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!

“Beautiful War: Studies in a Dreadful Fascination”

Author: Philip D. Beidler                                                                                     

Pages: 173

Price: $34.95 (Hardcover)

Although Beidler’s last book, “The Island Called Paradise,” is a collection of essays about Cuba, America’s wars have been his main concern from the beginning of his career. Beidler devoted an entire book to discussions of Vietnam War literature, and several collections discuss World War II, “The Good War,” and its cultural aftermath.

“Tunneling to the Center of the Earth: Stories”

Author: Kevin Wilson  

Publisher: Ecco, HarperCollins

Pages: 205

Price: $13.99 (Paper)

“The Family Fang: A Novel”

Author: Kevin Wilson

Publisher: Ecco, HarperCollins

Pages: 309

$23.00 (Hardcover)

In just a few days, Kevin Wilson, who teaches writing at the University of the South in Sewanee, will publish his third book, the novel “Perfect Little World.” To prepare for reviewing it, I thought to read his book of stories and previous novel.

“Alabama: The Making of an American State”

Author: Edwin C. Bridges  

Publisher: The University of Alabama Press

Pages: 241 pp.

Price: $39.95 (Cloth); $19.95 (Paper)

For thirty years as the Director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, Ed Bridges was immersed in Alabama history. Now Director Emeritus, Bridges has finished his magnum opus, a narrative history of the state from 11,000 B.C. to the very present, in time for the Alabama Bicentennial in 2019.

“Avid Reader: A Life”

Author: Robert Gottlieb   

Publisher: Farrrar, Strauss and Giroux

Pages: 323

Price: $28.00 (Hardcover)

Robert Gottlieb is 85 years old and arguably the most important editor in America since Maxwell Perkins was editing Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Wolfe in the 20s and 30s. He should have written his memoirs long ago, but there was always the next book to seek, to sign, to edit, the next issue of the magazine to put out, and in the last 20 years or so, the next book to write, about subjects Gottlieb felt passionately about.

“Mr. X and Mr. Y”

Author: Donald Brown  

Publisher: Borgo Publishing

Pages: 122

Price: $20.00 (Paper)

In June of 1959 Donald Brown, 23 years old, recently graduated from Birmingham Southern College, was a cub reporter for the “Birmingham News.” When a report came in that two armless, legless torsos had been found in two different counties in northeast Alabama, the city editor sent Brown to cover the story.

The two torsos will be, for a time, known as Mr. X. and Mr. Y.

“Greetings from Alabama: A Pictorial History in Vintage Postcards”

Author: Wade Hall with Nancy B. DuPree and Christopher Sawula

Publisher: NewSouth Books

Pages: 224

Price: $24.95 (Trade Paper)

"Homegoing" By: Yaa Gyasi

Jan 10, 2017

“Homegoing”

Author: Yaa Gyasi  

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf,

Pages: 300

Price: $ 26.95 (Hardcover)

The author of this debut novel is Yaa Gyasi— pronounced “Jessie.”

Born in Ghana, Gyasi was brought by her parents to the United States at the age of two. After stops in Ohio, Illinois, and Tennessee, they settled in Huntsville, Alabama when she was ten, her father becoming a teacher of French at UAH. Gyasi is, then, an African immigrant, not an African-American, a difference which is brought out in the novel.

"The Whole Town's Talking" By: Fannie Flagg

Jan 10, 2017

“The Whole Town’s Talking”

Author: Fannie Flagg  

Publisher: Random House

New York

2016

Pages: 402

Price: $28.00 (Hardcover)

Fannie Flagg’s novels are usually somewhat sweet, and, as they say, heart-warming stories of ordinary people going about their lives in small town America. One does not find or expect overt violence or sexuality. The novels are hugely successful and, even if most people don’t realize it, the road to mass popularity and wealth in America is “Everybody Loves Raymond,” not Lennie Bruce or Chris Rock talking blue.

“El Paso: A Novel”

Author: Winston Groom  

Publisher: Liveright: a Division of W. W. Norton

New York

2016

Price: $27.95 (Hardcover)

Pages: 477

After publishing 7 novels, including the mega-hit “Forrest Gump” in 1986, Groom left off writing novels and turned to nonfiction. He has published 10 works of history, mainly on military subjects, from the Civil War battles of Shiloh and Vicksburg to WWI fighting in Flanders to the darkest period of WWII, the year 1942.

“H is for Hawk”

Author: Helen Macdonald 

Publisher: Grove Press

Pages: 283

Price: $16.00 (Paperback)

“H is for Hawk” has come to my attention because it has already won prizes in Britain and was a “New York Times” bestseller in spite of being nearly unclassifiable by genre.

“Freedom of the Mask”

By Robert McCammon           

Subterranean Press

Burton, MI

2016

$ 26.95 (Deluxe hardcover Edition)

530 pp.

After a series of highly successful novels in the horror genre, Robert McCammon switched to a series of historical murder mysteries, set in the years around 1700.

In the first Matthew Corbett novel, “Speaks the Nightbird,” Corbett, a magistrate’s assistant, investigates charges of witchcraft in Fount Royal, South Carolina.

“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.

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