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!

“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.

“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 When any great writer dies, the same question is asked: Are there unpublished manuscripts still to come?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.”

“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 there to live.

"Troublemaker" By: Linda Howard

Nov 10, 2016

“Troublemaker”

Author: Linda Howard

Publisher: William Morrow  

Pages: 384                     

Price: $26.99 (Hardcover)

I will admit, I was only vaguely aware of the romance writer Linda Howard. That is until I received in the mail her latest novel, “Troublemaker,” along with a very slick press kit that describes her as “the queen of romantic suspense,” a writer of “stunning sensuality” who “meshes hot sex, emotional impact, and gripping tension.” So far, so good.

“Go South to Freedom: Based on a True Story”

Author: Frye Gaillard

Publisher: NewSouth Books          

Pages: 80

Price: $17.95 (Hardcover)

"Mrs. Poe: A Novel" By Lynn Cullen

Oct 5, 2016

“Mrs. Poe: A Novel”

Author: Lynn Cullen               

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Pages: 310

Price: $16.00 (Paperback)

There used to be popular fiction and literary fiction. Now we have popular fiction about literary fiction and literary figures. “Mrs. Poe” joins the stream that had its source in “The Paris Wife.”

Lynn Cullen, now living in Atlanta, is the author of numerous novels, including “The Creation of Eve,” “Reign of Madness” and the young adult novel “I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter.”

“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)

“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.

“A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression”

Author: Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe

Publisher: Harper           

Pages: 352

Price: $26.99 (Hardcover)

“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.

“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)

“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.

“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.

“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.

“Work Like Any Other: A Novel”

Author: Virginia Reeves

Publisher: Scribner   

Pages: 260

Price: $25.00 (Hardcover)

“My Father Moves Through Time Like a Dirigible and Other Stories”

Author: Gregg Cusick

Publisher: Livingston Press    

Pages: 172

Price: $30.00 (Hardcover)

“Crazy in Alabama”

Author: Mark Childress

Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons   

Pages: 383

Price: $15.00

“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.

“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, “Raw. Vegan. Not Gross.” is not like that book.

“South Toward Home: Travels in Southern Literature”

Author: Margaret Eby

Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.   

Pages: 240

Price: $ 25.95 (Hardcover)

In her Introduction, Margaret Eby, originally from Birmingham, describes the nature of her book. It is “not meant to be an encyclopedia of Southern literature, nor is it a travel guide. It is an odyssey of sorts through a pocket of the South that I grew up in and learned to understand through reading.”

"The Keepers of the House" By Shirley Ann Grau

Jun 22, 2016

“The Keepers of the House”

Author: Shirley Ann Grau

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf     

Pages: 309 pp.

Price: $16.00 (Paper)

This year, 2016, marks the 100th year of the Pulitzer Prize.

For the first 31 years only novels were eligible for the fiction prize. Then the category was expanded to include short story collections.

“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 River of Souls" By Robert McCammon

Jun 14, 2016

“The River of Souls”

Author: Robert McCammon

Publisher: Subterranean Press         

Burton, MI

2014

Pages: 257

Price: $24.95 (Hardcover)

Here in Alabama we have had several authors with huge best sellers—Rick Bragg with “All Over But the Shoutin’,” Homer Hickam with “Rocket Boys” and Winston Groom with “Forrest Gump,” but after Harper Lee, Robert McCammon may be the Alabama writer who has sold the most books.

“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

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 16th in the series, and I think I have read and reviewed them all.

“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)

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