Touchstones: Seven novels that carry weight
 

Touchstones: Seven novels that carry weight

English writer Graham Greene used to divide his literary works into entertainments, which we might call thrillers, and novels, which…
Read More

Comment

A tragic, lively tale of 18th century London
 

A tragic, lively tale of 18th century London

Being a historical fiction addict, I have always loved books about London, a city that has been around for over…
Read More

Comment

Fabulous novel is rife with words of wisdom
 

Fabulous novel is rife with words of wisdom

In The Little Paris Bookshop (Crown Publishers, 2015, 400 pages), novelist Nina George, who lives in both Germany and France,…
Read More

Comment

Book explores persecution of early Japanese Christians
 

Book explores persecution of early Japanese Christians

In 1549, Jesuit priest Francis Xavier, two companions, and a Japanese translator entered Japan, seeking to bring the Gospel into…
Read More

Comment

Essays highlight breadth of Styron’s knowledge
 

Essays highlight breadth of Styron’s knowledge

Some 30 years ago or so, William Styron — the acclaimed author of novels like The Confessions of Nat Turner…
Read More

Comment

WNC’s African-American history
 

WNC’s African-American history

This is a monumental work. Ann Miller Woodford has gathered an astonishing amount of information, including old letters, church records, unpublished…
Read More

Comment

Collection manages to combine horror and comedy
 

Collection manages to combine horror and comedy

There aren’t many successful horror fiction writers who are described as comical and/or whimsical. The terms seem incompatible. You don’t…
Read More

Comment

Interesting book draws some unusual conclusions
 

Interesting book draws some unusual conclusions

We Americans are noted for our ignorance of world geography. Few of us, I imagine, could distinguish Iraq from Iran…
Read More

Comment

A second look at Williams classic
 

A second look at Williams classic

In recent years, I have been surprised to learn that it possible for books to win prestigious awards, honors and…
Read More

Comment

A traveler’s library; books read and unread
 

A traveler’s library; books read and unread

As some readers of this column may know, I have spent the past six weeks in Europe, specifically the British…
Read More

Comment

A murder story unlike any other you’ve read
 

A murder story unlike any other you’ve read

In recent years, literary works that are classified as “investigative reporting” have not only become best sellers, but have lingered…
Read More

Comment

Harper Lee’s ‘Watchman’ hits the mark
 

Harper Lee’s ‘Watchman’ hits the mark

So, Scout (Jean Louise) comes back home to Maycomb — where “everyone is either kin or almost kin”— at age…
Read More

Comment

Discovering Rome with the help of American ex-pats
 

Discovering Rome with the help of American ex-pats

When we think of American writers living and working overseas, most of us turn to those authors who lived in…
Read More

Comment

Manana is a shocking, dark and fantastic read
 

Manana is a shocking, dark and fantastic read

I have been waiting for this book for a long time.  Back in 1978, I read Falling Angel, which was that…
Read More

Comment

Keats’ Roman home honors one of our great poets
 

Keats’ Roman home honors one of our great poets

It is not yet ten o’clock on this Saturday morning in late June, and already Rome’s Spanish Steps and the…
Read More

Comment

Scotland pays homage to its writers
 

Scotland pays homage to its writers

With literary tours, literary pub crawls, monuments, plaques, and museums, Scotland honors her writers.
Read More

Comment

Bronte sisters part and parcel of the magic of Haworth
 

Bronte sisters part and parcel of the magic of Haworth

Haworth, West Riding of Yorkshire, England.  It’s 4:30 in the morning, Sunday June 18, and I stood a few moments…
Read More

Comment

Stratford-on-Avon: in search of ‘The Bard’
 

Stratford-on-Avon: in search of ‘The Bard’

It is mid-June in England, and the skies are a brilliant blue. Sunshine spills on the street and the clipped…
Read More

Comment

The literary signposts will point the way
 

The literary signposts will point the way

In the opening pages of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, we meet Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who treasures his snug home…
Read More

Comment

A fantastic collection of life-changing stories
 

A fantastic collection of life-changing stories

I have always been a Russell Banks fan, and when I look back over the last 40 years, he has…
Read More

Comment

Ten years of soaking up great books
 

Ten years of soaking up great books

About two months ago, I began culling books from my shelves. I live in an apartment with several thousand books,…
Read More

Comment

Soil harkens back to the Southern gothic tradition
 

Soil harkens back to the Southern gothic tradition

Some 30 years ago, I saw a disturbing film entitled “Koyaanisqatsi.” The title comes from a Hopi word meaning “unbalanced life.”…
Read More

Comment

A place where home is an elusive ideal
 

A place where home is an elusive ideal

In the last decade, British authorities uncovered evidence of massive sexual abuse and human trafficking in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. Two…
Read More

Comment

A Mother’s Day bouquet: Ten quotes and comments on motherhood
 

A Mother’s Day bouquet: Ten quotes and comments on motherhood

Back in the days when I still believed in Santa Claus (well, actually I still believe, I just no longer…
Read More

Comment

A withering cultural critic takes aim
 

A withering cultural critic takes aim

In Withering Slights: The Bent Pin Collection (National Review Books, 2015, ISBN 978-0-9847650-3-4, 186 pages, $24.95), Florence King demonstrates once…
Read More

