Kent State University Press Has Offerings for Summer Reading

Poetry, politics and plenty of history are among publisher’s offerings

Looking for an interesting book to put in your beach bag this summer? 

The Kent State University Press has plenty of new reads.

Susan Wadsworth-Booth, director of Kent State University Press
Susan Wadsworth-Booth

“Our current and upcoming titles offer something for everyone from sports and politics to poetry and local history,” said Susan Wadsworth-Booth, Kent State University Press director.  

Each year the Press publishes dozens of books including many from Ohio authors or authors with strong Ohio ties.

Anyone purchasing a book from the Press’ online store can receive a 30% discount using the promo code “ENJOY30.”  All e-books are always 15% off the regular book price.

Here are some titles worth considering:

“Behind the White House Curtain: A Senior Journalist’s Story of Covering the President – and Why It Matters” by Steven L. Herman. 

Behind the White House Curtain

Herman, the chief national correspondent for the nonpartisan, government-funded Voice of America, weaves together memoir and history to pull back the curtain on the inner workings of the White House press corps, giving readers a glimpse into the historic and current relationship between the president and the press.  

“Steve Herman’s book is really both fascinating and important, not to mention full of great stories,” Wadsworth-Booth said. “Given that Steve served as Chief White House Correspondent for Voice of America during the Trump administration and the beginning of the Biden administration, he can offer us a true insider’s view of what things are like for journalists trying to gather the information they need to keep us, the public informed.”  

“I also love the timeliness of this book in terms of our polarized and politicized media landscape, as Steve digs into the issue of bias and how important it is to have objective, fact-based reporting and how crucial it is to defend our First Amendment rights.”  

“Playhouse Square and the Cleveland Renaissance” by John Vacha.

Playhouse Square

Vacha’s book traces the history of the five renowned theaters that make up Cleveland, Ohio’s Playhouse Square – the Ohio, State, Allen, Hanna and Palace – from their construction shortly after World War I ended, to their decline in the 1970s and their eventual renaissance.  

Playhouse Square and the Cleveland Renaissance tells how the rejuvenation of Playhouse Square became one of the main catalysts for Cleveland’s larger comeback from postindustrial decline, inspiring and serving as a model for other urban renewal efforts across the country.

Vacha’s book will appeal to theater history buffs and preservationists alike, reminding readers of the performing arts' significant role in shaping a city’s culture.

“John Vacha’s book is something that can be truly interactive for people in this region; you can read stories about the history of the theaters in Cleveland here, perhaps even personally remember their decline, and visit Playhouse Square now to see the fabulous revitalization that John details in his book. It’s also great to think through with John how vital the theater space is to Cleveland and this area as a whole,” Wadsworth-Booth said.  

Vacha is the recipient of the Herrick Memorial Award from the Early Settlers Association of the Western Reserve, given in recognition of his theatrical history, “Showtime in Cleveland: The Rise of a Regional Theater Center.” He is the author of several other books including “From Broadway to Cleveland: A History of the Hanna Theatre.”

“Pity, Power, and Tolkien’s Ring to Rule the Fate of Many” by Thomas P. Hillman.

Pity, Power and Tolkien's Ring

Fans of fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien and his legendary trilogy “The Lord of the Rings” will find new insight into his writing in this new analysis by Hillman, which gets to the heart of the tension between pity and the desire for power in “The Lord of the Rings.”  

The book traces the entangled story of the One Ring and its effects, we come to understand Tolkien’s central paradox: while pity is necessary for destroying the Ring, it cannot save the Ring-bearer from the Ring’s lies and corruption. Hillman’s fresh understanding of familiar material, “Pity, Power, and Tolkien’s Ring” should spark new discussions and deeper appreciation among Tolkien readers and scholars alike.

Hillman is a retired scholar and teacher of classics whose work on J. R. R. Tolkien has appeared in Tolkien Studies and presentations at Mythmoot and other conferences.

“Letters to Lizzie: The Story of Sixteen Men in the Civil War and the One Woman Who Connected Them All,” edited by James M. Scythes.  

Letters to Lizzie

For Civil War history buffs, “Letters to Lizzie” contains a collection of letters exchanged between 16 men – 15 soldiers and a quartermaster at a military hospital – and one young woman, Lizzie Brick. Since Lizzie could not bear arms, she took up her pen and through ongoing correspondence helped these Union soldiers sustain their motivation for the cause.

