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.

“Perfume River: A Novel” Author: Robert Olen Butler Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press Pages: 273 Price: $25.00 (Hardcover) “Perfume River” is, pardon the pun, a confluence of several themes that Robert Olen Butler, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for “A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain,” has explored in previous works and is as smart and eloquent as anything he’s done before. Set in 2014, some of the themes are timeless: for example, the difficulty of communication between husband and...

“A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life” Author: Pat Conroy Publisher: Nan A. Talese/ Doubleday Pages: 291 Price: $25.00 (Hardcover) As his millions of fans know, Pat Conroy passed away early this spring. When any great writer dies, the same question is asked: Are there unpublished manuscripts still to come? In the case of Hemingway, there were reams of work, beginning with “A Moveable Feast” and “Islands in the Stream.” Conroy had finished 200 or more pages of a novel, “The Storms...

“Bettyville; A Memoir” Author: George Hodgman Publisher: Viking Pages: 276 Price: $27.95 (Hardcover) George Hodgman had an up and down career as a book and magazine editor in New York City, working at different times for “Vanity Fair,” Simon and Schuster and other organizations. He had become neither rich nor famous but New York had become home. Through the years, he visited his mother and father, Big George and Betty, in his home town of Paris, Missouri, but certainly never planned to return...

“Go South to Freedom: Based on a True Story” Author: Frye Gaillard Publisher: NewSouth Books Pages: 80 Price: $17.95 (Hardcover) Frye Gaillard, winner of many prestigious writing awards, is is well-known for his histories of the civil rights movement and many other nonfiction works, over 20 in fact. He has covered figures ranging from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and President Jimmy Carter to subjects as far-ranging as NASCAR, country music and the televangelists Jimmy and Tammy Faye Bakker....

“Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee from Scout to ‘Go Set a Watchman’” Author: Charles J. Shields Publisher: Henry Holt and Company Pages: 310 Price: $26.00 (Hardcover) As the long subtitle suggests, Shields has greatly expanded his 2006 biography of Harper Lee adding, he estimates, 50,000 words conveying a lot of new material. This is true. Those who have not read the first version will want to get this; those who own the 2006 version might buy this one too or read the epilogue at their...

“The Harvard Bride: A Mountain Brook Novel” Author: Katherine Clark Publisher: Story River Books, The University of South Carolina Press Pages: 320 Price: $27.99 (Hardcover) In the months before his death this spring, the novelist Pat Conroy selected a number of titles for his series Story River Books, which he had instituted with the University of South Carolina Press. Among these were the four novels of Katherine Clark’s Mountain Brook quartet. “The Harvard Bride” is the third. This is an...

“A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression” Author: Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe Publisher: Harper Pages: 352 Price: $26.99 (Hardcover) The heart of this book is food or the lack of it during the 30s, but the authors begin with a discussion of earlier American eating habits. These were not always wonderful. Before WWI, most families lived on farms and ate accordingly. Farm wives spent nearly all day every day involved with food. They cleaned vegetables they had brought from...

“Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis’ Author: J.D. Vance Publisher: HarperCollins Pages: 272 Price: $ 27.00 (Hardcover) “Hillbilly Elegy” has recently attracted a load of attention, partly by fortunate timing. The book is, first, a conventional memoir. J.D. Vance tells the story of his life. Second, it is a report on a subculture in American society, the Scots-Irish, more or less, of Appalachia and the industrial Midwest, where many residents of Kentucky moved a couple...

“Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece ‘The Sun Also Rises’” Author: Lesley M.M. Blume Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Pages: 237 Price: $27.00 (Hardcover) The New York publishers’ obsession with the 1920s continues with “Everyone Behaves Badly.” Lesley Blume might have fictionalized the subject and produced something in the nature of “Z” or “The Paris Wife” or “The Woman in the Photograph,” but instead chose to research the making of “The Sun Also Rises”...

“Beatlebone” Author: Kevin Barry Publisher: Canongate Books Edinburgh 2015 Pages: 263 Price: $13.00 (Paper) American readers are aware of the Irish reverence for their poets. The recently deceased Seamus Heaney is a kind of secular saint. Americans are less aware of the large gathering of first-rate Irish fiction writers. Occasionally, a writer makes it across the Atlantic , perhaps because a novel has been partly set in the U.S., like Colm Toibin’s “Brooklyn” (2009) and “The Master” (2004),...

