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.

"Angels at the Gate"

Jun 26, 2015

“Angels at the Gate” Author: T. K. Thorne Publisher: Cappuccino Books Pages: 359 Price: $22.50 (Hardcover) Birmingham author T. K. Thorne, a retired police captain, is writing hard. Her “Last Chance for Justice,” an extended commentary on the trials that finally brought the 16 th St. Baptist Church bombers Bobby Frank Cherry and Thomas Blanton to account in 2001 and 2002, was informed by her intimate knowledge of Birmingham and 22 years in law enforcement. “Noah’s Wife,” a novel published in...

“Wild Sweet Orange Ride: Journeys Home” Author: Julia Gregg Publisher: Vineyard Stories Pages: 101 Price: $19.95 (Hardcover) Julia Hightower Gregg has been a columnist for the “Evansville Courier and Press” in Indiana for 25 years but before becoming a Hoosier, if indeed one can ever become a Hoosier, Gregg grew up in Montgomery, Alabama, took a BS from Auburn University, then took an MS from Vanderbilt Peabody College and an MFA from Murray State University in Kentucky . “Wild Sweet Orange...

“A Little Bit of Spectacular” Author: Gin Phillips Publisher: Penguin, Dial Books for Young Readers Pages: 160 Price: $16.99 (Paperback) I have from time to time reviewed Young Adult novels and even a children’s book or two but this is my first foray into the Middle Grade, Young Readers category. Young Readers are ages 10 and up, grades 5 and up. I don’t believe I would have read this novel except for my admiration for the work of Gin Phillips. Her first novel, the utterly realistic “The Well...

“Bone to Be Wild: A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery” Author: Carolyn Haines Publisher: St. Martin’s (Minotaur Books) Pages: 354 Price: $25.99 (Hardcover) When I was a kid, on Saturday afternoons I caught the latest installment of Lash LaRue or Commander Don Winslow of the US Coast Guard, weekly series often ending in a literal cliff-hanger—to be continued next week. Like those matinees, Carolyn Haines’ “Bones” books have moved now from a mystery series to a mystery serial. When Haines’ last novel...

“Reflections of the Civil War in Southern Humor” Author: Wade H. Hall Publisher: NewSouth Books Pages: 89 Price: $12.95 (Paper) “The Shortest Book in the World” is a venerable genre. “Career Management” by Charlie Sheen. “Secrets to a Successful Marriage” by Tiger Woods At 89 pages, Wade Hall’s study of Southern Civil War humor is definitely in this category. Considering that the war was a four-year bloodbath with, sometimes, tens of thousands dying on the same day, it may even be an oxymoron...

“South, America: A Jack Prine Novel” Author: Rod Davis Publisher: NewSouth Books Pages: 248 Price: $24.95 (Paper) Before seven on a Sunday morning, in the year 2000, Jack Prine is walking from his apartment to get some coffee and finds a “body … splayed out face down across a busted-up curb in the Faubourg Marigny, downriver of the quarter but not quite in the Bywater.” Prine is not a cop. As an army intelligence officer he had served in Korea, in the 70s, had recently been in TV news in...

Title: Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston
Author: Valerie Boyd
Publisher: Scribner
Pages: 438
Price: $20.00 (Paperback) On June 8th, Zora Neale Hurston will be one of twelve writers taken into the newly established Alabama Writers Hall of Fame. Over the years I have admired much of Hurston’s work and taught the novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God” but had not read Valerie Boyd’s highly acclaimed biography. It was time to learn more about Hurston, a...

Shadows in the Fire

Apr 27, 2015

Title: Shadows in the Fire
Author: Gray Basnight
Publisher: Five Star: A Part of Gale, Cengage Learning
Price: $25.95 ( Hardcover )
Pages: 364 pp. Gray Basnight, a native of Richmond, Virginia, had a long career in NYC as journalist, especially in radio, turning to full-time fiction writing in 2011 with a debut detective novel, “The Cop with the Pink Pistol,” the adventures of NYC detective Donna Prima. Working out of a Greenwich Village precinct, Donna...

The Hotel Monte Sano

Apr 20, 2015

Title: The Hotel Monte Sano
Author: Charles Farley Publisher: The Ardent Writer Press Pages: 237
Price: $17.95 (Paper) Huntsville author Charles Farley, retired after a long career as teacher and librarian, is now the author of five books. His biography of singer Bobby “Blue” Bland appeared from the University Press of Mississippi in 2010 and since then he has completed his “Secrets of Florida” trilogy. His protagonist is old Doc Berber, GP, practicing in Port St. Joe, who finds...

