A look inside a Nazi family

About 10 years ago, I was standing in the checkout line at my local Ingles. The clerk, age 19 or 20, tattooed and pierced, was telling a customer, clearly an acquaintance, that she couldn’t wait until society fell apart and we’d all be forced to survive by our wits and resources.

Ginseng, family, friends and home

Many of us who read novels find ourselves in awe of authors who create a landscape and a place so well that we can see the fields and forests, hear the birds, and feel the sunshine and rain on our faces. 

Joys and comforts of cooking: Kitchen Yarns

Before taking a look at Ann Hood’s Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love, and Food (W.W. Norton & Company, 229 pages), I feel compelled to make two personal points. 

Though I can whip up a tasty breakfast — my wife and I operated a Waynesville bed-and-breakfast for 15 years — and my gazpacho soup and quiche with salad have brought me compliments from family and friends, I am no longer much of a cook. Living alone these past six years, I mostly subsist on low-calorie microwave meals, bagged salads, grocery store rotisserie chicken, sandwiches, and canned soups. Occasionally I’ll cook up a big pot of chicken soup and live on that for two or three days, but over half of the ingredients come out of cans. 

For what would you lay down your life?

Not everyone will enjoy Michael Walsh’s Last Stands: Why Men Fight When All Is Lost (St. Martin’s Press, 2020, 358 pages). His thoughts in the Introduction regarding masculinity and traditional reasons why men have fought wars since the dawn of history — to protect their women and children, their homes and homeland — may offend some.

Life, dreams, canoes and rivers

One fond childhood memory involves a yellow fiberglass canoe and the Yadkin River. My dad, one of my younger brothers, and I took to those waters several times, and when I was a teenager, my brother, a friend, and I made several overnight trips without adult supervision, camping on islands, cooking over an open fire, and pushing off again the next day.

Secrets, winning friends, and ‘Ivanhoe’

All families have their secrets, but some families have deeper and darker secrets than others. In June Titus’s novel Banjo Man (Fulton Books, Inc. 2020, 258 pages), we meet such a family.

A resolution to get back to the books

Harper Lee of To Kill A Mockingbird fame once wrote, “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved reading. One does not love breathing.”

Folks and faith: two books about the South

In his short essay, “Dear Santa (Again),” Rick Bragg writes, “For my big brother Sam, I would like you to send a cinder block. He can place it atop his foot, when he drives. I once wrote that all he needed to pass for an old woman behind the wheel was a pillbox hat and pearls, but have since decided that is insulting … to old women. Old women blow right past him.”

Too many books, too little time: books unread but recognized

For five years or so, Nick Hornby’s Ten Years In The Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books has occupied a place of honor on my bookshelves, meaning it’s always close at hand. In this thick volume are the monthly reviews Hornby wrote for the Believer, as witty, bright, and, yes, brilliant a collection of columns as you’ll find anywhere. When I am in need of some wit or sparkling prose, I go to Ten Years In The Tub. 

Helpful, innocent, sweet, informative: four reads

As I write this book review, the presidential election is one day away. Like many of my readers, I have followed the online news regarding this race — the polls, the rallies, the daily barrage of commentaries on who deserves our votes. In the next few days, these weighty and acrimonious conflicts will, I hope, be resolved. 

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