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Associate Professor of English Margaret Lazarus Dean has made a major list in the literary world.

Margaret_DeanDean’s book Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight—which has been chosen as the 2016-17 Life of the Mind book—was named one of the Top Books of 2015 by New York Times book reviewer Michiko Kakutani.

“It’s such an honor to be on the same list with these books,” Dean said. “I’m so grateful to have had the chance to tell this story, and it means the world to me to be recognized by a reviewer of Kakutani’s stature.”

leaving-orbit-dean-200x300The New York Times has three daily book critics, and the newspaper asked each to compile their favorite reads of the year. Critic Michiko Kakutani chose Leaving Orbit as one of her ten favorites.

“In this wonderfully evocative book, the author sets out to chronicle ‘the beauty and the strangeness in the last days of American spaceflight,'” Kakutani wrote in explaining herchoice. “She writes with the passion of a lifelong lover of space exploration. She conveys, with great energy and verve, the glory and danger of its missions—from Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, on through the final flights of the space shuttle. ”

Leaving Orbit explores what space exploration means to ordinary Americans, looks at past discoveries, and speculates about the future of space flight. The book chronicles the shuttle era with Dean detailing her experiences attending the last launches of Discovery, Endeavour, and Atlantis.

The book is the first written by a UT faculty member to be chosen as the Life of the Mind selection.

Dean, who is also the director of creative writing in the English Department, teaches a creative nonfiction course featuring the work of writers like Joan Didion, Gay Talese, Hunter S. Thompson, and Norman Mailer.

Read Kakutani’s full review of Leaving Orbit.



Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,