Psychology Professor James Pennebaker Wins $10,000 Hamilton Book Award

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James Pennebaker, professor and chair of the Department of Psychology, won the $10,000 grand prize at the Hamilton Book Awards for his book, “The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us” (Bloomsbury Press , 2011) on Tuesday, Oct. 16 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin.

The awards are the highest honor of literary achievement given to published authors at The University of Texas at Austin. They are sponsored by the University Co-operative Society.

In “The Secret Life of Pronouns,” Pennebaker uses his groundbreaking research in computational linguistics – in essence, counting the frequency of words we use – to show that our language carries secrets about our feelings, our self-concept, and our social intelligence. Our most forgettable words, such as pronouns and prepositions, can be the most revealing: their patterns are as distinctive as fingerprints.

Two faculty members from the College of Liberal Arts received $3,000 runner-up prizes for their books. The honorees are:

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Sheldon Ekland-Olson, Department of Sociology
“Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Decides?: Abortion, Neonatal Care, Assisted Dying, and Capital Punishment” (Routledge, 2011)

Circe Sturm, Department of Anthropology
“Becoming Indian: The Struggle over Cherokee Identity in the Twenty-first Century” (School for Advanced Research Press, 20111)

The Hamilton Awards are named in honor of Professor Robert W. Hamilton, the Minerva House Drysdale Regent Chair-Emeritus in Law. Professor Hamilton was chair of the Co-op Board for 12 years, from 1989 to 2001, and was in large measure responsible for the Co-op’s uncommon growth and profitability during that period. Visit this website for more about the 2012 award winners.

Do Your Holiday Shopping this Saturday at the Humanities Texas Book Fair

flyer_email-copyBooks make great gifts, especially for those “hard to buy for” people on your list. So take a break from the mall and head on over to the Humanities Texas annual Holiday Book Fair this Saturday, Dec. 10 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the historic Byrne-Reed House.

Twenty-one authors will be available to visit with the public and sign copies of their latest books, which Humanities Texas will offer for purchase at a discounted price. Proceeds will go to the Bastrop Public Library, which suffered losses to its collection during the September wildfires.

The lineup includes:

H.W. Brands, the Raymond Dickson, Alton C. Allen and Dillon Anderson Centennial Professor

1Brands_GreenbackPlanetIn “Greenback Planet,” Brands charts the dollar’s astonishing rise to become the world’s principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. In The Murder of Jim Fisk for the Love of Josie Mansfield, Brands traces the downfall of a notorious New York City figure and brings to life New York’s Gilded Age. More…

Oscar Casares, associate professor of English

1Casares_Amigoland“Amigoland,” set on the South Texas border with Mexico, is the story of estranged brothers Don Fidencio Rosales—querulous, nearly 92 years old, and living in a nursing home—and Don Celestino, twenty years his junior and newly widowed, who finds himself somewhat ambivalently involved with his young cleaning woman, Socorro. The housekeeper is a catalyst for the brothers reconnecting, and the improbable trio takes off on a bus trip into Mexico, where the siblings hope to settle a long-standing dispute about how their grandfather arrived in the U.S. and Socorro hopes to find clarity in her unlikely romance. The trip stirs up powerful issues of family and pride and about how we care for the people we love. More…

Don Graham, the J. Frank Dobie Regents Professor of American and English Literature

1Graham_StateofMindsIn “State of Minds,” Graham brings together and updates essays he published between 1999 and 2009 to paint a unique picture of Texas culture. In a strong personal voice—wry, humorous, and ironic—Graham offers his take on Texas literary giants ranging from J. Frank Dobie to Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy and on films such as “The Alamo,” “The Last Picture Show,” and “Brokeback Mountain.” More…


James Pennebaker, the Regents Centennial Liberal Arts Professor and chair of the Department of Psychology

1pennebaker_james“The Secret Life of Pronouns” examines how and why pronouns and other forgettable words reveal so much about us. Partly a research journey, the book traces the discovery of the links between function words and social and psychological states. Written for a general audience, the book takes the reader on a remarkable and often unexpected journey into the minds of authors, poets, lyricists, politicians, and everyday people through their use of words. More…

