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!

“Life After Life: A Novel”
Author: Jill McCorkle
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Pages: 352
Price: $24.95 (Cloth)

Jill McCorkle entered the publishing scene with a great splash. In 1984 Algonquin published her first two novels “July 7th” and “The Cheerleader” simultaneously. It was hoped this would create “buzz” and it did. Since then there have been four story collections and three more novels, but it has been 17 years since the last novel so “Life After Life” is long awaited by her fans.

“Why We Are Here: Mobile and the Spirit of a Southern City”
Authors: Edward O. Wilson and Alex Harris
Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation (W. W. Norton & Company)
Pages: 228
Price: $39.95

Crossing On The Paris

Mar 25, 2013

“Crossing on the Paris: A Novel”
Author: Dana Gynther Publisher: Gallery Books, Simon & Schuster
Pages: 314
Price: $15.00 (Paper)

The date is June 15, 1921, Le Havre, France. Three women who have never met are captured by the ship’s photographer as they mount the gangplank for the maiden voyage of the French luxury liner “Paris.”

The “Ship of Fools” motif in fiction, most famously exploited in the novel by Katherine Anne Porter, is time honored and very useful.

“Wash”: A Novel

Mar 11, 2013

“Wash”: A Novel

By Margaret Wrinkle

Atlantic Monthly Press

New York


$25.00 (Cloth)

408 pp.

Make no mistake, “Wash” is a big, ambitious, demanding, novel, long but never plodding. Margaret Wrinkle, a Birmingham native, has done a prodigious amount of research and then put it in the service of a vivid imagination and a lyrical prose style.

“Wash” is a most impressive debut performance.

The novel is set mainly on the Richardson plantation “two days’ ride northeast of Nashville” in the year 1823, with long flashbacks.

“In Love with Defeat: The Making of a Southern Liberal”

Author: H. Brandt Ayers

Publisher: NewSouth Books

Pages: 336

Price: $29.95 (Cloth)

H. Brandt Ayers, Brandy to his friends, has been publisher of the family-owned “Anniston Star” since returning home from Washington D.C. and taking over from his father, Col. Harry Ayers, in 1963. Now 78 years old, Ayers has published his memoirs.

“In Love with Defeat” runs along two parallel tracks.

First, it is an autobiography, a richly anecdotal look at Alabama’s last half century.

The Book of Neil

Feb 25, 2013

“The Book of Neil”
Author: Frank Turner Hollon
Publisher: MacAdam/Cage
Pages: 223
Price: $20.00 (Cloth)

Prolific Baldwin county attorney/novelist Frank Turner Hollon has, this time out, written a fable. It is a familiar story, one that has been exploited in fiction and films, serious and satirical.

“The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks”

Author: Jeanne Theoharis

Publisher: Beacon Press

Pages: 304

Price: $27.95 (Cloth)

The author of this new biography of Rosa Parks begins by addressing an obvious concern: don’t we already know, if not all there is to know, then at least all we need to know, about the life of Rosa Parks?

Her answer is a convincing no.

First, the two biographical accounts that have been done are incomplete for different reasons.

Eden Rise: A Novel

Feb 14, 2013

“Eden Rise: A Novel”

Author: Robert J. Norrell

Publisher: NewSouth Books

Pages: 288 pp.

Price: $27.95 (Cloth)

Robert J. “Jeff” Norrell is already well known to students of Southern Studies. Norrell, who taught at UA and is now professor of history at the University of Tennessee, has won acclaim with books on Booker T. Washington, the civil rights movement in Tuskegee, several volumes on the history of the state of Alabama, race relations in America in the twentieth century and half a dozen others.

Larry Brown: A Writer’s Life

Feb 11, 2013

  “Larry Brown: A Writer’s Life”

Author: Jean W. Cash

Publisher: University of Mississippi Press

Pages: 400

Price: $35.00 (Cloth)

Late in the evening of November 23, 2004, the Mississippi writer Larry Brown said to his wife, Mary Annie, what were just about his last words. “I’m ready to go to bed….Life’s good now, ain’t it?”

Brown died of a heart attack the next morning.

