Don Noble

Program Host: Book Reviews

Dr. Noble is the host of APR's book review series as well as host of BOOKMARK which airs on Alabama Public Television.  A widely published scholar specializing in American and Southern literature, Dr. Noble received the Eugene Current-Garcia Award as Alabama's distinguished literary scholar for the year 2000 and was nominated for a Regional Emmy Award in 2006 and 2011.  In addition he is on the planning committee of several literary conferences.

Dr. Noble's book reviews air during Morning Edition and feature works primarily by Alabama writers.  His reviews focus on why these writers are concerned with their particular subjects and how they succeed or fail  in addressing issues of concern to Alabama readers.

“Dimestore: A Writer’s Life”

Author: Lee Smith  

Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

Pages: 200

Price: $24.95 (Hardcover)

Readers of Lee Smith’s many novels know of her love for the home place, the town of Grundy and the surrounding Appalachians in the southwest corner of Virginia.

“Kill ’Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul”

Author: James McBride  

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Pages: 232

Price: $28.00 (Hardcover)

“The Dogs Buried Over the Bridge: A Memoir in Dog Years”

Author: Rheta Grimsley Johnson    

Publisher: John F. Blair, Publisher

Pages: 224

Price: $26.95 (Hardcover)

“Panther’s Prey: A Leo Maxwell Mystery”

Author: Lachlan Smith                                                      

Publisher: Mysterious Press/Grove Atlantic

Pages: 256

Price: $24.00 (Trade Cloth)

Lachlan Smith, now a practicing attorney in Birmingham, studied writing at Stanford and then went to law school at Berkeley. Despite his training in literary fiction, Smith opted for the faster paced legal thriller genre, combining his interests.

“A Window on Eternity: A Biologist’s Walk Through Gorongosa National Park”

Author: Edward O. Wilson                                     

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Pages: 141

Price: $30.00 (Hardcover)

Professor Moses Herzog, the protagonist of Nobel laureate Saul Bellow’s 1964 novel, is desperately concerned about the dangers of atomic warfare. Herzog compulsively writes letters to Eisenhower, Stevenson, others, stressing the importance of disarmament.

“The Opposite of Everyone”

Author: Joshlyn Jackson   

Publisher: William Morrow

Pages: 291

Price: $26.00 (Hardcover)

“Apprehensions and Convictions: Adventures of a 50-Year-Old Rookie Cop”

Author: Mark Johnson   

Publisher: QuillDriver Books

Pages: 344

Price: $18.95 (Hardcover)

Most new police officers are in their twenties, with some college behind them or perhaps a few years in the military.

“Baptized in PCBs: Race, Pollution, and Justice in an All-American Town”

Author: Ellen Griffith Spears        

Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press

Pages: 464

Price: $39.95 (Hardback); $27.95 (Paper)

“My Father, the Pornographer”

Author: Chris Offutt   

Publisher: Atria Books

Pages: 261

Price: $26.00 (Hardcover)

Seriously, how could you not at least browse a book entitled “My Father, the Pornographer”?

In a world flooded with memoirs, this one certainly promised to be unusual, and it is.

“Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush”

Author: Jon Meacham   

Publisher: Random House

Pages: 836

Price: $35.00 (Hardcover)

Jon Meacham is in a small group of elite presidential biographers, the group including Doris Kearns Goodwin, Michael Beschloss, David McCullough and a few others. He has written of the friendship of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill and biographies of Thomas Jefferson, “The Art of Power,” and Andrew Jackson, “American Lion,” which won the Pulitzer Prize.

“Adiós Hemingway”

Author: Leonardo Padura Fuentes    

Translated from the Spanish by John King

Publisher: Grove/ Atlantic, Inc.

Pages: 229

Price: $13.00 (Paperback)

On the afternoon of January 21 I went to ten Hoor Hall on the UA campus to hear a talk by Cuban novelist Leonardo Padura Fuentes (often referred to as Leonardo Padura).

