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.


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!

The Secret of Magic

Apr 21, 2014

“The Secret of Magic”
Author: Deborah Johnson
Publisher: P.G. Putnam’s Sons
Pages: 394
Price: $26.95 (Cloth)

The Invitation

Apr 14, 2014


“The Invitation” Author: Clifton Taulbert
Publisher: NewSouth Books
Pages: 206
Price: $25.95 (Cloth)

The Shoe Burnin'

Mar 30, 2014


“The Shoe Burnin’: Stories of Southern Soul”
Editor: Joe Formichella
Publisher: River’s Edge Media
Pages: 216
Price: $34.95 (Cloth) including CD

“The Shoe Burnin’: Stories of Southern Soul.” The title has a story behind it and the subtitle is a pun.

The story is simple. On a winter’s night, near Brewton, Alabama, a group of kindred spirits were talking, singing, drinking of course, and rather than making a trip to the woodpile, they burned, one at a time, a box of old shoes.

The Never List

Mar 24, 2014


“The Never List: A Novel” Author: Koethi Zan
Publisher: Viking Press
Pages: 303
Price: $27.95 (Cloth)

One rarely begins a review by quoting from the acknowledgements, but this is an unusual situation. Koethi Zan thanks a number of people including her daughters, who “are not allowed to read one word of [“The Never List”] until college.”

This is perfectly understandable.


Mar 17, 2014


“Hum” Author: Michelle Richmond
Publisher: University of Alabama Press, FC2
Pages: 149
Price: $16.95 (Paper)

A native of Mobile, Michelle Richmond began her career with a volume of stories, “The Girl in the Fall-Away Dress,” which won the Associated Writing Programs prize for short fiction in 2000.

Fielder's Choice

Mar 10, 2014


“Fielder’s Choice” Author: J. Mark Hart
Publisher: TradeWorks Publishing
Pages: 460
Price: $12.95


Mar 3, 2014

“Superzelda: The Graphic Life of Zelda Fitzgerald”
Author: Tizania Lo Porto
Illustrator: Daniele Marotta
Publisher: One Peace Books
Pages: 175
Price: $16.95 (Paper)

Graphic books are, to me, a relatively new phenomenon. I have seen a few graphic novels and Lila Quintero Weaver’s fine graphic memoir, “Darkroom,” but this is my first graphic biography. As successful as many graphic novels may be, perhaps graphic books are not suited to biography. In biography we usually already know what the characters look like. Sometimes the faces are downright famous.

Turning the Tide

Feb 24, 2014


“Turning the Tide: The University of Alabama in the 1960s”
Author: Earl H. Tilford
Publisher: University of Alabama Press
Pages: 252
Price: $34.95 (Cloth)

Earl Tilford offers what seems a very useful way to think of the history of the University of Alabama. He suggests there have been three UAs, or rather the university has been born, then faded and reborn twice. The first university dates from the founding in 1831 and ends when the Union troops burned all but four buildings in 1865.


“Bear Is Broken: A Leo Maxwell Mystery”
Author: Lachlan Smith
Publisher: The Mysterious Press: An imprint of Grove/Atlantic
Pages: 256
Price: $24.00 (Cloth)

Since the early years of John Grisham, It has become a commonplace that attorneys write legal thrillers. Nothing new there. But few can have been as fully prepared for the job as Lachlan Smith.

Smith took a BA and MA at Stanford, where he was a Richard Scowcroft Fellow in the prestigious Wallace Stegner Writing Program, and followed these up with an MFA in fiction writing from Cornell.

March With Me

Feb 10, 2014

text  “March with Me” Author: Rosalie T. Turner Publisher: Cypress Creek Publishing Pages: 210 Price: $18.00

In her Foreword to “March With Me,” Rosalie Turner says a major motivation for writing this short novel was “the fact that most people in our country today have either forgotten or never knew about the Children’s March” in Birmingham in April of 1963.