The Cruise of the Rolling Junk
Author:  F. Scott Fitzgerald

“The Cruise of the Rolling Junk”

Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald

Introduction by Julian Evans

Foreword by Paul Theroux

Publisher: Hesperus Press Limited

Pages: 92

Price: $11.95 (paper)

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“Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: Echoes of the Bible and Book of Common Prayer”

Author: A. E. Elmore

Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press

Pages: 265

Price: $32.95 (Cloth)

Over the past few years, there has been, upon this continent, a rebirth in public interest in Abraham Lincoln.

Fear Not the Jackal

Jan 28, 2013

Fear Not the Jackal

Author: Miles DeMott

Publisher: Word Truck 2012

Pages: 221

Price: $14.95 (paper)

Miles DeMott had considerable success with a self-published novel, “Family Meeting,” in 2010 and now is back with “Fear Not the Jackal.”

“Alabama Football Tales: More Than a Century of Crimson Tide Glory”

Author: Lewis Bowling

Publisher: The History Press

Pages: 128

Price: $16.99 (paper)

Since the University of Alabama had the most revered football coach ever in Paul “Bear” Bryant, often has the best football team in the country and is supported by millions of devoted fans and alums, it is no surprise that there is a huge demand for books about the Crimson Tide. Sports writers are well aware of this demand and do their best to meet it.

My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop

Editor: Ronald Rice and Booksellers Across America

Introduction by Richard Russo

Illustrations by Leif Parsons

Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc.

Pages: 378

Price: $23.95 (Cloth)

There is a wave of justified anxiety moving among the bookstore owners and patrons of America; the number of independent bookstores has been declining steadily since the 1990s.

Sins of the Father: The True Story of a Family Running from the Mob

Author: Nick Taylor

Publisher: Pocket Star Books

Pages: 485

Price: $9.99 (Paper)

Much of the narrative “Sins of the Father” will be familiar to viewers of the TV show “In Plain Sight.” The U.S. Marshall’s Service takes those who are to testify in high profile cases, whose lives would definitely be in danger because of that testimony, and puts them into the Witness Protection Program.

Leaving Tuscaloosa

Dec 18, 2012

Leaving Tuscaloosa

Author: Walter Bennett

Publisher: Fuze Publishing

Pages: 313

Price: $16.95 (Paper)

A novel called “Leaving Tuscaloosa” is simply irresistible to a resident, past or present, of Tuscaloosa. Bennett, who grew up in Tuscaloosa and has had a long career as a lawyer, law professor and judge, now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and has studied fiction writing with Lee Smith, among others.

Doc: The Story of a Birmingham Jazz Man

Dec 18, 2012

Doc: The Story of a Birmingham Jazz Man

Author: Frank “Doc” Adams and Burgin Mathews

Publisher: The University of Alabama Press

Pages: 267

Price: $34.95 (Cloth)

The reader can tell that Burgin Mathews put in a heap of work on this book, interviewing “Doc” Adams dozens of times, transcribing the interviews from nearly a hundred cassette tapes, and editing, cutting, and arranging the material.

Tasia’s Table: Cooking with the Artisan Cheesemaker at Belle Chevre

Author: Tasia Malakasis, Photography by Stephanie Schamban

Publisher: NewSouth Books

Pages: 143

Price: $29.95

We are used to chef stories like that of Jacques Pepin, who worked as a child in his mother’s restaurant in France, or Anthony Bourdain, who began as a young fellow and worked his way up.

They Came To Nashville

Oct 29, 2012

“They Came to Nashville”

Author: Marshall Chapman, with a Foreword by Peter Guralnik

Publisher: Vanderbilt University Press

Pages: 282 Price: $25.00 (Cloth)

Marshall Chapman, Nashville singer-songwriter, is now the author of about 400 songs and has cut 12 albums at last count.

Her songs have been recorded by musicians ranging from Conway Twitty to EmmyLou Harris to Jimmy Buffett.

She was an unlikely country star. Far from being a coal miner’s daughter, Chapman was a mill owner’s daughter, a debutante from Spartanburg, South Carolina.

“The Lost Ones: A Quinn Colson Novel”

Author: Ace Atkins

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Pages: 339

Price: $27.50 (Cloth)

Ace Atkins has been working harder than ever, simultaneously writing two detective/action series. He was chosen to write the Spenser novels after the death of Robert B. Parker and in 2011 began the Quinn Colson series with “The Ranger.”

