Arts & Culture / Spring 2019

Shelf-discovery: Great reading from the DU community

Whether you read for pleasure or edification or both; whether you thumb through a hardcover or swipe through a device, you’re no doubt in the market for new titles to enjoy. The University of Denver’s community of writers is happy to oblige, producing good reads that raise questions and change perspectives.


A treasure trove for map maniacs

In “A History of America in 100 Maps” (University of Chicago Press and British Library Press, 2018), history professor Susan Schulten takes readers on a journey that runs from the 15th century to the digital age. But even with its sequential presentation of material, Schulten explains, “the point of the book is not to cover American history, but to showcase what maps can do for history — the way they can unearth new dynamics and narratives.”

The volume draws on maps from the British Library, as well as from collections on this side of the Atlantic. Some of the inclusions tell familiar stories: how the world appeared to Columbus, for example, and which colonies belonged to Britain and which to France.

“I also wanted really unexpected maps,” Schulten says. “I wanted to upend expectations about what a map is and tell stories that haven’t been told.”

Among those unexpected offerings are a 1721 map painted on deerskin by Native Americans seeking to negotiate trade with South Carolina and an 1818 rendition of the country, crafted by a schoolgirl, that offers insight into the education of American women.

As Schulten sees it, “Maps offer a pretty rich way to get into the past.”


Getting real about the plastic problem

In “Peak Plastic: The Rise or Fall of Our Synthetic World” (Praeger, 2018), Jack Buffington of the Daniels College of Business takes on our mounting plastics problem: Don’t eliminate the omnipresent material, he advises. Instead, innovate.

Buffington, who also is responsible for warehousing and fulfillment for MillerCoors, considers the supply chain an ideal spot for “disruptive innovation” — for moving beyond what he calls “the failed policies of the past.” He offers specific ideas that can be implemented before it’s too late.

Too late? That may sound dire, but Buffington believes we’re headed toward a planetary crisis, as plastic piles up in landfills, chokes waterways and pollutes our oceans.

“The plastics crisis is careening toward a tipping point from which there will be no return,” Buffington argues. “There are real health and environmental consequences to the overuse of plastic.”


Yanks mobilize for humanitarian relief

Not long after Jeffrey Miller (BA ’75) graduated from DU, his grandparents died, leaving him journals and letters recounting their experiences in World War I, particularly his grandfather’s time as a delegate with the Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB). Since then, Miller has been fascinated by the CRB’s role in saving millions from starvation.

That role takes center stage in his latest book, “WWI Crusaders” (Milbrown Press, 2018). The popular history ranges from the war’s 1914 beginning to the CRB’s 1917 departure from Belgium, just as the U.S. military entered the fray. Among the cast of characters: Denver’s own Maurice Pate, who was later nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his part in launching UNICEF and its subsequent humanitarian work.

As a storyteller, Miller puts himself — and his readers — into the middle of the action. “I want to be beside first-year Rhodes scholar David Nelson as he walks alone toward the Belgian border not knowing what to expect,” he says in an interview. “I want to hear U.S. Legation secretary Hugh Gibson’s impassioned arguments as he tries to stop the execution of British nurse Edith Cavell. I want to warn Belgian Eugene van Doren that the Germans are coming for him. I want to help Belgian Erica Bunge start the dairy farm that will provide milk for Antwerp’s children. And I want to have a beer and intense conversation with war-correspondent-turned-compassionate-relief-worker E. E. Hunt.”



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