“American Housewife: Stories”

Author: Helen Ellis    

Publisher: Doubleday

Pages: 185

Price: $24.00 (Hardcover)

Tuscaloosa native Helen Ellis had a great success with her comical debut novel “Eating the Cheshire Cat,” set on the University of Alabama campus—partly in a sorority house—with its explosive climax on the football field during a half-time show.

“Cries for Help, Various”

Author: Padgett Powell

Publisher: Catapult

Pages: 182

Price: $ 16.95 (Paperback)

In a recent reading in Nashville, Padgett Powell introduced his stories by claiming that they were the beginnings of novels that had petered out and that the volume should have been called “Cries for Help, Failures,” but his publisher didn’t think labelling them as failed novels would help sales.

“Saban: The Making of a Coach”           

Author: Monte Burke

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Pages: 324

Price: $27.00 (Hardcover)

There is a good case to be made for not writing biographies until the subject is dead. Feelings are inevitably hurt. The subject’s family and friends may learn things they don’t need to know.

“The Impossible Craft: Literary Biography”

Author: Scott Donaldson   

Publisher: The Pennsylvania State University Press

Pages: 284

Price: $39.95 (Hardcover)

Scott Donaldson has been for years one of our foremost American literary biographers.

He has written lives of three poets—Archibald MacLeish, Edwin Arlington Robinson and Winfield Townley Scott—but is best known for his biographies of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Cheever.

“Visions of the Black Belt: A Cultural Survey of the Heart of Alabama”

Author: Robin McDonald and Valerie Pope Burnes

Publisher: University of Alabama Press

Pages: 242

Price: $39.95 (Hardcover)

“Visions of the Black Belt” is a gorgeous, oversized coffee table book and it will, properly, be bought for the photos, but before talking about the photography, let me urge people to be sure to read the text.

“My Southern Journey: True Stories from the Heart of the South”

Author: Rick Bragg  

Publisher: Oxmoor House, Time Inc. Books

Pages: 251

Price: $27.95 (Hardcover)

Rick Bragg’s last book, his best-selling biography of Jerry Lee Lewis, was an exhausting enterprise. Bragg spent two summers interviewing Lewis, researched widely, and in the writing—476 pages—had the struggle of presenting Lewis’ drinking, drug use, multiple marriages and generally violent nature in a text that was accurate and fair and still readable and pleasing in the Rick Bragg style.

“The Generals: Patton, MacArthur, Marshall, and the Winning of World War II”

Author: Winston Groom  

Publisher: National Geographic Books

Pages: 512

Price: $30.00 (Hardcover)

“The Generals,” Groom’s tenth volume of military history, tells the stories of George Patton, George Marshall and Douglas MacArthur.

It was only two years ago that Winston Groom published “The Aviators,” the story of three pioneers: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle and Charles Lindberg.

“Wherever There Is Light”

Author: Peter Golden 

Publisher: Atria Books, Simon and Shuster

Pages: 353

Price: $25.00 (Hardcover)

“Wherever There Is Light” is a truly ambitious novel. In the course of its 353 pages Golden moves his readers through three generations, forty years, one adventure after the next, as his characters play their parts in several of the major historical events of the mid-20th century.

“Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads”

Author: Paul Theroux, with 24 color photographs by Steve McCurry

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Pages: 441

Price: $29.95 (Hardcover)

“The Tongues of Men and Angels: A Novel”

Author: Marian Carcache

Publisher: Solomon & George Publishers

Pages: 125

Price: $15.00 (Paper)

Marian Carcache is the author of a short story collection, “The Moon and the Stars.” “The Tongues of Men and Angels” is her first novel, if novel is what it is.

Her author information reads that Carcache’s father was a Justice of the Peace in Russell County and she often eavesdropped on his court. I am pretty sure she did not hear this tale in her father’s court.

“The Mobile River”

Author: John S. Sledge

Publisher: The University of South Carolina Press

Pages: 304

Price: $34.95 (Hardcover)

John Sledge, senior architectural historian for the Mobile Historic Development Commission, in addition to his collection “Southern Bound: A Gulf Coast Journalist on Books, Writers, and Literary Pilgimages of the Heart,” has already written books, fairly narrow in scope, on Mobile ironwork, Mobile cemetery art and Greek revival architecture in Mobile.