“The Books That Mattered: A Reader’s Memoir”

Author: Frye Gaillard

Publisher: NewSouth Books

Pages: 206

Price: $27.95 (Cloth)

A few writers, even in mid-career, will deny that they read anything much. Faulkner denied, disingenuously, that he had read Joyce’s “Ulysses,” for example, probably for fear readers would feel he had been unduly influenced by Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness experiments.

“Bartolomé de Las Casas and the Conquest of the Americas”

Author: Lawrence A. Clayton

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell (Viewpoints)

Pages: 188

Price: $24.95 (Paper)

Bartolomé de Las Casas is one of those historical figures that, one must sadly admit, one knew nothing about. But this concise, informative book by UA history professor Lawrence Clayton can fix that.

“The Weight of Memory: A Novel”

Author: Jennifer Paddock

Publisher: MacAdam/Cage Publishing

Pages: 254

Price: $24.00 (Cloth)

Jennifer Paddock is a young woman who writes novels about young women.

Her first, “A Secret Word,” 2004, tells the stories of three girls, friends, growing up in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Paddock’s home town. The three girls were close and were all in love privately with Trey, who died in a wreck.

Lewis Nordan: Humor, Heartbreak, and Hope

Editor: Barbara A. Baker

Publisher: University of Alabama Press; A Pebble Hill Book

Pages: 204

Price: $25.00 (Paper)

“Love’s Winning Plays: A Novel”

Author: Inman Majors

Publisher: W. W. Norton &Company

Pages: 256

$25.95 (Cloth)

“Love’s Winning Plays” is Inman Majors’ fourth novel since completing his MFA in creative writing here at Alabama. There was a restless young man novel, “Swimming in Sky,” set in Knoxville, then a fine comic novel, “Wonderdog,” set in Tuscaloosa.

“Desert Rose: The Life and Legacy of Coretta Scott King”

Author: Edythe Scott Bagley, With Joe Hilley; Afterword by Bernice A. King

Publisher: The University of Alabama Press

Pages: 318

Price: $34.95 (Cloth)

“Desert Rose” is a sympathetic, personal remembrance of Coretta Scott King by one who knew her best.

“Zelda Fitzgerald: The Tragic, Meticulously Researched Biography of the Jazz Age’s High Priestess”

Author: Sally Cline

Publisher: Arcade Publishing

Pages: 492

Price: $16.95 (Paper)

Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald was a charismatic, vivacious, beautiful, enigmatic, creative, deeply disturbed woman. Several full-length biographies have attempted to explain her. Before she ever met F. Scott Fitzgerald in Montgomery she was already famous/notorious in Alabama for her wit, physical daring and risqué behavior.

“The Silent Season of a Hero: The Sports Writing of Gay Talese”

Editor: Michael Rosenwald

Publisher: Walker & Company

Pages: 308

Price: $16.00 (paper)

Readers today may think of Gay Talese as the immersion journalist who hung out with the Bonnano Mafia family and published “Honor Thy Father,” or the writer who explored America’s sexual mores and reported back in “Thy Neighbor’s Wife,” or the historian of the “New York Times,” in “The Kingdom and the Power.”

Year of the Pig

Aug 15, 2012

“Year of the Pig”

Author: Mark J. Hainds

Publisher: University of Alabama Press

Pages: 272

Price: $16.95 (Cloth)

Mark Hainds, a research assistant with Auburn University stationed at the Solon Dixon Forestry Center in Andalusia, Alabama, set himself a challenge. Within the period of one year, 2007 (that is, the “Year of the Pig” on the Chinese calendar), he would hunt and kill wild, feral pigs in at least ten states.

The Node

Aug 15, 2012

“The Node”

Author: Tito Perdue

Publisher: Nine-Banded Books

Pages: 258

Price: $12.00 (paper)

Tito Perdue of Centerville, Alabama, now the author of seven published novels, has a small readership but has received a few extraordinary reviews over the years. His fiction is disturbing, difficult to categorize, even to describe.

Perdue’s voice is singular and original. One does not have the feeling reading “The Node” that he is imitating or even much influenced by previous writing.

And, to the best of my knowledge, no one is imitating him.