Books always make a thoughtful gift

You’re stuck.  It’s your boss’ birthday, your nephew’s graduation from high school, your cousin’s promotion at work, and you need…
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Burke’s writing shines in The Jealous Kind

In The Jealous Kind (Simon and Schuster, 2016, 400 pages, $27.99), novelist James Lee Burke drops his readers into Houston,…
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In rural Scotland, lessons on the power of books

Readers of this column know I am a sucker for books about books. Novels like The Little Paris Bookshop, collections…
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‘Casablanca’ one of the finest scripts of all time

“Casablanca.” For some, that name evokes a city in Morocco, an urban center of four million people quartering one of…
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Blizzard of 1993 is catalyst for a fine first novel

In True Stories At The Smoky View (She Writes Press, 2016, 325 pages, $16.95), Vrai Stevens Lynde — the “Vrai”…
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Ben-Hur’s long history is captivating

Some authors and critics sniff at best-sellers. I suppose the idea is that a novel appealing to so many thousands…
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Hillbilly Elegy author can’t shake the label

“Southern Appalachia is a region about which, perhaps, more things are known that are not true than any other part…
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Books about the American South will delight

Let’s go exploring. More specifically, let’s explore the American South.
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A vow to open a few more books

New Year’s resolutions and I make for poor company. Like many reading this column, I have in the past made…
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Books from different ends of the spectrum

Opposites attract, so the old saying runs. We’ve all known friends, husbands and wives, and lovers who match this adage,…
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Book about artist is itself a work of art

In mid-October I attended the second lecture of three at my local library on the Italian artist Caravaggio (1571-1610). A…
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From cradle to grave: books for growth and health

Visit any bookshop or library and you will find loads of books telling you how to live a better life,…
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A fresh look at the life of Evelyn Waugh

Fifty years ago this past spring, on Easter Sunday, Evelyn Waugh died of a heart attack in his home in…
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A mystery tale with a canine hero

This is a delightful book and I am confident that it will be judged one of the best books of…
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It’s OK sometimes to just take a dip

Of course, we’re intended to read from cover to cover many books — novels, histories, biographies, and more. It would…
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Local bookstores should be celebrated, supported

In My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers Inc., 2012,…
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You might enjoy a visit to Broken Wheel, Iowa

One of the great joys of reading occurs when we bump into a book by an author we’ve never heard…
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This is historical fiction well worth a read

Nearly 20 years ago, while browsing the shelves of the Haywood Country Public Library, I came across a collection of…
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Coming to grips with her own image

Among Americans the two most egregious social stigma are smoking and obesity. We relegate smokers to sidewalks and rooftops when…
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Searching for the meaning in a grueling trek

Recently, I attended “Coffee With the Poets” at City Lights Bookstore and heard the poet, Newton Smith, read and discuss…
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Sorry, but Bob Dylan didn’t deserve the Nobel

One moment, please. To ward off the brickbats, cudgels, stones, dirt clods, and rotten tomatoes sure to come my way,…
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A reviewer must learn to roll with the changes

Have you ever experienced one of those moments when you look at what you are doing and where you are…
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Presidential power grows at an alarming rate

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will…
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A story about coping with loss

Sometimes loss and death give little or no warning of their arrival. The doorbell rings at two in the morning,…
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Burke spins complicated tale full of violence

In House Of The Rising Sun (Simon & Schuster, 2015, 435 pages, $27.99), James Lee Burke tells the story of…
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A rollicking debut novel with a Hemingway twist

In December 1922 Hadley Hemingway set out from Paris to join her husband Ernest, then a newspaper reporter and an…
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Putting a face on the growing white underclass

For decades, the lot of poor white Americans has worsened. Marriage rates have plummeted while out-of-wedlock births have skyrocketed. Unemployment,…
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Sociologist got it wrong; religion is on the uptick
 

Sociologist got it wrong; religion is on the uptick

In 1968, Peter Berger, a Boston University sociologist, told the New York Times that by “the 21st century, religious believers…
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The best way to learn to write is simple – write

This one’s for students, especially those of you in secondary school and college. Let’s get right to the point. Reading,…
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Novel explores questions of real import

It’s a wonderful day when a book surprises us with its wit, story, style, and wisdom. Recently I was talking…
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I’ll say it: Epstein is the greatest living American essayist

Most of us like lists: “The 100 Greatest Novels of the Twentieth Century,” “The Ten Best Movies of All Time,”…
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The life of Harry Crews makes for depressing reading

This may be the most depressing biography I have ever read. Although I frequently considered abandoning this painful trudge through…
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Getting what you give up

In a 12-round heavyweight professional boxing match, at the beginning of the twelfth round there is a bell and the…
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Bradbury created a genre all his own

Last year a storm of controversy erupted over the destruction of writer Ray Bradbury’s home in Los Angeles. Architect Thom…
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Cowan’s writing could make you cry
 

Cowan’s writing could make you cry

When Leo Cowan, Jackson County’s noted historian and author, died last February just after his second book was published, I…
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The glitterati’s influence not always what it seems
 

The glitterati’s influence not always what it seems

In her novel Under The Influence (William Morrow, 2016, 321 pages, $25.99), Joyce Maynard makes her title do double duty…
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Falling into the rabbit hole of fiction
 

Falling into the rabbit hole of fiction

For reasons unfathomable to me, I have spent the last two weeks on a fiction-reading jag. Until I was about…
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Sylva movie’s author is famed British playwright
 

Sylva movie’s author is famed British playwright

Back a few months ago, when Hollywood came to town, I was fascinated and when I heard that for a…
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Jim Harrison lived in servitude to words
 

Jim Harrison lived in servitude to words

In March, Jim Harrison, age 78, died of a heart attack. Harrison was among the most prolific of American writers,…
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A new voice for Southern Appalachian fiction
 

A new voice for Southern Appalachian fiction

To review a book or to write a “book review” is to pinpoint its particular presence and its peculiarities. To…
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Hilarious and serious; two different summer reads
 

Hilarious and serious; two different summer reads

Novels that make me laugh aloud are rare. Two novels, Confederacy of Dunces and Freddy and Fredericka, brought laughter, and…
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The March is filled with unique characters
 

The March is filled with unique characters

Several months ago, I was invited to join the Senior Citizen Book Club at the Jackson County Senior Citizen Center.…
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Data shows that we are becoming more religious
 

Data shows that we are becoming more religious

In recent years, we have seen a stream of books and authors promoting atheism. Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s…
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Teaching children how to succeed at life
 

Teaching children how to succeed at life

Near the end of The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown-Ups, Dr.…
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Novel mixes Cherokee folklore with real history
 

Novel mixes Cherokee folklore with real history

This astonishing “novel” was crafted by three multi-talented western Cherokees who live and create in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. It resembles a…
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Crazy little thing called love
 

Crazy little thing called love

Love. What a loaded word. Let’s skip the love of country, the love of family, the love of nature, the love…
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An epic tale of revenge on the frontier
 

An epic tale of revenge on the frontier

As you probably know, The Revenant, this astonishing survival tale was recently made into a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio in…
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A book about the good news and the bad news
 

A book about the good news and the bad news

Twenty-five years ago, a pediatrician told my sister that eggs were unhealthy and that she must never serve them to…
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Chaos erupting into beauty
 

Chaos erupting into beauty

Stephanie Storey’s Oil and Marble, which was released this spring, is not only a page-turner but an eye-opener.
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New light on Salem Witch Trials
 

New light on Salem Witch Trials

Back in 1954, when I was a freshman at Western Carolina Teachers College (now WCU), the college’s drama department launched…
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