Jeremi Suri, the Mack Brown Distinguished Professor for Global Leadership, History, and Public Policy

1Suri_JeremyNation-building is in America’s DNA. It dates back to the days of the American Revolution, when the founding fathers invented the concept of popular sovereignty—the idea that you cannot have a national government without a collective will. The framers of the Constitution initiated a policy of cautious nation-building, hoping not to conquer other countries, but to build a world of stable, self-governed societies that would support America’s way of life. In “Liberty’s Surest Guardian,” Suri looks to America’s history to see both what it has to offer to failed states around the world and what the nation should avoid. More…

L. Michael White, the Ronald Nelson Smith Chair in Classics and Christian Origins and the director of the Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins

1White_ScriptingJesusIn “Scripting Jesus,” White challenges us to read the gospels as they were originally intended—as performed stories of faith rather than factual histories. White demonstrates that each of the four gospel writers had a specific audience in mind and a specific theological agenda to push, and consequently wrote and rewrote their lives of Jesus accordingly—in effect, scripting Jesus to get a particular point across and to achieve the desired audience reaction. More…

Park for free in the St. Martin’s Evangelical Lutheran Church’s large lot on the northwest corner of 15th and Rio Grande Streets, and enjoy coffee and a bake sale of donated and homemade treats. Go to this website for more information about the authors and their books!

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Faculty Authors Showcase their Works at the 16th Annual Texas Book Festival

tbf_logo_brownBook lovers, foodies, artists and scholars will partake in an annual rite of fall here in Austin: The Texas Book Festival. The 16th annual Texas Book Festival will take place in and around the Texas State Capitol and nearby venues on Oct. 22-23.

The lineup includes more than 250 authors, an eclectic mix of top literary names, bestselling novelists, political and nonfiction notables, cookbook superstars, Texas writers, children’s authors and promising newcomers.

The talent pool also includes University of Texas at Austin faculty authors. Here are just a handful of professors who will be presenting their books this weekend:

H.W. Brands, the Dickson Allen Anderson Centennial Professor of History

0292723415“Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It”
Saturday, Oct. 22, C-SPAN/Book TV Tent

In “Greenback Planet” (University of Texas Press, Oct. 2011), Brands recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power – and the enormous risks – of the dollar’s worldwide reign.

030774325X“The Murder of Jim Fisk for the Love of Josie Mansfield: A Tragedy of the Gilded Age”
Sunday, Oct. 23, Lone Star Tent

In “The Murder of Jim Fisk” (Anchor, May 2011), Brands traces Fisk’s extraordinary downfall, bringing to life New York’s Gilded Age and some of its legendary players, including Boss William Tweed, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the railroad tycoon Jay Gould. Go to the Texas Book Festival website for the full summary of both books.

0820340375“A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender and Southern Food,” by Elizabeth Engelhardt, associate professor of American Studies
Saturday, October 22, Texas State Capitol: Capitol Extension Room E2.030

Engelhardt’s “A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender and Southern Food” (University of Georgia Press, Sept. 2011) offers a different perspective, taking into account industrialization, environmental degradation, and women’s increased role in the work force, all of which caused massive economic and social changes. Engelhardt reveals a broad middle of Southerners that included poor whites, farm families, and middle- and working-class African Americans, for whom the stakes of what counted as Southern food were very high. Go to the Texas Book Festival website for the full summary.

1608194809“The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us,” by James Pennebaker, professor and chair, Department of Psychology
Saturday, October 22, Texas State Capitol: Capitol Extension Room E2.016

What do Quentin Tarantino and William Shakespeare have in common? They both write their men like men and their women like men. How can you tell when someone’s being straight with you? They use more verbs, more details (numbers, dates, figures) and more personal pronouns (I, me, etc.). And for the liars: more positive emotion words. These are only a few of the insights found in “The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us” (Bloombsbury, Aug. 2011), James W. Pennebaker’s far-ranging work on the use of life’s “forgettable words” and their many hidden meanings. Go to the Texas Book Festival website for the full summary.

Check out the official book festival website for a complete schedule of book signings, panel discussions, author interviews, cooking demonstrations and more.