The men served in 11 different regiments in the Army of the Potomac, and their correspondence reveals unique insights into the connections between homefront and battlefront during the Civil War and also into the dynamics of male-female friendships in the 19th century. The letters span the entire war; within them, the soldiers share their opinions about the people of the South, describe their experiences on the battlefield, and voice their frustrations with their commanders and the conduct of the war.

“‘Letters to Lizzie,’ at first glance, sounds almost scandalous — one young woman writing to 16 different men who are off serving in the Civil War! The truth is a little less salacious, as many of the men were relatives or close family friends. Still, the story of these correspondences and this young woman’s dedication to giving these men a sense of connection to home is remarkable,” Wadsworth-Booth said. “We don’t get enough perspective on the role of women during the Civil War, and this book tells a great story that helps to correct that.”

Scythes is an assistant professor of history at West Chester University, who has written extensively on topics related to the Civil War era and is the author of “This Will Make a Man of Me: The Life and Letters of a Teenage Officer in the Civil War.”  

“The Promise of LeBron James: The Rise, Fall from Grace, and Redemption of Ohio’s Own” by Bill Livingston (available in August).  

The Promise of LeBron James

“Bill Livingston’s ‘The Promise of LeBron James’ is not just another book about LeBron; that’s what makes it so great. Bill has followed LeBron’s career since he was in high school, and since Bill is a local sportswriter, he has a perspective that you just don’t see in other books on the subject,” Wadsworth-Booth said. “Bill understands the deep feelings of people in this region about LeBron, and he tells that story with depth, humor and stories that you don’t see elsewhere.”

James has been a polarizing yet beloved figure for sports fans around the world, particularly in Northeast Ohio, where he grew up. He began his basketball career hailed as “the chosen one,” a beacon of hope for a Cleveland team that had never won an NBA championship. He was then denounced for his decision to leave and pursue his trophy dreams with the Miami Heat. James subsequently returned to the Cavaliers, fulfilling a promise to bring ultimate victory to Cleveland in 2016.

Livingston, who spent 34 years as a sportswriter and columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, covered every step of James’ career from the time he was a high school phenom to a basketball icon and activist, one who even founded a school in his hometown.

This book is not only for fans of James but for anyone seeking to understand his very personal relationship with Northeast Ohio: what he means to the region and how that region shaped him.

“Light Enters the Grove, Exploring Cuyahoga Valley National Park through Poetry” edited by Charles Malone, Carrie George, and Jason Harris (available in August).

Light Enters the Grove

An anthology celebrating the biodiversity and beauty of Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Northeast Ohio, this is a collection of 42 poems, each of which reflects its author’s unique connection to a living organism found within the park – ranging from white-tailed deer to brown bats, Japanese honeysuckle to bloodroot. 

Each poem is paired with an artistic depiction of the poem’s subject that reinforces the rich relationship between artists and the natural world. The collection invites readers to look further into their own experiences and memories of the park, to reflect on their relationships to its species and to recognize the importance of preserving the lives and habitats of our nonhuman neighbors.  

“‘Light Enters the Grove’ is a unique poetry book,” Wadsworth-Booth said, “It is not only full of wonderful poems about plants, animals and environments of our own Cuyahoga Valley National Park, but each poem’s accompanying artwork is truly striking. We’ve just received our first advance copies from the printer, and it’s simply a beautiful book.”

Renowned writers featured in the volume include Kari Gunter-Seymour, poet laureate of Ohio, and Deborah Fleming, whose book “Resurrection of the Wild” won the 2020 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay.

Malone is the assistant director of Kent State’s Wick Poetry Center. George, who received her Master of Fine Arts degree from Kent State and the NEOMFA program, is the recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, and her work has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, the Florida Review, the Indianapolis Review and other publications. Harris serves as editor-in-chief for Gordon Square Review. His writing has appeared in Hobart, Barren Magazine and the Cleveland Review of Books. 

POSTED: Thursday, June 6, 2024 11:20 AM
Updated: Tuesday, June 25, 2024 02:53 PM
Lisa Abraham