“Of Goats and Governors: Six Decades of Colorful Alabama Political Stories”

Author: Steve Flowers

Publisher: NewSouth Books             

Pages: 288

Price: $29.95 (Hardback)

There can be few Alabamians better situated to write this book than Steve Flowers. In this political memoir Flowers devotes chapters to the major figures of Alabama politics—elected officials such as Wallace, Folsom, Richard Shelby, and powerful forces such as Paul Hubbard and Judge Frank Johnson Jr., —and sketches the story of his own life in politics.

“Captain Billy’s Troopers: A Writer’s Life”

Author: William Cobb

Publisher: The University of Alabama Press   

Pages: 205

Price: $34.95 (Cloth)

Only a small percentage of alcoholics are writers but the public may be forgiven for thinking a large percentage of writers are alcoholics. After all, writers write their memoirs and are written about, and a number of America’s most famous writers—Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, O’Neill, to name just a few—were also famous drinkers.

“The Headmaster’s Darlings: A Mountain Brook Novel”

Author: Katherine Clark, with a Foreword by Pat Conroy

Publisher: University of South Carolina Press: Story River Books

Pages: 248

Price: $29.95 (Hardcover)

Two fine Southern writers have teamed up on a couple of ambitious new projects, and the enterprise needs some explaining. Katherine Clark‘s first book was “Motherwit,”(1989) an as-told-to biography of midwife Onnie Lee Logan. Then Clark published “Milking the Moon,”(2001) Mobile writer Eugene Walter’s life story, again as-told- to.

“Among the Swamp People : Life in Alabama’s Mobile-Tensaw Delta”

Author: Watt Key; Illustrations by Kelan Mercer

Publisher: University of Alabama Press

Pages: 198

Price: $29.95 (Cloth)

“Swamp People” is a combination of memoir, nature writing and personal essay. Key, raised in Point Clear, on Mobile Bay, writes of his nearly life-long fascination with the Mobile-Tensaw Delta at the north end of the bay.

“The Scribe”

Author: Matthew Guinn

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Co.

Pages: 287

Price: $25.95 (Hardcover)

Matthew Guinn’s first novel, “The Resurrectionist,” published in 2013, told the story of a cache of bones found in the basement of a medical school in Columbia, South Carolina. They were human bones, buried for decades, but whose? Guinn published the novel as literary fiction with a fresh subject, and it was a great success. Surprisingly, “The Resurrectionist” was nominated for an Edgar, a mystery writers award.

Lagniappe.

“The Forest and the Trees”

Author: Floyd McGowin

Publisher: NewSouth Books

Pages: 334

Price: $27.95 (Trade paper)

Floyd McGowin, of the Chapman, Alabama, McGowins, the owners of the W.T. Smith Lumber Company, was born in 1931 and died in 2010, but this memoir takes his story basically up to 1966.

At that time, the W.T. Smith Company was sold and McGowin started the Rocky Creek Logging Company and ran it for 42 years, covered here in an epilogue of only six pages.

“The Reading Circle”

Author: Ashton Lee

Publisher: Kensington Books

Pages: 234

Price: $15.00 (Trade paperback)

In a recent comic novel, “Love’s Winning Plays,” in which he dared to satirize SEC football, Inman Majors also made fun of book discussion groups. He has his lonely hero, Raymond Love, join one in order to meet women. It sort of works; book club membership is overwhelmingly female.

“The Woman in the Photograph” 

Author: Dana Gynther

Publisher: Gallery Books

Pages: 352

Price: $16.00 (Paper)

Dana Gynther made her debut as a novelist in 2012 with “Crossing on the Paris,” a novel set aboard a transatlantic liner on her maiden voyage from Le Havre to New York. As the ship sails west, three women, one from first class, one from second and one from steerage, strangers until then, meet and exchange their life stories with rich flashbacks to their very different experiences in Paris

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