences.
To Catch the Lightning: A Novel of American Dreaming
Alan Cheuse, University Professor, English
To Catch the Lightning (Sourcebooks, 2008) is a story of the exploration of a real-life frontier photographer, Edward Curtis, and the American Indian. The book is focused on Curtis’s passion to photograph and document every Indian tribe on the continent. Cheuse portrays Curtis’s determination to make a difference in the life of the American Indian, which at the same time could destroy his family. Curtis’s work begins to take over his life, and he has to fight to keep his family together.
The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity
The latest book by Mason economics professor Russell Roberts is The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity (Princeton University Press, 2008). Told in the form of a novel, it is the story of how prosperity is created and sustained, and the unseen order and harmony that shape people’s lives. This book is Roberts’s third journey into didactic fiction in which he blends storytelling with economics. His other novels are The Invisible Heart:An Economic Romance (MIT Press, 2001) and The Choice: A Fable of Free Trade and Protectionism (Prentice Hall, 2006), which was named a best book of the year by Business Week and the Financial Times.
Roberts is also the J. Fish and Lillian F. Smith Distinguished Scholar at Mason’s Mercatus Center and a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.
Why novels? Are you really aiming to educate people about economic principles as your reviews suggest?
Humans like stories. We like to read them, tell them, and listen to them. And for most people, stories are more memorable than a graph or an equation. My novels are a way to communicate economics in what I hope is a more memorable medium than the standard textbook approach. The narratives in my novels also let me show how economics affects our everyday lives.
What comes first? The story or the economics?
Usually the economics comes first. I have an idea or a concept I want to convey. In my last book, I started with a character talking and another character listening. I wasn’t sure who they were. Were they friends? A parent and a child? Either way, they were in a conversation. As I started to flesh out the conversation, I figured out who they were. One was an economics professor, interested in understanding and explaining the prosperity of our economic system. The other was a student, a tennis prodigy who came from Cuba as a little boy, who is skeptical about the virtues of our economic system.
The more they talked, the more I figured out who they were. Then it turned out the economics professor had other things she wanted the student to understand, so the economics grew more complicated and branched out. Their lives intertwined. Why was she so interested in talking to him? Why was he interested in learning from her even though he wasn’t in her class? I kept listening to them talk and eventually it all came together.
—Colleen Kearney Rich, MFA ’95