Comment

Dam politics and freedom of religion
 

Dam politics and freedom of religion

The growing threat of drought in the Southeast and the problems of “water politics” has prodded the memory of many…
Read More

Comment

Fate and fortune sing in new novel
 

Fate and fortune sing in new novel

Spartanburg poet and nonfiction writer John Lane has broken out of his comfort zone and journeyed into the netherworld of…
Read More

Comment

Remembering the horrors of Europe’s wars
 

Remembering the horrors of Europe’s wars

Many Americans — and I count myself among them — are often hard on Europeans when it comes to issues…
Read More

Comment

An outlandish life makes for hilarious novel
 

An outlandish life makes for hilarious novel

Irish novelist Kennedy Marr is making millions of dollars through the sale of his books and as a Hollywood scriptwriter.…
Read More

Comment

A story that makes one look differently at life
 

A story that makes one look differently at life

Like some other readers I know, my taste in books these last 20 years or so has shifted from fiction…
Read More

Comment

Below ‘the line,’ it’s a world unto itself
 

Below ‘the line,’ it’s a world unto itself

I spent a week reading this novel, and each time I laid it down, I expected to find a damp…
Read More

Comment

Book captures turn-of-the-century north Georgia
 

Book captures turn-of-the-century north Georgia

In Annaliese From Off (Five Points Press, ISBN 978-0-692-24434-0, 362 pages, $15.99), Lindy Keane Carter gives us a rich, old-fashioned…
Read More

Comment

First novel by local writer strikes a chord
 

First novel by local writer strikes a chord

Eighteen-year-old Jacob McNeely, a shy high school dropout from Walter Middleton High School in Jackson County, North Carolina, seems resigned to…
Read More

Comment

Words, language and grammar do matter
 

Words, language and grammar do matter

“In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” — George Orwell We live in an…
Read More

Comment

Larry Brown earns his spot in Southern pantheon
 

Larry Brown earns his spot in Southern pantheon

One of my bookshelves is reserved for books that I have not read, but that I am saving for some…
Read More

Comment

Guys, don’t fear Valentine’s Day, embrace it
 

Guys, don’t fear Valentine’s Day, embrace it

Note to readers: this is one of the few times I have written a column addressed to one sex —…
Read More

Comment

King’s newest novel is as good as it gets
 

King’s newest novel is as good as it gets

During the past 60 years, I have maintained a hearty appreciation for what is called “fantasy/horror” literature. I guess it…
Read More

Comment

Painted Horses is one for the ages
 

Painted Horses is one for the ages

When people ask me what I’ve been doing this fall, I tell them I’ve been on a reading jag —…
Read More

Comment

Advice for becoming a body ‘gardener’
 

Advice for becoming a body ‘gardener’

In French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure, Mirielle Guiliano produced a No. 1 New York…
Read More

Comment

Regrets: books I now know I shall never read
 

Regrets: books I now know I shall never read

For many of us, the bells ringing in the New Year carry a bittersweet tune. We look forward to better…
Read More

Comment

The fascinating evolution of the fool killer
 

The fascinating evolution of the fool killer

One of the oldest traditional folktales, ‘Godfather Death,’ exists in all cultures; however, the tone of the stories may vary…
Read More

Comment

A renewed appreciation for ‘The Great Gatsby’
 

A renewed appreciation for ‘The Great Gatsby’

In 1977 I fell in love with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. That was a year of deep reading…
Read More

Comment

Country noir masterpiece gets its due — again
 

Country noir masterpiece gets its due — again

One of the things that I admire about the New York Review of Books is a special honor that they…
Read More

Comment

Start your holiday shopping at the bookstore
 

Start your holiday shopping at the bookstore

For all of you who haven’t started your holiday shopping yet, for you who scorn Black Friday, who keep telling…
Read More

Comment

Tolle Lege: Reading that changed my Life
 

Tolle Lege: Reading that changed my Life

When I was 6 years old, I entered the first grade at Boonville Elementary School. For months, various adults had…
Read More

Comment

Teen horror sequel is a wild ride
 

Teen horror sequel is a wild ride

About three years ago, I reviewed a bloody little horror tale filled with black humor called Breed. It was a…
Read More

Comment

Is democracy bad for the country?
 

Is democracy bad for the country?

The story goes that as Benjamin Franklin was leaving the final session of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a Mrs.…
Read More

Comment

Book explores clash between religion and science
 

Book explores clash between religion and science

In Lauren Grodstein’s novel The Explanation For Everything (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2013, 336 pages, $24.95), we meet Andrew…
Read More

Comment

Celebrating the ever-popular essay
 

Celebrating the ever-popular essay

This week it’s time to break out the champagne, pop that cork, and raise a flute of bubbly to the…
Read More

Comment

Being manipulated by a book not all bad
 

Being manipulated by a book not all bad

Gone Girl is currently the most popular novel in America and it has been around since 2012; it is also…
Read More

Comment

Smokey Mountain News Logo
SUPPORT THE SMOKY MOUNTAIN NEWS AND
INDEPENDENT, AWARD-WINNING JOURNALISM
Go to top
Payment Information

/

At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.