“In the Shadow of Hitler: Alabama’s Jews, the Second World War, and the Holocaust” Author: Dan J. Puckett Publisher: The University of Alabama Press Pages: 326 Price: $44.95 (Hardback) ; $34.95 (Paperback) Dan Puckett, who teaches history at Troy University, has published a scholarly history of Jews in Alabama, not covering all aspects from 1795 till now, but focusing on the run-up to WWII, escapees, Naziism and the war itself, displaced persons, and Zionism. Those already interested in...

“The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel” Author: Melanie Benjamin Publisher: Random House Pages: 235 Price: $28.00 (Hardcover) The life of Truman Capote does have the arc of a novel about it. Neglected and, one might say, abandoned by his mother and father, raised by cousins in Monroeville, small, feminine, lonely, longing to be rich and famous, Capote struggled for years, working harder at his writing than anyone could ever guess. His labor was rewarded. First short stories appeared, then small...

“Work Like Any Other: A Novel” Author: Virginia Reeves Publisher: Scribner Pages: 260 Price: $25.00 (Hardcover) Virginia Reeves has spent most of her life in Montana and now lives in Austin, Texas, where she earned her degree at the Michener Center for Writers. While there, Reeves decided to work on a historical novel. She had visited often at her grandparents’ place in Lillian, Alabama, and become interested in Alabama history, especially some unsavory but striking aspects such as Kilby...

“My Father Moves Through Time Like a Dirigible and Other Stories” Author: Gregg Cusick Publisher: Livingston Press Pages: 172 Price: $30.00 (Hardcover) In an increasingly difficult publishing environment , The Livingston Press at The University of West Alabama continues to issue solid, readable fiction. This volume of stories is the winner of Livingston’s Tartt First Fiction Award. The author, Gregg Cusick, has published in a number of good journals including the “Florida Review,” “The...

“Crazy in Alabama” Author: Mark Childress Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons Pages: 383 Price: $15.00 When “Crazy in Alabama “ was published in 1993, the Birmingham Books-A-Million hosted a launch party. On Tuesday, July 28, to celebrate the 23 rd anniversary, that same company sponsored a gala at the beautifully renovated Lyric Theatre in Birmingham, inviting novelists Carolyn Haines, Michael Morris, Deborah Johnson, and Joshilyn Jackson and Childress’ writing teacher at UA, Kitty Johnson, to...

“Miss Jane: A Novel” Author: Brad Watson Publisher: W. W. Norton Pages: 267 Price: $25.95 (Hardcover) It was 1996 when Watson published “Last Days of the Dog-Men,” which won the Sue Kaufman Award; 2002 for his novel, “The Heaven of Mercury,” runner up for the National Book Award; and 2010 for the story collection “Aliens in the Prime of their Lives,” a finalist for the 2011 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction—an average of 7 years between books. William Styron’s books, like “The Confessions of Nat...

“Raw. Vegan. Not Gross: All Vegan and Mostly Raw Recipes for People Who Love to Eat” Author: Laura Miller Publisher: Flatiron Books Pages: 211 Price: $25.99 (Hardcover) A few weeks ago I reviewed “Lulu’s Kitchen,” a cookbook by Lucy Buffett featuring recipes from her restaurant at Gulf Shores. Buffett wrote that the general philosophy at Lulu’s was “Fried. Died. And Gone to Heaven” and her menu used to include “rice pilaf and steamed vegetables, but we threw away more than we sold.” This book...

“Lulu’s Kitchen: A Taste of the Gulf Coast Good Life” Author: Lucy Buffett, Foreword by Jimmy Buffet Publisher: Grand Central Publishing Pages: 264 Price: $19.99 (Paperback) “Lulu’s Kitchen” is a revised edition of “Crazy Sista Cooking” which Lucy Buffett had self-published some time ago. The volume is mostly a cookbook, with almost all the 120 recipes under active use at Lulu’s, her hugely successful restaurant on the Inland Waterway in Gulf Shores, and part memoir, with essays by Lucy, her...