Journey to the Wilderness

Apr 13, 2015

Title: Journey to the Wilderness
Author: Frye Gaillard
Foreword by Steven Trout
Publisher: NewSouth Books
Price: $23.95 (Hardcover)
Pages: 160 Frye Gaillard is now recognized as one of Alabama’s most prolific and most important nonfiction writers with books on Southern literature, civil rights, NASCAR, country music, Jimmy Carter and, generally, all things Southern. This volume is, in a sense, a return to the concerns of a very early volume: “Lessons from the...

Pasture Art

Mar 30, 2015

Title: Pasture Art
Author: Marlin Barton
“Pasture Art: Stories”
Author: Marlin Barton
Publisher: Hub City Press
Pages: 152
Price: $16.95 (Paper) “Pasture Art” is Marlin Barton’s fifth volume of fiction—there have been two novels and two collections of stories—but this book stands a good chance to be his break-out book. The stories are more insightful, more psychologically complex than any of his previous work. As a story writer, he has arrived. Like many...

Fox is Framed

Mar 23, 2015

Title: Fox is Framed
Author: Lachlan Smith
Publisher: Grove Atlantic, The Mysterious Press, 2015
Pages: 244
Price: $24.00 (Hardcover) “Fox is Framed” is the third of Smith’s Leo Maxwell mysteries, and a kind of sequel. It is not necessary to have read “Bear Is Broken,” winner of the Shamus Award for first P.I. novel, or “Lion Plays Rough,” but it would be helpful. In the first, Teddy Maxwell, a powerhouse defense attorney, is shot in the head while having lunch, and...

What Stands in a Storm

Mar 16, 2015

Title: What Stands in a Storm
Author: Kim Cross
Foreword by Rick Bragg Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 285
Price: $25.00 (Hardcover) After taking the BA and the MA in journalism at the U of A, Kim Cross honed her skills working as editor-at-large at “Southern Living” and writing articles for outdoor and sport magazines such as “Bicycling” and “Runner’s World” and several newspapers, including “USA Today.” “What Stands in a Storm” is her first book, released March 10th,...

Lost Capitals of Alabama

Mar 9, 2015

Title: Lost Capitals of Alabama
Author: Herbert James Lewis
Publisher: The History Press
Pages: 158
Price: $19.99 (Paper) Montgomery, chosen over competing bids from Tuscaloosa, Wetumpka , Mobile, Marion, Statesville, Selma and Huntsville, has been the state capital since 1846, indeed was the capital of the Confederacy for three months in 1861 before that was moved to Richmond, but it was not always so. Montgomery is our fifth capital; the other four “lost” capitals...

Title: Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League
Author: Jonathan Odell
Publisher: Maiden Lane Press
Pages: 462
Price: $16.00 (Paperback) This is Jonathan Odell’s first and third novel. In 2012 Odell published “The Healing,” a novel of black and white, master and slave, set on a Mississippi plantation in 1847. The heroine, Polly Shine, is an herbalist, feared as a witch, and powerful enough to organize the slaves and lead a quiet but devastating insurrection against Master...

Title: Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama
Author: Hester Bass
Illustrator: E. B. Lewis
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pages: 28
Price: $16.99 (Hardcover) Title: The Cat's Pajamas
Author & Illustrator: Daniel Wallace
Publisher: Inkshares: Crowdfunded Publishing
Pages: 28
Price: $18.00 (Hardcover) It has not been the custom to discuss picture books or children’s books in this space, but these two arrived...

West of Sunset

Feb 16, 2015

Title: West of Sunset
Author: Stewart O'Nan
Publisher: Viking Pages: 289
Price: $27.95 (Cloth) What hath Woody wrought? Since the release of “Midnight in Paris” there has been a stream of fictionalizations of the fabled figures of the Roaring Twenties: “The Paris Wife,” about Hemingway’s wife Hadley, “Z,” Zelda’s story from her point of view, Lee Smith’s “Guests on Earth” with Zelda as mental patient at Highlands Hospital in Asheville, and a half dozen more. Now we have ...

Diamonds in the Rough

Feb 10, 2015

Title: Diamonds in the Rough
Author: James Sanders Day
Publisher: The University of Alabama Press
Pages: 300
Price: $49.95 (Cloth) The Frontispiece for “Diamonds in the Rough” is a Geological Survey map of the coalfields of Alabama. We are endowed with five: “Plateau” in the north, “Coosa,” east-central, “Warrior” in the west and a scattered lignite belt across the south. Finally, tucked between Warrior and Coosa, 67 miles long, in Bibb, Jefferson, St. Clair and Shelby...

