The University of Arkansas Press is pleased to announce our 14 bestselling books for 2014. The books that rose to the top last year represent our overall list very well. The list includes old books, new books, and new editions of Arkansas standards. It includes history, poetry, art, photography, architecture, fiction, civil rights, Civil War, and a children’s book written by a former president. Also represented are titles from our two newest series, Food and Foodways, and Sport, Culture, and Society.
1. Arkansas: A Narrative History, 2nd Edition by Jeannie M. Whayne, Thomas A. DeBlack, George Sabo III, Morris S. Arnold • Geographer, Joseph Swain • With a Foreword by Ben Johnson
This second edition of the standard in comprehensive Arkansas history for higher education was used in classrooms at Arkansas State University; The University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Northwest Arkansas Community College, Arkansas Tech University, The University of Arkansas, Ozarka College at Melbourne, North Arkansas College, The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, Southeast Arkansas College, Arkansas State University at Heber Springs, Harding University, Ouachita Technical College, and more.
2. George Dombek
Commentary by Henry Adams
A hefty and beautiful coffee table book, George Dombek comes with an equally beautiful price tag of just $55.00. The book is 12″ x 12″ and is 184 pages with 101 images. Arkansas artist George Dombek has sold his work to over sixty museums and corporate collections, including two works to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. He has received numerous awards, including the Arkansas Arts Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Another great coffee table book full of photographs of Arkansas vernacular buildings, Of the Soil was popular among Arkansans and students of architecture. The book is 11″ x 10″ and has 130 images on 160 pages. Photographer Geoff Winningham and architect Cyrus Sutherland began their project of photographing southern American vernacular architecture. Three decades later, after Sutherland had died, Winningham reopened his archive of Arkansas photographs, found his interest rekindled, and decided to return to the sites of the structures he had photographed. Most of the buildings, he discovered, had disappeared due to fires, storms, or neglect. But while Winningham was unable to find many of the structures he had photographed, what he did find were local people who remembered them. The stories of these local people join the original photographs in Of the Soil in a remarkable fusion that shows us much about the culture of the American South.
4. Nothing But the Night
First published in 1948 and reprinted by The University of Arkansas Press in 1990, Nothing but the Night marked the auspicious beginning of John Williams’ career as a novelist. John Williams (August 29, 1922 – March 3, 1994) is best known for his novels Stoner and Augustus. Augustus won the 1973 National Book Award.
5. Beyond C. L. R. James: Shifting Boundaries of Race and Ethnicity in Sports
Edited by John Nauright, Alan G. Cobley, and David K. Wiggins
Published in November, Beyond C.L.R. James is part of the Sport, Culture, and Society Series edited for the UA Press by David Wiggins. This book brings together essays analyzing the interconnections among race, ethnicity, and sport. Published in memory of C. L. R. James, the revolutionary sociologist and writer from Trinidad who penned the famous autobiographical account of cricket titled Beyond a Boundary, this collection of essays, many of which originated at the 2010 conference on race and ethnicity in sport at the University of West Indies, Cave Hill in Barbados, cover everything from Aborigines in sport and cricket and minstrel shows in Australia to Zulu stick fighting and football and racism in northern Ireland.
6. American Appetites: A Documentary Reader
Edited by Jennifer Jensen Wallach and Lindsey R. Swindall
The first book in the Food and Foodways Series, American Appetites was published in November. Beginning with Native American folktales that document foundational food habits and ending with contemporary discussions about how to obtain adequate, healthful, and ethical food, this volume reveals that the quest for food has always been about more than physical nourishment. Psyche Williams-Forson calls it “a seminal resource on America’s rich and complex food economy.” As a documentary history, it’s perfectly suited for classroom adoption. Professors are already using it for courses at the University of Southern Mississippi, The University of Florida, San Francisco State University, and others.
7. Hot Springs: Past and Present
Another 2014 book, Hot Springs: Past and Present shows vividly the before and after of hundreds of sites, answering questions such as “What used to be on this corner?” and “What was here before it was a parking lot?” The answer to those questions is often an opulent hotel, a theater, a bathhouse, a gambling house, or a mansion. The Hot Springs Sentinel-Record said “as noted on the book’s back cover, Hanley’s publication makes a perfect walking companion for anyone visiting Hot Springs who wishes to learn more about this one-of-a-kind place.” The book sells well in all sorts of Hot Springs outlets, including the local Sam’s Club.
