What We Enjoy Reading - Staff Picks
Shaman of OberstdorfThe Struggle for ChangeDo Not Separate Her from Her GardenThe Architecture of SuspenseYard BirdsPoplar ForestThe Life of William FaulknerThe Life of William Faulkner
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Here at UVA Press, we have a lovely holiday tradition. Every year, staff members have the opportunity to pick press books for our private collections. Rather than a “Best of 2023” list, then, here is a sample of the books—backlist classics and new releases—that we enjoyed reading as the year came to an end. The list below reveals the breadth and depth of UVA Press’s catalog, from fun trade titles to weighty academic tomes. We hope our brief thoughts on them inspire you to click on these titles and explore a smattering of what UVA Press has to offer:

Wolfgang Behringer, Shaman of Oberstdorf: Chonrad Stoeckhlin and the Phantoms of the Night

  • “I have not read it yet, but I'm excited to because I love these sorts of medieval microhistories that bring out the simultaneous strangeness and the ordinariness of the past.”—Clayton J. Butler, Marketing Associate and Assistant Editor

Marvin T. Chiles, The Struggle for Change: Race and the Politics of Reconciliation in Modern Richmond

  • “Like the author, I grew up in Richmond, Virginia, so I'm familiar with many of the events recounted here. But the author's extensive research into details, larger contexts, and extended ramifications of those events has broadened my awareness considerably. I plan to pick up extra copies of this for family and friends!”—J. Andrew Edwards, Assistant Project Editor

Carlyn Ena Ferrari, Do Not Separate Her from Her Garden: Anne Spencer’s Ecopoetics

  • “I am particularly excited about this one because it’s about a local Virginia figure that is less known within the larger New Negro Movement that took over Harlem in the early twentieth century. Her being ‘in the periphery’ of all the action in Harlem allowed Anne Spencer a certain freedom and access to nature that produced some incredible writing, so I am thrilled to be able to read Dr. Ferrari’s analysis of Spencer’s lesser-known works and her framing of Black women writers as ecocritics.”—Beth Colón, Associate Editor for Africana Studies

Christine Madrid French, The Architecture of Suspense: The Built World in the Films of Alfred Hitchcock

  • “Chris French’s book speaks to the importance of design as not merely setting but character in cinema, with special attention to Hitchcock’s best- and lesser-known works. It was the first book that I had an active role in acquiring for our Midcentury series, hand in hand with my friend and predecessor, Boyd Zenner, who built an amazing and wide-ranging list before she left us far too soon, and whose passion for the printed word inspires me every day.”—Mark Mones, Editor for Architecture, Urban Design, and Regional Books

Philip Levy, Yard Birds: The Lives and Times of America’s Urban Chickens

  • “As someone with my own backyard flock (the “Nuggets”), I had tremendous fun editing this diverting romp through the long history and various recent cultural events surrounding urban chickens. Not only is Phil Levy a stellar writer (making my job incredibly easy), but I found every chapter a revelation about Americans’ renewed love affair with the yard birds who, as I learned, have long populated our city centers.”—Nadine Zimmerli, Editor for History and Politics

Travis C. McDonald, Poplar Forest: Thomas Jefferson’s Villa Retreat

  • “I selected this book because I wanted to know more about the history of Poplar Forest. This book promises to tell you the why and how Jefferson accomplished this architecture jewel. Of course, anything with the word retreat is very appealing. As I quickly approach my retirement journey, my interest in the endeavors that Jefferson and others under took in his retirement years is of great interest to me.”—Brenda W. Fitzgerald, Director of Operations

Carl Rollyson, The Life of William Faulkner: The Past is Never Dead, 1897–1934 / This Alarming Paradox, 1935–1962

  • “As a relatively new part of the team, I was very excited by the chance to get my hands on more of our books. So excited, in fact, that I picked Carl Rollyson’s two-volume biography. I’m a big fan of literary biographies and I couldn’t resist how beautiful these books are. Cecilia Sorochin (UVA Press’s art Director) knocked these out of the park.”—Joel Coggins, Production Manager

Just for fun—the first sentences of each of these books (with the help of a few connecting phrases) tell a story all their own. Or they read like a game of editorial telephone... You decide:

At its heart, this book is a hometown kid's inquiry into the city that reared him. That place is Richmond, Virginia. Every film begins with a blank page and a story to tell. And each building arises from empty land as the structural fulfillment of a dream. Thomas Jefferson passionately embraced what awaited him in retirement at Monticello in 1809: a greatly expanded family of grandchildren, his completed “essay” in architecture, his maturing gardens, his beloved library, and the company of old friends. One evening, eight days before Shrovetide, Chonrad Stoeckhlin and Jacob Walch were sitting together. Both of them were herdsmen, the horse wrangler and oxherd for the town of Oberstdorf in the mountains of Allgäu, and they were drinking, which was reckoned a 'manly' pleasure. (William Faulkner thought so too) Because William Faulkner’s characters are obsessed with the past, the same has been said of their author. (When) I got my first and favorite chicken from a friend about a decade ago. (I told the hen) “I do not separate you from your garden, your elegant verse and your sure philosophy.”

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