Eugene Bullard

Feb 3, 2014

“Eugene Bullard: World’s First Black Fighter Pilot” Author: Larry Greenly Publisher: NewSouth Books Pages: 160 Price: $19.95 (Cloth)

Someone Else's Love Story

Jan 27, 2014

“Someone Else’s Love Story” Author: Joshilyn Jackson Publisher: William Morrow Pages: 300 Price: $26.99 (Cloth)

Joshilyn Jackson has achieved the status of best-selling author with a solid reader/fan base. One can tell that from the dust jacket: her name is in larger, brighter type than the words of the title.

Starting Over

Jan 20, 2014

“Starting Over”
Author: Elizabeth Spencer
Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
Pages: 208
Price: $24.95 (Cloth)

The Path Was Steep

Jan 13, 2014

“The Path Was Steep: A Memoir of Appalachian Coal Camps During the Great Depression”
Author: Suzanne Pickett, with a Foreword by Norman McMillan
Publisher: NewSouth Books
Pages: 210
Price: $24.95 (Paper)

Suzanne Pickett, who sold many stories to “Weird Tales” and wrote for many years a personal column for the “Centreville Press,” passed away in 1999 but now, 14 years later, NewSouth Books has published this lucid, informative memoir of her life in Piper, West Blocton, Haig, and a number of other then-active coal mining communities in Bibb County.

Shahrazad's Tooth

Jan 6, 2014

 “Shahrazad’s Tooth and Other Stories”
Author: Gretchen McCullough
Publisher: Afaq Bookshop & Publishing House
Pages: 269
Price: $5.99 (E-book)

Gretchen McCullough, who earned the MFA in fiction writing at the University of Alabama, is an old Middle East hand.

She has taught in Turkey and Syria and now for many years at the American University in Cairo.

Two years ago McCullough published “Three Stories from Cairo” and now these and six more make up “Shahrazad’s Tooth.”

Justice for All

Dec 30, 2013


“Justice for All”

Author: Christy Kyser Truitt

Publisher: Dunham Books

Pages: 268

Price: $14.99 (paper)

“Justice for All” is a legal thriller and a novel of young people overcoming personal and family difficulties and falling in love, but it is, throughout, a thoroughly wholesome Christian novel.

Truitt has been praised by best-selling author Patti Callahan Henry as “a strong new voice in Christian fiction.”

“Stanislavski in Ireland: Focus at Fifty”

Editors: Brian McAvera and Steven Dedalus Burch

Publisher: Carysfort

Press Pages: 245

Price: $37.95

An American girl, Deirdre O’Connell, is the heroine of this unusual history of a Dublin theatre.

Born and raised in the Bronx, of Irish immigrant parents, O’Connell studied acting at the New York Dramatic Workshop and then with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. There she was introduced to The Method, the Stanislavski System, which became the ruling passion of the rest of her life.

The Melody of Secrets

Dec 16, 2013

“The Melody of Secrets”

Author: Jeffrey Stepakoff

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 261

Price: $24.99 (Cloth)

“Pickett’s Charge: A Novel”

Author: Charles McNair

Publisher: Livingston Press

Pages: 331

Price: $30.00 (Cloth), $18.95 (Trade Paper)

In 1994 McNair’s first novel, “Land O’Goshen,” a dystopian novel set in the future, made a nice little stir. McNair’s career was launched.

Now after a 19-year silence while he worked successfully at public relations in Atlanta, McNair is back with a BIG novel, this time exploring, in an epic that unspools over one hundred years, the ideas of time, history, tradition and revenge.

Wittgenstein’s Lolita: Short Stories from William Gay”

Author: William Gay

Publisher: Wild Dog Press

Pages: 64

Price: $10.00 (Paper)

Bursting onto the Southern literary scene in 1998 at the age of 55 with, first, stories and then the novel “The Long Home,” William Gay published four books, three novels and the story collection “I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down.”

“The Aviators: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindburgh and the Epic Age of Flight”

Author: Winston Groom

Publisher: National Geographic Society

Pages: 464

Price: $30.00 (Cloth)

Winston Groom’s historical nonfiction is increasingly a great reading pleasure. Now a master of this form, he researches extensively, assimilates mountains of material and then tells the stories, smoothly, engagingly.

