Barry McNamara  |   Published December 13, 2021

The Gift of Reading

Need an idea for a Christmas present? Consider these books by a baker’s dozen of College-connected authors.

GIFT IDEAS: These books by Monmouth College-connected authors are just a sampling of the ones ava... GIFT IDEAS: These books by Monmouth College-connected authors are just a sampling of the ones available. MONMOUTH, Ill. – Running out of Christmas gift ideas for those special someones on your list?

Then read on and consider giving the gift of reading. Monmouth College alumni, retired staff, and current and retired faculty have enough recent literature on the market to fill up the 12 days of Christmas, and then some.

On the first day of Christmas, consider gifting After Breakfast I Change Lives by longtime Monmouth admission counselor Peter Pitts. The book is full of heartwarming stories of connections Pitts made with high school students eager to find the right college home. In his 27 years at Monmouth, Pitts helped more than 2,000 such students find that home at Monmouth.

On the second day of Christmas, how about two books by Melissa Scholes Young? The 1997 Monmouth graduate received critical acclaim for her 2017 debut novel, Flood, set in her hometown of Hannibal, Missouri. Her second novel, The Hive, has been optioned by Sony Entertainment. Scholes Young is a professor of literature at American University in Washington, D.C.

On the third day of Christmas – you know what, that repeating line gets old in the holiday tune, and it’s getting old here, too. But we can still tie in the number “3,” as in NCAA Division III, which is the subject of a book by 1984 graduate Chris Pio. Gryphons, Gorloks & Gusties: A History of NCAA Division III Nicknames and Mascots contains stories of 450 DIII colleges and universities. The history, evolution and relevant meaning of the nickname and a description of the team mascot are recorded for each institution. It’s perfect for the sports fan on your list.

The history buff on your list will appreciate the next three alumni works, two of them written by graduates from the 1980s. Dr. Moira Dolan ’80 authored Boneheads & Braniacs: Heroes and Scoundrels of the Nobel Prize in Medicine, while Dan Cotter ’88 wrote The Chief Justices: The Seventeen Men of the Center Seat, Their Courts and Their Times. Dolan’s book covers the winners from 1901 to 1950 – “a surprisingly diverse group of racists, cranks and opportunists, as well as heroes, geniuses and selfless benefactors of humanity.”

Cotter’s book goes all the way back to the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John Jay, who was appointed in 1789, and another alumni-authored book goes back even further – The Freemasons Who Won America’s War for Independence by Gregory W. Young ’68. Still active today, Freemasons are a fraternal organization with roots as far back as the 13th century. Freemasons of note during America’s war for independence were George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Paul Revere.

Speaking of presidents, Matt Fotis ’01 focuses on the commanders-in-chief in his new book, Satire & The State: Sketch Comedy and the Presidency. A fan favorite as an actor during his days as a student at Monmouth, Fotis is now a professor of theatre – and self-described “all around swell fellow” – at Albright College in Pennsylvania. His book analyzes such presidential portrayals as Chevy Chase’s Gerald Ford, Dana Carvey’s George H.W. Bush and Will Ferrell’s George W. Bush, which all worked to shape the actual politician’s public persona.

“I wanted to write a story that was fun but also had a positive message.” Noah Emery

More into mysteries? There are at least two to recommend, both involving witchcraft. Which witch is which? In the Sleep of Death is the one by Kimberly Van Ginkel ’97 and The Witch’s Child is the one by retired faculty member Susan Van Kirk, who spent the last few years of her 44-year teaching career in Monmouth’s communication studies department. The Witch’s Child is the latest in her series of mysteries.

Amy Wright Vollmar ’85 has spent a lot of time in the Ozark region of Arkansas and Missouri, and she invites readers to Follow along in her new book of poetry. Wrote one reviewer: “In essence, (Follow) is a gallery of mind-photos in which a poet who knows the intricacies of a unique nature-scape follows paths through mountains she knows at a cellular level.”

Speaking of Wrights who write poetry, Monmouth English professor David Wright (no relation) has a fairly recent volume of poetry out, titled Local Talent. Like Vollmar, Wright, who is a native of central Illinois, focuses on an area not far from the College, deepening “his poetic engagement with the physical and spiritual terrain of the Midwest.”

How about something for the kids? Kevin’s First Flight is 2010 graduate Noah Emery’s first book, and it’s sure to delight young readers. What will Kevin the cardinal discover during his first flight? And will he make it back? “I wanted to write a story that was fun but also had a positive message,” said Emery of the book, which is illustrated by his Monmouth classmate, Lindsay Johnson Cocquit.

Last but not least is a book ABOUT a great children’s series. Monmouth philosophy professor Anne Mamary edited The Alchemical Harry Potter: Essays on Transfiguration in J.K. Rowling’s Novels and authored its final essay, “Ruddy Stargazers: Centaurs, Philosophers, and a Life Worth Living.” The longtime faculty member is serious about the subject, teaching a Monmouth course called “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Soul.”

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  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p><strong>Monmouth College is the birthplace of the women’s fraternity movement. Pi Beta Phi, the first such collegiate women’s organization, was founded at Monmouth in 1867. It was followed three years later by Kappa Kappa Gamma. The two pioneering organizations today boast a total of 275 active chapters nationwide.</strong></p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/student-life/sororities-fraternities/" target="_blank">Sororities & Fraternities</a></li></ul></div></aside>
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