Specializing in New and Used Books on Southern Appalachia
December 2016 - Reviews

December 2016 - Reviews

CHILDRENS

Mommy Goose: Rhymes from the Mountains by Mike Norris with carved illustrations by Minnie Adkins.  Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2016. 42 pages.  Oversized hardback with pictorial cover, $20

This is a remarkable, indeed quite unique book. The rhymes are from the mountains in the sense that the author, Mike Norris, is from Eastern Kentucky.  They are not traditional rhymes, though they are consistent with the spirit of folk rhymes. And Mike Norris is the father of Carri Norris, one of our outstanding contemporary traditional singers who is kin, on her mother’s side, to Lily Mae Ledford of the Coon Creek Girls, a popular and barrier-breaking woman’s string band in the 1930s.  The illustrator has achieved icon status by herself as a wood carver, and illustrates this book with custom-made carvings to match Mike Norris’s rhymes. Truly a tour-de-force all the way around. Here’s hoping that some of today’s kids will appreciate it!

POETRY

Whipstitches by Randi Ward, Asheville: MadHat Press, 2016, 116 pages, 5”X8”, trade paperback, $18.

Randi Ward is a quintessential cosmopolitan West Virginian.  Her Master’s degree is from the University of the Faroe Islands (administratively part of Denmark and geographically between Norway and Iceland) and she won an international award for translating poetry from the Faroese.  Yet she is a photographer well-grounded in the West Virginia where she was born, raised, and now lives in the Parkersburg area.  Initially published in 30 different magazines, these are very short – none over ten lines – yet packed with a rare combination of strikingly thought-provoking phrases and brilliant imagery. Marc Harshman, the Poet-Laureate of West Virginia exudes, “What a fresh disturbing new voice is found in this collection!  Mark Brazaitis adds, “The poems in Whipstitches are exquisite—keenly observed, delicately rendered moments that offer beauty and wisdom.”

FICTION

Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy, New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House, a 2016 paperback reprint of a 2013 release,  267 pages with a discussion guide, trade paperback, $16.

This book has become one of the most celebrated first novels from our region in recent years.  The Huffington Post, for example, called it, “A savagely moving novel that will likely become an important addition to the great body of Southern Literature.” The deftly drawn protagonist, Jacob McNeely, is torn between his loyalty to his meth-making father and his love for Maggie Jennings, his school-days crush with higher aspirations.  The fate of this romance provides a compelling plot to complement the deftly rendered setting in southern Jackson County, North Carolina. The depth of the novel is achieved through the overarching themes of loyalty and personal development, while the lyrical style uplifts the overall package. After growing up in the Charlotte area, David Joy ventured to Western Carolina University where he became one of the star students of Ron Rash and found quite a comfort level living in North Carolina Mountains where he has remained ever since.

Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House, a 2016 paperback reprint of a 2015 release, 310 pages with a discussion guide and an interview with the author, trade paperback, $16.

Readers of this edition will find not only the full text of this striking first novel, but also Panowich’s musical play-list and literary reading list that powered the formation of his fiction. The author grew up in Europe in an American military family and worked as a traveling musician for more than a decade before settling with his wife and four kids in East Georgia, working as a firefighter. Kirkus Reviews characterized this novel as “Hillbilly noir goes literary .” It is a multi-generational saga told by multiple narrators that centers around the conflicts engendered when the North Georgia son of a family that has evolved from moonshine to marijuana to meth becomes the sheriff of a neighboring county.  It is a finalist in the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes.

Nitro Mountain by Lee Clay Johnson.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016, 208 pages, hardback in dust jacket, $25.

Lee Clay Johnson grew up in a Nashville family of bluegrass musicians and holds a BA from Bennington and an MFA from U. Va.  He has homes in Charlottesville and St. Louis. Nitro Mountain is a first novel set in the Virginia coalfields.  “Johnson paints some dark and desperate portraits, but even in the darkest he allows just enough light to reveal how complex and fragile each life is.  He’s skilled at delivering shocks when they’re least expected, and likewise at humor—witty banter and memorable one-liners that will leave the reader laughing in the most unlikely places.” – Jill McCorkle.

Ginny Gall by Charlie Smith.  New York: HarperCollins, 2016, 451 pages, hardback in dust jacket, $27.

This is the eighth novel to go along with eight poetry volumes by Charlie Smith, an award-winning author from South Georgia who now lives in New York. The Houston Chronicle places Charlie Smith “in the ranks of America’s greatest contemporary fiction writers,” and the reader will immediately bask in his maturity as a writer. Ginny Gall  is set primarily in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in the 1920s and 1930s. Although the author is white, it features African-American characters.  Both Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly gave this novel starred reviews, the latter concluding by saying, “This unforgettable story hits all the right notes, by turns poignant and devastating.”

