Don Noble's Book Reviews

Mondays at 7:45 a.m and 4:44 p.m.

Recently retired as English professor at The University of Alabama, Dr. Noble's  specialties are Southern and American literature.  He also hosts Bookmark on Alabama Public Television.

Don Noble's reviews can be heard most Mondays at 7:45am and 4:44pm.  and have been made possible in part through grants from the Alabama State Council for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

To listen to the audio version of Dr. Noble's reviews, just click on the book title to be taken to the full page.  Audio is found either at the very beginning of the transcript or at the bottom of the page.

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Credit Alabama State Council on the Arts

Dr. Noble's Book Reviews are made possible in part with a grant from The Alabama State Council on the Arts, with the support of The University of Alabama, and from the generous support from our listeners.  Thank you!

“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)

“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.

“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 very tough guy, or at least appeared to be.

“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)

"Tru & Nelle: A Novel" By G. Neri

Mar 29, 2016

“Tru & Nelle: A Novel”

Author: G. Neri                                              

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Pages: 336

Price: $16.99 (Hardcover)

With all the recent fuss over the publication of “Go Set a Watchman” and the legal feuding in Monroeville, one can understand why this book was produced. There is interest in the subject.

Neri, the author of six previous books for children and teens, says of his work,I'm like a mash-up DJ of a writer: I sample real life and re-mix it into story.”

“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.

“Revelation: A Search for Faith in a Violent Religious World”

Author: Dennis Covington   

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Pages: 224

Price: $28.00 (Hardcover)

Impossible as it seems, it has been 20 years since Dennis Covington published “Salvation on Sand Mountain,” his report on the snake handling churches of Appalachia, those congregations that followed, literally, the passage in Mark: “They shall take up serpents.”

“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.

"Carrying Albert Home" By Homer Hickam

Dec 14, 2015

“Carrying Albert Home”

Author: Homer Hickam  

Publisher: William Morrow

Pages: 432

Price: $25.99 (Hardcover)

“Carrying Albert Home” is in some ways familiar Homer Hickam territory. Beginning with “The Rocket Boys” (1998), Hickam gained his first successes with memoirs of home, Coalwood, West Virginia. “Albert” might be considered the fifth in that series. But there are big differences.

“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.

"We Were Brothers" By Barry Moser

Oct 8, 2015

“We Were Brothers”

Author: Barry Moser

Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill   

Pages: 192

Price: $22.00 (Hardcover)

Barry Moser is a name familiar to many, but not as an author. An artist, Moser is the illustrator or designer of 350 books, including “Moby Dick,” “Frankenstein,” “The Divine Comedy,” and  even the King James Bible, and he won a National Book Award for his edition of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

“We Were Brothers” is utterly divorced from that world of fine art and beauty.

“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.

Pages