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Next On Your Nightstand: Books By Baylor Authors

What’s New in the Stacks by Baylor Alumni Authors?

A West Texas football coach struggles to reconcile his faith with the news of his daughter’s homosexuality; Baylor researchers unearth the world’s largest accumulation of Mammuthus columbi (Columbian Mammoth) skeletons, right here in Waco; Two English explorers seek to claim the Nile headwaters for England with the help of their East African guide; and a celebrity chef sautés cuttlefish for a seafood paella party. What do these stories have in common? All were written by members of the Baylor Family. 

With Baylor’s commitment to inspired action, it’s no surprise that fellow Bears publish a considerable number of books each year. Here are a few titles to look out for. 

Southern gothic writer Flannery O’Connor famously said, “Anyone who survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of their life.” Distinguished Professor of Literature and Humanities David Jeffreys proves this maxim with his forthcoming memoir We Were a Peculiar People Once: Confessions of an Old-Time Baptist (Baylor U.P.). Recalling his upbringing in the “old-time” Scottish Baptist tradition in rural Canada, Jeffreys illustrates how even the most eccentric (or downright embarrassing) religious practices of the past were rooted in religious conviction and strong character, necessary values to secure the future of the faith.

Jeffreys’s humor and skilled storytelling drew Baylor University Press Director Dave Nelson to the manuscript. Nelson notes that Jeffreys’s engaging teaching style emanates through his accessible prose: “The book should find a wide readership among Texas Baptists and other Christians considering the lessons the past bears for the church today.”

For Calvin B. Smith and David O. Lintz (’69), looking to the past required some digging …literally. At the edge of Waco lies one of the major paleontological discoveries of the twentieth century, the fossilized remains of a mammoth nursery herd. In their forthcoming book A History of the Waco Mammoth Site: In Pursuit of a National Monument (Baylor U.P.), Linz and Smith detail the history of the site’s excavation with firsthand accounts and stirring descriptions of never-before-seen prehistoric mammoth behavior, such as a herd bull with a juvenile on top of his tusks. Lintz, former Assistant Director of Baylor’s Strecker Museum, initiated the first dig at the site, and Smith, former Director of the Strecker Museum and retired Chair of Museum Studies, oversaw the completion of the project and helped put the discovery in the national spotlight. Cade Jarrell, Assistant Director and Managing Editor of Baylor U.P., calls the book “an engaging and informative chronicle of the excavation and establishment of the monument.”

Not so much a monument as a beacon, Chip (’98) and Joanna Gaines’ (’01) Magnolia Network attracts viewers with aspirations of home improvement, culinary creativity, and joyful living. In early 2022, the power couple increased their empire with a publishing imprint, and Fall 2023 brought Magnolia Publishing’s first cookbook, The Ranch Table: Recipes from a Year of Harvests, Celebrations, and Family Dinners on a Historic California Cattle Ranch (Magnolia). Written by Elizabeth Poett, host of the Magnolia show Ranch to Table, the cookbook will feature imaginative, healthy, seasonally-driven recipes from Poett’s cattle ranch, owned and operated by her family since 1837. 

One face already gracing a Magnolia book jacket might be most recognizable from the Ferrell Center’s Jumbotron and ESPN. In The Road to J.O.Y.: Leading with Faith, Playing with Purpose, Leaving a Legacy (Magnolia), Coach Scott Drew, Head Basketball Coach of the NCAA National Championship-winning Baylor Bears, demonstrates that focus and faith strengthen every aspect of our lives and carry us through its biggest challenges. Inspired by Coach Drew’s faith-forward leadership and success despite adversity, Chip Gaines notes, “If you love courage, faith, willpower, and heart as it appears so often on and off courts all around the world, then you will love this story of passion and commitment by Coach Scott Drew.”

While real life affords powerful stories, good fiction vividly articulates some of life’s most poignant experiences. To wit: In her debut novel The Golden Season (HarperCollins), Baylor alumnus Madeline Kay Sneed (‘16), explores personal questions about the intersection of queerness, faith …and Texas football. Born and raised within the Southern Baptist Church in Houston, Sneed considers the power of fear—specifically, the fear that someone or something you love won’t love you back if they know the real you—through the relationship between an aspiring Texas high school football coach and his LGBTQ daughter who aspires to live authentically. Sneed followed this widely acclaimed book with Today Tonight Forever (HarperCollins), which is about a dramatic reunion for two families told through this novel about love and forgiveness.

If you had a hard time getting ahold of your friends last May, it’s likely because they were engrossed in River of the Gods, the latest work of narrative nonfiction by award-winning writer, journalist, and Baylor grad Candice Millard (’92). Sent by the Royal Geographic Society to locate and claim the source of the Nile for England, explorers Richard Burton and John Hanning encounter obstacles both external and internal, but perhaps none so tremendous those bested by their guide, Sidi Mubarak Bombay, an East African who survived slavery and whose resourcefulness and determination prove essential for the survival of the expedition. River deftly weaves together historical fact, compelling character development, and conflict within the zeitgeist of mid-19th century colonialism and exploitation.

Pick up one of these titles at the independent Fabled Bookshop and Café, owned and operated by Waco natives Kimberly Batson (’07) and Alison Frenzel. Elizabeth Barnhill, Fabled’s book buyer for adults, observes the popularity of the “Local Authors” section and notes that Baylor alumni Alison Wisdom’s (’07) novel The Burning Season (HarperCollins) and Humanities professor Alan Jacobs’ Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader’s Guide to a More Tranquil Mind (Penguin Random House) are among the store’s bestsellers. 

Attend an in-store author reading or share some of your own lines at a Poets & Pints event, organized by the Waco Poet Society. For those who desire lively discussion and diverse perspectives, check out Baylor’s Multicultural Affairs Book Club, which studies and discusses one book each semester with the goal to expand global awareness. 

With these contributions from our Baylor Family, we can continue our lifelong learning from the comfort of our favorite chair or in communion with our neighbors.

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