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Personal Picks

  • Patti Callahan Henry: Coming Up for Air

    Patti Callahan Henry: Coming Up for Air
    This author recently moved to Birmingham, and she’s already made lots of friends. It wasn’t hard; her bestselling books preceded her. Besides, she’s a really fun and intriguing person. Her newest book, set on the Alabama coast, is about marriage and motherhood and one woman’s desire to become the person she really wants to be. Ellie Calvin has her hands full already when her controlling mother dies and she runs into her ex-boyfriend at the funeral. The old boyfriend is making a documentary on Ellie’s late mother and has questions only Ellie can answer—with the help of a long-forgotten diary. (*****)

  • Hillary Jordan: When She Woke

    Hillary Jordan: When She Woke
    Hillary Jordan’s debut novel, Mudbound (winner of the 2006 Bellwether Prize for fiction), was an international literary hit. That one was set firmly in the rich soil of a Mississippi Delta farm in the mid 1940s. When She Woke, on the other hand, is futuristic and quite chilling. Here’s an America that we won’t recognize completely but might well be able to imagine. The book begins: “When she woke, she was red. Not flushed, not sunburned, but the solid, declarative red of a stop sign.” Hannah Payne wakes up in a bare room wearing only a paper gown. She has been turned into a “chrome.” Chromes are criminals whose skin color has been genetically altered to reflect their crimes. Murderers are red. There are hints of The Scarlet Letter here in this nightmare world where politics and religion come together in a mighty scary way. (*****)

  • Susan Haltom: One Writer's Garden: Eudora Welty's Home Place

    Susan Haltom: One Writer's Garden: Eudora Welty's Home Place
    Oh, this is a lovely book with great photos of the famous writer and her family and neighbors. But the real gems are the colorful photographs of the garden Welty tended with her mother. Chestina Welty designed their modest garden and taught her daughter well. Welty, of course, is known for weaving Southern flora into her writing; much of her knowledge came from time spent in her own garden. Near the end of her life Welty still resided in her family home, but the garden had become neglected. Co-author Susan Haltom is a garden designer, and she offered to help preserve the garden and spent a decade doing that. This beautiful book, organized by seasons and decades, contains previously unpublished writings, including literary passages and excerpts from Welty’s private correspondence about her garden. (*****)

What's on my nightstand...

  • Susan Rebecca White: A Soft Place to Land: A Novel

    Susan Rebecca White: A Soft Place to Land: A Novel
    This is a book about sisterhood and the often-complicated love that go along with it. When their parents die in an airplane accident, 13-year-old Ruthie and 16-year-old Julia are sent away from their Atlanta home to live separately in distant parts of the country—in drastically different cultures. The story spans nearly two decades and follows the sisters from this familiar Southern home to bohemian San Francisco, a Virginia mountain town, the campus of Berkley and the lofts in Brooklyn. Once close, the sisters grow up and apart and their relationship becomes complicated by anger, resentment and jealousy. But then another shocking accident changes their lives once again. White is the author of the critically acclaimed Bound South, in which she writes lovingly and insightfully about Atlanta, where she was born and raised.

  • Frances Mayes: Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life

    Frances Mayes: Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life
    Celebrated travel writer and bestselling author Frances Mayes (Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany) is back and continuing her decades-long love affair with Tuscany’s people, art, cuisine and lifestyle. This is a deeply personal account of her present-day life in Tuscany, detailing the changes she has experienced since the success of her first two books and her reflections on the unchanging beauty and simple pleasure of Italian life.

  • Robin Lane Fox: Travelling Heroes: In the Epic Age of Homer (Vintage)

    Robin Lane Fox: Travelling Heroes: In the Epic Age of Homer (Vintage)
    The myths of the ancient Greeks have inspired us for thousands of years. But where did these stories come from? How did they spread around the world? Fox draws upon the latest archaeological evidence, his own travels and his vast knowledge of the ancient world to answer these questions. He explores how the Mediterranean seafarers of 8th-century B.C. Greece encountered volcanic mountains, vaporous springs, huge prehistoric bones and more and then weaved them into their legends of gods, monsters and heroes.

  • David Ebershoff: The 19th Wife: A Novel

    David Ebershoff: The 19th Wife: A Novel
    My bookgroup is reading this one right now. This book combines historical fiction with a murder mystery, and my bookgroup is reading this one right now. One story line, set in 1875, involves Ann Eliza Young, who has recently separated from her powerful husband, Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon Church. Ann Eliza begins a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. A rich account of a family’s polygamous history is revealed, including how a young woman became a plural wife.
 A second story is the tale of murder involving a polygamist family in present-day Utah. Jordan Scott, a young man who was thrown out of his fundamentalist sect years earlier, must reenter the world that cast him aside in order to discover the truth behind his father’s death.
Both narrative intertwine to create a larger story of love and faith.

For book groups . . .

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June 13, 2012



It may seem a strange one to throw in but I've been telnlig people to pick up Halting State by Charlie Stross. Yes, it's fiction but he nails exactly where tech will have us circa 2013 in Scotland and as a way of showing how people are using it at the ground level it engages a lot of people more than many a dry textbook.nnIt's not the only book I suggest though


I have a few impulse phceuasrs that I do. I often find myself in a children's clothing store looking for a deal. I often leave with something in hand. My kids have more clothing than they will ever need, but I talk myself into it. I tell myself that I can consign this for more than what I bought it for. The other one is scrapbooking. I have over the years collected a lot of the supplies to do it, but I haven't made the time. I have now told myself that I am not allowed to buy anything until I actually have a project started.


oh how i loved this book. i too found it to be incredibly inniirpsg and made me want to live my life in a bigger and better way. i loved how she described everything in her life with such vigor and made such wonderful friendships with so many people. it made me want to step out of my comfort zone and create more meaningful, lasting friendships.i can't imagine working on something as long as julia worked on her first cookery bookery. haha i loved how she called it that. it helped me imagine a simpler time where you couldn't just hop on the internet and look something up. she truly researched every little detail to make her book the best possible. after watching Julie and Julia i was a bit intimated to even try any recipes from julia's cookbook, but after reading the book i can't wait to get my hands on a copy. since finishing the book i have been trying more new, complex recipes i am determined to become just a little bit like julia.i do believe that a good meal is worth the effort but i am also happy as can be when i can make something delicious in a short amount of time. i guess it depends on my schedule if i have time i definitely find it rewarding to spend a day in the kitchen creating a masterpiece!i absolutely love paul and his devotion to julia. he was her rock so supportive in her dreams to become a french chef. their relationship and growth together was one of my favorite parts of the book. it made me so sad when he had to go into the nursing home before he died. they truly complemented each other and seemed to be the perfect pair. i loved the part of julia's life when she first arrived in france. never have i wanted to go to france more than after reading her description of the place, especially the food! i honestly don't think i've ever had genuine french food i guess a trip to france is a must.i give this book an 8.5. it sparked a passion for julia in me and i can't wait to get a copy of her cookbook and try my hand at some french cooking.

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