The Birds of Opulence by Crystal Wilkinson.  Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2016.  202 pages. Hardback in dust jacket, $24.95.

This is the first novel of Crystal Wilkinson after two published story collections. It won the 10th Annual Earnest J. Gaines Award for a first novel by a rising African-American fiction writer.  This will be presented in January, 2017, at the Manship Theatre in Baton Rouse, Louisiana, along with a check for $10,000!

Opulence is the ironic name for a poor Kentucky black township, and this novel portrays three generations of women there. Crystal Wilkinson grew up on Indian Creek, a very rural section of rural Casey County, Kentucky, raised by her grandparents. She usually spent the summers with kinfolks in Stanford, Kentucky, and then went on to study at Eastern Kentucky University, work a wide range of jobs in Lexington, and then do graduate work at Spalding University.  This resulted in her teaching at three universities before settling in as a professor at Berea College.  These experiences have helped her to authentically capture the chiding that goes on between people of different backgrounds. Her experience as single mother also adds credibility to her treatment of this theme. Ron Rash comments that the “novel’s concerns are large—life, death, love, betrayal, despair, and hope.  Wilkinson is a lyrical writer, and, once encounterd in these pages, her characters and their stories linger in our memories long after the last page is turned.  The Birds of Opulence is a novel to be read and reread.”

The Cherokee Rose: A Novel of Gardens and Ghosts by Tiya Miles.  Winston-Salem: John F. Blair Publishers, a 2016 paperback reprint of a 2015 release. 256 pages plus a readers’ guide. Trade paperback, $17.

Seldom, if ever, has the author of a first novel brought deeper background knowledge to a fictional undertaking. Tiya Miles has been awarded a McArthur Foudation “Genius Grant.”  She is one of Ebony Magazine’s Power 100s, and The Grio’s 100 lists of African American Leaders.  Miles is a professor of history with three specialties: African-American History, Cherokee History, and Women’s History.  She has written three distinguished non-fiction books all dealing with Cherokee slaveholding, the topic at the heart of this novel. She graduated from Harvard Magna Cum Laude, received a masters in Women’s Studies from Emory and her doctorate with a dissertation on slaveholding in the Cherokee Nation from the University of Minnesota. She holds a chair in history at the University of Michigan. Of this book, Publishers  Weekly  stated, “Readers will be taken with the way this novel blends past and present.” TheCherokee One Feather noted, “with the author’s expertly crafted writing and through the personalized telling, the history  . . . comes to life vividly.”

A Question of Mercy by Elizabeth Cox. Columbia: The University of South Carolina Press, 2016.  207 pages. Hardback in dust jacket, $28.

A member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, Elizabeth Cox was awarded the Robert Penn Warren Award for fiction for her body of work.  A native of Chattanooga, she has taught at MIT, Duke, and many other universities, most recently at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. This is her fifth novel to go along with her poetry and story publications. “A Question of Mercy presents an unflinching view of mental-health treatment in 1950s America, but in Jess, the novel’s heroine, Elizabeth Cox has created a character whose courage and humanity remind us that there are always individuals who will fight injustice. This superb novel further confirms that Cox is one of our most profound and gifted novelists.” – Ron Rash.  “Like all great stories, it concerns a conflict of loyalties, not good versus evil, but one good versus another, heart versus the laws of society.” – Robert Morgan.  “A Question of Mercy is Cox’s finest novel yet, and one of the finest I have ever read.  This beautiful novel rests I the heart long after the final page.” – Lee Smith.

Fallen Land by Taylor Brown.  New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2016. 276 pages.  Hardback in dust jacket. $26.

Set in the last year of the Civil War, this novel follows a captivating young couple, Ava and Callum, as they flee the Virginia Blue Ridge and make their way on their trusty horse, Revier,  to and through Georgia amidst a plethora of overwhelming obstacles.  This book was a best-seller for the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, an Indie Next pick and an Okra selection.  Taylor Brown is a first novelist who is a native of the Georgia coast.  He lived in Western North Carolina, Brazil, and San Francisco before settling in Wilmington, North Carolina.  “Brown literally floods the page with violent beauty and devastating grace.” – Wiley Cash. “A story of love and loyalty set within the madness and chaos of war. . . No one who reads Fallen Land will ever forget it.” – Robert Morgan.  “A shattering debut that puts one strongly in mind of the young Cormac McCarthy.” – Pinckney Benedict.

NON-FICTION

Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck by Adam Cohen.  New York: Penguin Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2016, 402 pages with Notes and Bibliography, hardback in dust jacket, $36.

In 1927, the United States Supreme Court, by a vote of 8-1, ruled that it was appropriate that Carrie Buck, a poor white Charlottesville, Virginia, woman be sterilized. Subsequently over 60,000 American citizens were forced to undergo this procedure. “Imbeciles is a revelatory book. Eye opening and riveting. In these pages, Adam Cohen brings alive an unsettling, neglected slice of American history and does so with the verve of a master storyteller” -  Alex Kotlowitz.