Title: Better Than Them: The Unmaking of an Alabama Racist
Author: S. McEachin Otts
Forward by Gaillard Frye
Publisher: NewSouth Books Pages: 158
Price: $23.95 (Paper) Sixteen years ago Fred Hobson, one of our best commentators on Southern writing, published “But Now I See: The White Southern Racial Conversion Narrative” (1999). He examined in that book the writings of a number of Southerners who had come to recognize and reject their own racism, and then explored...

Driving the King

Jan 26, 2015

Title: Driving the King
Author: Ravi Howard
Publisher: Harper/Collins Pages: 336 pp.
Price: $25.99 (Hardcover) A slow and meticulous fiction writer, Howard took years to complete his first novel, “Like Trees Walking” (2007), the fictional retelling of the 1981 lynching of Michael Donald in Mobile. But “Trees” brought Howard the Ernest J. Gaines award, was a finalist for the Hemingway Foundation/Pen Award and brought him support from the NEA, the Bread Loaf Writers’...

Title : The Meaning of Human Existence"
Author : E.O. Wilson Transcript to be added soon.

The Professor

Jan 12, 2015

Title: The Professor: A Legal Thriller
Author: Robert Bailey
Publisher: Exhibit A
Pages: 404
Price: $14.99 (Paperback) Robert Bailey, in practice as a civil defense trial lawyer in Huntsville for the past 13 years, has now joined the legion of Alabama attorneys to try their hand at fiction. And it’s not a bad start at all. “The Professor” has believable, interesting characters and, most importantly, pace. Set in Tuscaloosa, at the UA Law School, with references to the...

Flying Shoes

Jan 5, 2015

Title: Flying Shoes
Author: Lisa Howorth Transcript to be added soon.

Men We Reaped

Dec 29, 2014

Title: Men We Reaped
Author: Jesmyn Ward
Publisher: Bloomsbury Pages: 251
Price: $26.00 (Hardcover) If one looks casually at the writer Jesmyn Ward’s vita, the impression is that she has lived a most fortunate life. Raised mainly in DeLisle, a black community on the Mississippi coast, Ward, however, had her share of hardships. Her parents fought and finally divorced; Jesmyn was bullied at school. But the family her mother worked for offered to send Ward to a local private...

Dear Committee Members

Dec 21, 2014

Title: Dear Committee Members
Author: Julie Schumacher
Publisher: Doubleday Pages: 180
Price: $22.95 (Hardcover) This book first came to my notice in a review of new comic novels in the November 2nd “New York Times Book Review.” Brock Clarke called it “hilarious” and added, “if you don’t find those books funny, well, that means you’re a corpse.” So I took a look. I’m alive! “Members” is a wry, small comic delight. College teachers, especially in the humanities, will love it...


Dec 1, 2014

Title: Prosperity
Author: B. J. Leggett Transcript and audio to be added soon.

Title: All The Way To Memphis and Other Stories Author: Suzanne Hudson Transcript and audio to be added soon .

Title: “Southern Living Bourbon & Bacon: The Ultimate Guide to the South’s Favorite Food Groups”
Author: Morgan Murphy
Publisher: Oxmoor House
Pages: 288
Price: $22.95 (Hardcover) Bourbon and bacon are not a hard sell in the South, or anywhere for that matter, but Morgan Murphy has a good time evangelizing, however needlessly. The author of “Southern Living Off the Eaten Path,” Murphy combines 115 recipes, short taxonomies and histories of bourbon and bacon, a...

“The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion”
Author: Fannie Flagg
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 367
Price: $15.00 (paper) “The All Girls Filling Station’s Last Reunion” is Fannie Flagg’s ninth novel and her fans are going to love it. Descriptions of this novel by reviewers and by Flagg’s friends Mark Childress, Pat Conroy and Carol Burnett include: funny, quirky, charming, kind, entertaining, page-turner, sunny, witty, warm-hearted and of course, heartwarming. And it...

The Resurrectionist

Nov 3, 2014

“The Resurrectionist”
Author: Matthew Guinn
Pages: 284
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Co.
Price: $25.95 (Cloth) To begin at the beginning: a resurrectionist is a body snatcher, a person who digs up newly buried bodies in a graveyard and delivers them to a medical school for students to work on and learn from in anatomy class. In the nineteenth century in America, as elsewhere, cadavers were scarce. Med students might have to study anatomy and practice surgical technique...