8. I Do Wish This Cruel War Was Over: First-Person Accounts of Civil War Arkansas from the Arkansas Historical Quarterly
Edited by Mark K. Christ and Patrick G. Williams
From Mark Christ, the author and editor of a number books on the Civil War in Arkansas, and Patrick Williams, who edits the Arkansas Historical Quarterly, comes this collection of first-person accounts of the Civil War in the natural state. I Do Wish This Cruel War Was Over collects diaries, letters, and memoirs excerpted from their original publication in the Arkansas Historical Quarterly to offer a first-hand, ground-level view of the war’s horrors, its mundane hardships, its pitched battles and languid stretches, even its moments of frivolity. Altogether, these first-person accounts provide an immediacy and a visceral understanding of what it meant to survive the Civil War in Arkansas. I Do Wish This Cruel War Was Over sells well as the Civil War sesquicentennial continues. The book also got a big adoption for the course “Arkansas and the Southwest” at the University of Arkansas.
9. The Long Shadow of Little Rock: A Memoir
In the foreword to the first edition of The Long Shadow of Little Rock, published in 1962, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote: “This is a book which I hope will be read by every American. It is simply told and easy to read, but not pleasant.” Daisy Bates’ classic account of the 1957 Little Rock School Crisis, The Long Shadow of Little Rock, couldn’t be found on most bookstore shelves in 1962 and was banned throughout the South. In 1988, after the University of Arkansas Press reprinted it, it won an American Book Award. The University of Arkansas Press published a new paperback edition in 2007. It is a perennial favorite that is often adopted for classrooms, sells at national parks and historic sites, and is used in secondary schools.
10. Out of the Shadows: A Biographical History of African American Athletes
Edited by David K. Wiggins
Out of the Shadows sold out in the cloth edition and continues to sell well in paperback. It was adopted this year for classes at the University of Washington and Lafayette College, and it’s also great book for libraries.
Choice magazine said it best about this 2006 collection of essays: “Edited by the U.S.’s foremost historian of African American athletes. . . the 19 contributors are as varied as the athletes. Some are members of the ‘sports-historical establishment,’ others are at the start of their careers, and one, Gerald Early, is a distinguished literary scholar. Wiggins chose them well. They meet his high standards. . . . Essential.” Together, the 20 biographies in this collection not only provide insightful analyses of the athletes’ careers, they tell a fascinating two-hundred-year-long story about the complex relationship between race and sport in America and how some gifted individuals achieved success on the playing field despite difficult living conditions and economic circumstances.
11. The Apple That Astonished Paris: Poems
In 1988 the University of Arkansas Press published Billy Collins’ The Apple That Astonished Paris, his first book. He would go on to an distinguished career, including being named the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2001–2003. Apple was reissued in 2006 to celebrate the Press’ 25th year, and this edition includes a new preface by the author. Last year Billy Collins was named the new editor of the Miller Williams Poetry Series, and will be selecting the winner and finalists for the 2016 Prize this summer.
12. Thomas Hauser on Boxing: Another Year inside the Sweet Science
Thomas Hauser on Boxing is the latest in the popular annuals bringing together all Hauser’s writing from the previous year. Booklist says, “this annual series detailing the year in boxing should be a highlight not only for fans of the sport but also for those who appreciate journalistic acumen and stylish prose.” Hauser is one of the sport’s premier voices, and the author of more than forty books, including Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times, the definitive biography of the most famous fighter ever.
13. The Little Baby Snoogle- Fleejer
Jimmy Carter • Illustrated by Amy Carter
The University of Arkansas Press has reprinted a number of books by President Jimmy Carter, including his presidential memoir Keeping Faith and The Blood of Abraham. The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer is a little different, though (and indeed a little different than the bulk of our list), because it is a children’s book and was illustrated by President Carter’s daughter Amy. Originally published in 1995, this story, a favorite of Ms. Carter’s childhood, brings to life a secret friendship that produces unexpected rewards when tragedy looms in a young boy’s life.
14. Ghost Gear: Poems
Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum’s debut collection, a finalist for the 2014 Miller Williams Poetry Prize, rounds out our list of 14 for 2014. Dana Goia said “Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum is not a poet of small ambition” and though she was speaking of his poetic style, she may as well have been talking about his incredible work ethic. Since the book was published in March, Andrew has crossed the country promoting it.
Well, that’s the list! Congratulations to the authors, editors, historians, poets, photographers, biographers and former presidents who made it, and we can’t wait to see what 2015 holds.