“Camp Redemption: A Novel”

Author: Raymond L. Atkins

Publisher: Mercer University Press

Pages: 271

Price: $25.00 (Cloth)

Raymond Atkins, an English instructor at Georgia Northwestern Technical College, has a nice little career going.

“The Front Porch Prophet” (2008) won Georgia Author of the Year Award for First Novel.

His second, “Sorrow Wood” (2009), has won The Ferrol Sams Award for Fiction, given by Mercer University. Sams’ best-known novels are “Run with the Horsemen” (1982) and “The Whisper of the River” (1984).

Guests on Earth

Nov 18, 2013

  “Guests on Earth: A Novel”
Author: Lee Smith
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Pages: 337
Price: $25.95 ( Cloth )

Lee Smith’s seventeenth book of fiction combines the thoroughly imagined with some elements of the traditional historical novel.

The Moon and the Stars; New and Collected Stories

Author: Marian Carcache

Introduction by Don Noble

Publisher: Solomon & George Publishers

Pages: 82

Price: $15.00 (Paper)

Over a period of years I had enjoyed Marian Carcache’s stories in collections like “Belles Lettres,” “Chinaberries and Crows” and “Climbing Mt. Cheaha,” so it was a pleasure to say “yes” when I was asked to write an Introduction for this volume. In this review I will repeat that these 14 stories are clever, insightful, sometimes touching, often very funny.

"The Tilted World"

Nov 4, 2013

  “The Tilted World”
Authors: Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 320
Price: $25.99 (Cloth)

In Oxford, Mississippi, Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly both write and teach writing at Ole Miss.

Tom, a novelist, is best known for “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter,” “Hell at the Breech” and other works of fiction containing considerable violence and cruelty.

Local Souls: Novellas

Nov 4, 2013

“Local Souls: Novellas”

Author: Allan Gurganus

Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corp.

Pages: 344

Price: $25.95 (Cloth)

Allan Gurganus, after two big novels, “Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All” and “Plays Well with Others,” which is set in the early years of the AIDS epidemic in New York, has turned increasingly to the long, long story, the novella. For him, as for Henry James, it is the perfect form, the piece readable in one sitting, perhaps between dinner and bedtime, with no mood-destroying interruptions.

She Needed Killing: Book 3 in the Needed Killing Series

Author: Bill Fitts

Publisher: Borgo Publishing 2013

Pages: 363

Price: $12.95 (Paper

Retired from the University of Alabama , Bill Fitts has actually done what so many threaten; he has taken up writing murder mysteries.

Skin in the Game

Oct 7, 2013

“Skin in the Game”

Author: R.P. Finch

Publisher: Livingston Press

Pages: 327

Price: $18.95 (Cloth)

The Livingston Press of West Alabama continues to publish unusual, off-beat fiction. “Skin in the Game” is a debut novel by R.P. Finch, who is himself a bit unusual. Finch holds a doctorate in philosophy from Duke University and a doctor of jurisprudence from UNC Chapel Hill. After practicing law in Atlanta for 30 years Finch, now retired, has produced a clever, downright frantic comic novel that sends up law firms, strip clubs and the mafia.

“Inside the Vault: The Paul W. Bryant Collection”

Author: Taylor Watson; Foreword by Ken Gaddy

Publisher: The Paul W. Bryant Museum

Pages: 122

Price: $29.95 (Cloth)

(Available at the Museum and online at

The Governor’s Lady

Sep 23, 2013

“The Governor’s Lady”

Author: Robert Inman

Publisher: John F. Blair

Pages: 331

Price: $26.95 (Cloth)

Novelist Bob Inman in interviews likes to describe himself as a simple storyteller, without overt pretensions to creating “literature.” This is a seemingly modest declaration but, really, being a first-rate storyteller is a fine achievement, harder than it looks. Indeed it should not look hard at all, and if the story fails to hold the reader’s interest it won’t matter if it is “literature” or not; few will read the book.