Hot Off of Texas Tech’s Own Press
40 years of promoting research and scholarship through entertaining and enlightening works.
by Sally Logue Post
Texas Tech University Press (TTUP) has been publishing award-winning books for 40 years. Opening in 1971, the press publishes a wide range of books from nonfiction natural history to poetry to literary fiction of Texas, the West and the Americas.
TTUP is very much a publishing house, just like the giant commercial publishers Random House or Simon & Schuster. Yet at TTUP, best sellers are often measured in the hundreds or thousands of books sold, not the hundreds of thousands. Not exactly Harry Potter sales numbers, but that’s OK with Judith Keeling, editor-in-chief.
“University presses are home to many valuable books that would be turned away by commercial publishers,” Keeling said.
Even so, TTUP titles command attention. This season “Will Rogers: A Political Life,” by Richard D. White, Jr., gained national attention from The New York Times Book Review, Washington Post, and National Public Radio. The first biography to examine the funny man’s political clout internationally, it ties Rogers’ instant access to heads of state to his unmatched command of the media. Rogers’ listening audience exceeded 60 million.
“The Fence,” by Robert Lee Maril, offers an unprecedented view of the human and financial costs of security along the U.S.-Mexico border. The first civilian granted access to the Border Patrol, Maril spent two years alongside agents risking their lives daily. Digging deeper, he interviewed Washington politicians, Minutemen, the U.S. military and defense contractors. But the heart of his work gives voice to many who are rarely heard, including border residents, boots-on-the ground agents, local officials and institutional whistleblowers.
Literature in translation is the focus of a new series, The Americas, developed by TTUP Director Robert Mandel. “The series’ purpose,” Mandel stresses, “is to cultivate cultural and intellectual explorations across borders and historical divides.” Clearly, the Americas is accomplishing its goal. “The Origin of Species and Other Poems,” by Nicaraguan Ernesto Cardenal, Latin America’s most widely acclaimed poet, grapples with the elemental questions of life and finds “order even in the foam of torrent.” Cardenal recently completed a 12-city author tour in the U.S. and was interviewed by journalist Charlie Rose. Brazilian Adriana Lisboa’s “Symphony in White,” a novel translated from the Portuguese by Sara Green, has just been named a finalist for the 2011 PEN Center U.S.A. Literary Award. Lisboa, also a jazz singer and flautist, is the author of nine other books, published in France, Italy, Sweden and Mexico.
TTUP is not just the home of scholarly titles. While all the books have their basis in research, the catalogue covers a wide range of genres.
“It may be surprising to readers just how much they can learn from our general-interest books – everything, including our juvenile and mystery fiction, comes out of thorough and painstaking research,” said Keeling. “And what better way to engage youngsters in Texas history than the time travel series Mr. Barrington’s Mysterious Trunk, or to discover the geological and anthropological wonders of the American Southwest than the skin-tingling Frankie MacFarlane Mysteries?”
The press began as part of the university’s printing plant. PrinTech began publishing a book or two a year in the early 1940s. In 1971, the Texas Tech Press name was established. In 1986, the word “university” was added to the title, and the press separated from the printing facility. The next year it became a member of the Association of American University Presses.
TTUP has grown since the mid-‘80s, from publishing about 15 books a year to around 25, presently. Sales have also grown. TTUP sells books online, through a printed catalog, in commercial bookstores, and at other outlets such as museum shops and historic sites.
The press also publishes titles in natural history and the natural sciences; modern Southeast Asia; costume and textile history; and all aspects of the Great Plains and the American West, especially history, biography, memoir, sports history and travel.
More TTUP Publications
“Anatomy of a Kidnapping: A Doctor's Story” by Steven L. Berk, M.D. – In March 2005, Berk was kidnapped in Amarillo by a man who entered his home through an open garage door and held him at gunpoint. This book not only describes the harrowing story of Berk's kidnapping, but also explains how his experiences and training as a physician enabled him to keep his family safe, establish rapport with his kidnapper and bring his captor to justice.
“Mitzvah Man” by John J. Clayton – In this book, Boston businessman Adam Friedman finds solace through living the “mitzvoth” – instructions for goodness, justice and compassion after the death of his wife. Through his good deeds, he saves lives and helps the needy, becoming what some call a modern-day superhero or prophet. But is he crazy or holy? Through his experiences of love and loss, beauty and pain, language and custom, Friedman’s daily quest reveals the unexpected ways in which God may inhabit all of us.
“Where the West Begins” by Glen Sample Ely, with foreword by Alwyn Barr – Unsure which of its legacies are true and which to embrace, Texas struggles with an identity crisis of whether the state is southern or western. Outside Texas, southern and western historians who don’t know what to make of the state ignore it altogether. In his innovative settling of the question, Ely examines the state’s historical DNA, making sense of Lone Star identity west of the hundredth meridian and defining Texas’ place in the American West.
Learn about more TTUP books by visiting ttupress.org.
Sally Post is Director of Research & Academic Communications for the Office of the Vice President for Research at Texas Tech University. Above image of Robert Mandel and Judith Keeling courtesy TTUP.