“The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls” “The After Party” Author: Anton DiSclafani Author: Anton DiSclafani Publisher: Riverhead Books Publisher: Riverhead Books Pages: 388 Pages: 384 Price: $27.95 (Hardcover) Price: $26.00 (Hardcover) Anton DiSclafani may be the newest member of the Alabama literary community. Raised in Florida, with an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis, Ms. DiSclafani joined the Auburn faculty last July, as teacher of fiction writing. In 2014 she published her...

Rock-a-Bye Bones: A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery” Author: Caroline Haines Publisher: Minotaur Books ( St. Martin’s Publishing Group ) Pages: 344 Price: $25.99 (Hardcover) “Rock-a-Bye Bones” is the 16 th in the series, and I think I have read and reviewed them all. Haines’s first was “Them Bones” (1999), in which she had Sarah Booth Delaney, failed New York actress, move back to Dahlia House in Sunflower County, near Zinnia, Mississippi. Delaney, inadvertently one might say, became a Private...

“All the Governor’s Men: A Mountain Brook Novel” Author: Katherine Clark Foreword by Pat Conroy Publisher: University of South Carolina Press Pages: 238 Price: $29.99 (Hardcover) Just a year ago Katherine Clark published the first of her Mountain Brook quartet: “The Headmaster’s Darlings.” There we observed life in the elite kingdom from the point of view of Norman Laney, the 500-pound bon vivant, English and art history teacher, as he manipulates students and parents alike at the exclusive...

“Half- Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life” Author: Edward O. Wilson Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation Pages: 212 Price: $15.95 (Hardcover) It is arguable that Edward O. Wilson, a native Alabamian who graduated from UA before his Ph.D. at Harvard, had his career at Harvard, is now Professor Emeritus and has over the years won two Pulitzer Prizes, is the most important biologist alive today. Attention should be paid. “Half-Earth,” E. O. Wilson’s 31st book, constitutes the last volume...

“Blood, Bone, and Marrow: A Biography of Harry Crews” Author: Ted Geltner Foreword by Michael Connelly Publisher: The University of Georgia Press Pages: 448 Price: $32.95 (Hardcover) When the writer Harry Crews died on March 28, 2012, his many fans were grieved and some were surprised, believing that Crews had died years earlier. Many who knew of his wild man lifestyle were surprised he had made it that long. But Harry Crews, with his karate, body-building, Mohawk haircut and tattoos, was a...

“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. With local English teacher Debbie Raines, Smith organized an oral history of Grundy “Sitting on the Courthouse Steps” in 2000. This was a great idea because the town, located on the banks of the Levisa River,...

“Kill ’Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul” Author: James McBride Publisher: Spiegel & Grau Pages: 232 Price: $28.00 (Hardcover) James McBride achieved phenomenal success with his memoir “The Color of Water.” Raised mainly in Brooklyn, son of a white Jewish mother who became an evangelical Christian and a hard-working black father, McBride knew tough times. His determined, indefatigable mother, often the lone white figure on the black streets, insisted on...

“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) Rheta Johnson, veteran syndicated columnist, is the winner of numerous prizes, including the Clarence Cason Award, for her human interest columns on life in the South. Raised near Montgomery and an Auburn graduate, she has logged hundreds of thousands of miles searching out unusual places and personalities, often travelling from her...

“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. His time in California also resulted in a love for the Bay Area and the moody, foggy locales of the noir...

“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. He writes because he knows “there were people who could destroy mankind...

“The Opposite of Everyone” Author: Joshlyn Jackson Publisher: William Morrow Pages: 291 Price: $26.00 (Hardcover) Joshlyn Jackson’s novels are always inventive with twisty plots and a degree of the comic but that comic is often dark, not light-hearted. For comedies, there is a rich variety of violence. In several there are buried bodies, and there are always buried secrets. “Between, Georgia” opens with a Doberman attacking an old lady, and the protagonist Nonny Jane, adopted by the...

“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. Mark Johnson was 50 years old when he entered the Mobile Police Academy, having become irritated with the perpetual hassles of his work with The United Way. Make no mistake, Johnson was a success. Over a career of 20...

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