Older books are still worth a read

Two days ago, I finished reading Jon Hassler’s Rookery Blues (Ballantine Books, 1995, 485 pages). Hassler focuses his novel on…
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Joy’s third novel rooted firmly in Jackson County

In that moment, he knew that he was standing in the midst of something that would never be forgotten, something that…
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Hiaasen’s graduation book misses the mark

About 15 years ago, I was listening to a female critic discussing the seasons’ upcoming movies. When the moderator mentioned…
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An endearing coming of age teaching story

When we are in school, we consider ourselves fortunate when we find ourselves in the company of inspiring teachers. We…
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A new writer with an old heart

In a prologue that will make you cry — bringing hackles of guilt to your eyes — Tommy Orange has…
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History of American furniture a fascinating story

Oscar P. Fitzgerald’s American Furniture: 1650 to the Present (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018, 621 pages) is a door-stopper book, a…
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Grab some books and keep the kids reading

Most of us, of whatever age, by a simple act of memory and willpower can revisit distant summers in our…
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Choose your summer reading carefully

The last 10 days have brought some broad swatches of time for reading. Two novels have traveled from the library,…
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A visit to the library and some amazing finds

On my last visit to the public library, I picked up Kathryn Sermak’s Miss D & Me: Life With The…
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Frazier’s latest novel is a marvelous read

... never acknowledging that the general culture is often stupid or evil and would vote out God in favor of…
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Book examines ‘meanness’ in Christianity

The author of this book is a speech language psychologist and university educator. Now in his sixties, Billy has extensive experience…
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Characters and music star in The Music Shop

Can there be a sadder sight than a man in his sixties sitting in a garden with tears dribbling down…
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Judging a book by its cover

In Appalachia and the foothills and into the surrounding lands, we find log cabins — southern and rustic — constructed…
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Sense of time and place resonates throughout this novel

Sometimes a writer so imaginatively recreates a place and a people that the book becomes a time machine, sweeping us…
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Audio books a real pleasure when traveling

For 16 years, I have made several annual trips between Western North Carolina and Front Royal, Virginia, a town located…
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A nod to the genius of Thomas Wolfe

Where do I start? What can I say of that young man whose wife had left him and who spent…
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Discovering a writer who sings to my heart

Time to have some fun. And Adultolescence (Keywords Press, 2017, 248 pages) is just the place to go for that…
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A few books aimed at new graduates

Dr. Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go! has become as much a fixture of graduations as a bride’s white dress…
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Mystery novel delves into the opioid crisis

In Elizabethan England, the vast majority of the population drank alcohol rather than unclean water, consuming up to a gallon…
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Sage advice from a clutter of books

Spring cleaning. When we hear those words, we think of washing windows and dusting neglected baseboards, de-cluttering closets, going through…
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Where local and global meet

Do I have one for you! Elaine Neil Orr’s Swimming Between Worlds was recommended to me by Wayne Caldwell and…
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Maybe we’ll never know just what women want

“What do women want?” Sigmund Freud’s famous question crosses the lips of most men at one time or another. Goaded…
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If you’re going through hell: a book and some thoughts

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” — Winston Churchill By hell, I mean neither a trivial bad-hair day nor that…
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Short book provides intelligent insight

“History is a field of human intentions, deeds, acts. We need to look a little more closely at this field…
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Horrific twister is catalyst for insightful novel

It was April 5, 1936, Palm Sunday, about nine o’clock in the evening. People were tidying up their kitchens, strolling…
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Books that help bridge the political divide

Time for spring-cleaning.  The basement apartment in which I live could use a deep cleaning: dusting, washing, vacuuming. It’s tidy…
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Sucking the marrow out of a great word

What’s in a name? In You Are A Badass: How To Stop Doubting Your Greatness And Start Living An Awesome…
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A strange mix of books crosses my desk

The first weeks of 2018 have seen some offbeat books shamble across my desk and into my fingers. First up…
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A tribute to the Lord of Scaly Mountain

While it is difficult to write objectively yet critically about someone whom you know personally or about a book whose…
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Grief and redemption in the wilds of Wyoming

I fled him down the nights and down the days; I fled him down the arches of the years; I…
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Grandfather Mountain’s story makes for fascinating book

Dreamers and schemers. Andre Michaux and Daniel Boone. Yankees and Confederates. Hugh Morton. The mile-high swinging bridge. Tweetsie Railroad. Singing…
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Local histories serve important purpose

For the past two centuries, local historians and writers in England have produced a large number of municipal and county…
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Insightful books to kick off the new year

In early January, I sat with two friends in a café discussing the New Year. We were all coming off…
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The devil is all over this dark tale

Since Luke Bauserman is a folklorist, it is safe to say that many of his characters already exist; some have…
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Mountain in the clouds: a new year’s resolution

There it stood on a sale table, all 11 volumes lined up tight and orderly as cadets on parade, Will…
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Fitzgerald biography looks at his vision of America

“That is the land of lost content, I see it shining plain, The happy highways where I went And cannot…
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Novel whisks one back to the prairie

Sometimes joy and beauty strike like thunderbolts. One minute we are going about our daily routine, minding our own business,…
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Forget the frenzy, settle in with a book

For many of us, Christmas preparations require the endurance of a marathoner and the speed of a lab rat on…
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Looking beyond headlines to where news originates

Every once in a great while, I come away from a book like some near-sighted fourth-grader who has just put…
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Plott hounds hold unique place in WNC history

I had my first encounter with a prize-winning Plott hound several years ago when I was hosting a Liars Bench…
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Thanks to the librarian who ordered this book

How did this happen? I treasure my local public library for its friendly staff, its vibrant programs for my grandchildren,…
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Character has one foot in earth, the other in paradise

Michael D. O’Brien, Canadian novelist and painter, essayist and lecturer, is the author of what I call “door-stop” books. His…
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Masterful work by one of our great writers

A number of Mark Helprin’s works — Winter’s Tale, Memoir From Antproof Case, and more — have appeared on the…
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Book of poetry has a disturbing beauty

If the saying “timing is everything” is true, then John Lane’s new collection of poems by Mercer University Press is…
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New book delves into ‘Death of Europe’

Recently I came across an online article on Powerline regarding French president Emmanuel Macron. I knew little of President Macron,…
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A keen eye for France, and great recipes

Elizabeth Bard’s Lunch In Paris: A Love Story, With Recipes (Little, Brown and Company, 2010, 324 pages) offers readers both…
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My list of notable books set in WNC

This past summer, I reviewed The Leader’s Bookshelf for The Smoky Mountain News. After seven years of interviewing many of…
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Books that transcend the divisiveness

From Thanksgiving dinners to football games, from the floors of Congress to Joe’s Bar & Grill, from universities to kindergartens,…
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Miss Julia’s saga is well worth the read

Miss Julia Springer lives in a small town near Asheville, where she is mourning the death of her husband of…
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A fine novel and worthwhile history lesson

Because Dr. Hood was only one of five professors in Guilford College’s history department, and because history was my major,…
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