Family of Earth: A Southern Mountain Childhood by Wilma Dykeman. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2016, 177 pages. Trade paperback, $18. Hardback, $75.

Wilma Dykeman’s essay, “Literature Since 1900” in the land-breaking 1962 book The Southern Appalachian Region: A Survey edited by Thomas R. Ford, quite literally ushered in the nascent field of Appalachian Literature.  She followed that essay by teaching it at Loyal Jones’ three-week summer course in Appalachian Studies at Berea College, which almost all of the leaders of the Appalachian Studies Conference attended. That was punctuated by hundreds of compelling presentations to widely diverse groups around our region. Of the many that I attended in a variety of locales, never once did she fail to artfully elaborate upon the evils of racism, class chauvinism, sexism, and environmental degradation. The Tennessee State Historian, Wilma Dykeman (1920-2006), was known not only for her non-fiction books, but also as the author of an iconic novel, The Tall Woman and two follow-up novels. A native of Asheville, she resided throughout her adult life in Newport, Tennessee. Ron Rash called Family of Earth “a valuable addition to understanding Dykeman and . . . also a fascinating, deeply moving account of a writer’s developing sensibility.” “Wilma Dykeman is indeed a ‘tall woman’ who has cast her long shadow over many other Appalachian women writers, especially me, inspired early on by both her beautiful writing and her social conscience.” – Lee Smith.

Reconstruction’s Ragged Edge: The Politics of Postwar Life in the Southern Mountains by Steven E. Nash.  Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press,  2016, 272 pages with an index, notes, bibliography, tables and maps.  Hardback in dust jacket: $40

Actually, this book focuses almost exclusively on Western North Carolina despite the expansive title.  This book is based on Nash’s doctoral dissertation completed under the direction of Dr. John Inscoe at the University of Georgia.  Nash is now an Assistant Professor of History at East Tennessee State University.  Dr. Gordon McKinney, another astute historian of this period, and the author of Southern Mountain Republicans,  comments, “This deeply researched study challenges our traditional understanding of Reconstruction.  Steven E. Nash demonstrates that a biracial, class-based political alliance was possible in the Appalachian highlands and that the elite could only return to power through economic coercion and violence.  An insightful and impressive work.”

Ducktown Smoke: The Fight Over One of the South’s Greatest Environmental Disasters by Duncan Maysilles. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, a 2016 paperback reprint of a 2011 release, 332 pages with an index, bibliography, notes, and map. Trade paperback, $30.

Copper mining and smelting in the Copper Basin, near where Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina come together, began in earnest in 1899 when a railroad was completed into the area. The result was the complete death of all vegetation within a fifty square mile area – one of the world’s – not just the South’s -  worst environmental disasters, and one of two unnatural sites visible to astronauts on the first manned space satellite. I recall driving a young woman through the Basin in the 1960s.  Her response, amid bitter tears, was that she now understood for the first time how the Chinese peasants, as portrayed in the book, Fanshen by William Hinton, could kill their landlords.  The author of this book, Duncan Maysilles, is uniquely qualified for this task because he has both a law degree from Duke and a doctorate in history from the University of Georgia. Donald Davis, the author of Where There Are Mountains: An Environmental History of the Southern Mountains, calls this an “extremely important and expertly written book.”

A Field Guide to Antietam: Experiencing the Battlefield through Its History, Places, and People by Carol Reardon and Tom Vossler. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2016, 346 pages with an index, notes, maps, and photos.  Trade paperback, $23.

On September 17, 1862, at Antietam, Maryland, in the Potomac Valley near what was then the Virginia border, the bloodiest day in American military history occurred. This book, replete with maps and color photographs, intricately explains what transpired at twenty-one different sites in and around the battlefield.  It is a must for anyone who wants to explore the area in depth or to better understand what took place there from afar.  Carol Reardon teaches history at Penn State, and Tom Vossler is a former director of the United States Army Military History Institute.

Grandfather Mountain: The History and Guide to an Appalachian Icon by Randy Johnson. Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina Press, 2016. 290 pages with an index, maps, and color and black-and-white photos. Oversized hardback with dust jacket. $35.

Robert Morgan, a leading author of volumes of poetry, stories, novels and biographies, notes, “This volume is both a practical guide for those discovering the area and a work of art commensurate with the grandeur of the mountain itself.”  The author has worked on Grandfather Mountain, an iconic North Carolina peak, for decades, and, as Vicky Jarrett says, it is presented, “with a passion and depth that can only come from being shaped by the mountain.” It is great to have a coffee table book that so well combines a beautiful presentation with worthy substance.

Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America by Patrick Phillips.  New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016.  302 pages with an index, notes, and photos throughout. Hardback in dust jacket, $27.

This important book tells the harrowing, horrible, story of how Forsythe County, Georgia, the southernmost ARC County in the state, now on the outskirts of Atlanta, was transformed in 1912 from the home of more than one thousand blacks to a “sun-down” county which was “all-white” until well into the 1990s. Gratitude goes out to Natasha Trethewey, the former National Poet Laureate, who shamed Patrick Phillips, a Forsythe County native and New Jersey poet and professor, into telling this story during a New York City cab ride more than a decade ago.  “With a poet’s gift for music, and with a detective’s dedication to the facts, Blood at the Root faces the specter of a bloody history without turning its back on the hope that the present has brought us. If the truth sets us free, this book will give you wings.” –Tayari Jones.

“Nothing undermines social justice more than our collective ignorance about the racial terrorism that haunts too many places in America. Blood at the Root is a must-read, thorough, detailed, and powerful. It’s a story we need to know and never forget.” – Bryan Stevenson

Willis Duke Weatherford: Race, Religion, and Reform in the American South by Andrew McNeill Canady.  Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2016.  337 pages with an index, bibliography, notes, and photographs throughout. Hardback with pictorial cover, $50.

This book is personal for me. It concentrates on three institutions that Willis Duke Weatherford  (1875-1970) impacted during his long life.  First is the Blue Ridge Assembly near Asheville, which Weatherford created and supported and where, in the 1950s, I first attended a social gathering with African-Americans relating as equals and actually danced with a young black lady, shaking uncontrollably the whole time. Next is Berea College where he was an important Board of Trustees member and which is located in the town where I have lived more than any other place. Finally is Fisk College in Nashville, where Weatherford taught in the early 1940s, and a city where I was twice a resident and frequent visitor to Fisk. Although I met W.D. Weatherford, I was not really acquainted with him, but I knew his son, Willis Weatherford, Jr., a Berea College President, and his grandson, Will, and granddaughter, Susan. This is not the first biography of W.D. Weatherford. That distinction goes to Prophet of Plenty: The First Ninety Years of W.D. Weatherford by Wilma Dykeman, published in 1966 by the University of Tennessee Press.  Canady’s book is not as positive as Dykeman’s. It basically paints him as a paternalistic racist and segregationist who, nevertheless, encouraged dialogue between the races and uplifting of the black community. In the way that the American South tolerated “liberals” during his lifetime, he certainly qualifies as one of the most active and accomplished.  In an era of lynching and terror and the active degradation of black lives and livelihood, W.D. Weatherford’s life deserves the kind of straight-forward treatment it receives from Canady.

Appalachia Revisited: New Perspectives on Place, Tradition and Progress edited by William Schumann and Rebecca Adkins Fletcher. Lexington, The University Press of Kentucky, 2016, 310 pages, hardback with pictorial cover. $50.

This book aptly demonstrates how good a choice Appalachian State made in hiring Billy Schumann as the Director of their Appalachian programs and how fortuitous was the choice by East Tennessee State of hiring Rebecca Adkins Fletcher as a professor of sociology/anthropology.  They have energized the next generation of Appalachian scholars as demonstrated by the fact that, of the 24 contributors to this collection of essays, I only know Billy and Anita Puckett. What is even more impressive is that the co-editors have exemplified, in this volume, the values that many in the older generation of Appalachian studies hope will infuse the next generation. The book has four parts. It starts with an acknowledgement of “Race, Ethnicity, and Gender” and goes through “Language, Rhetoric, and Literacy” right into “Economy and Environment” and concludes with “Engagement.” This is what is needed: recognition of the importance of dealing with these issues and a desire for our academic work to facilitate active engagement. The authors of the selections here represent not only professors, but also doctoral students and people in both the non-profit and business sectors of the economy. Their topics include fracking, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, and prison. This book is important for the example it sets for future place-based and interdisciplinary academic enterprise conducted from a global perspective.

Building a Healthy Economy from the Bottom Up: Harnessing Real-World Experience for Transformative Change by Anthony Flaccavento.  Lexington, the University Press of Kentucky, 2016, 307 pages with an index, notes, photos, and a Forward by Bill McKibben. Trade paperback: $30.  Hardback: $100.

Anthony Flaccavento is an organic farmer who lives near Abingdon, Virginia. In 2012, he ran for the U. S. Congress to represent the southwestern most district in the state.  He won the Democratic primary and garnered over 38% of the vote against the victorious Republican incumbent. He is the founder of Appalachian Sustainable Development and is the President of a non-profit called SCALE, which stands for Sequestering Carbon, Accelerating Local Economies. The author of over 100 articles, he has published one previous book, Healthy Food Systems: A Toolkit for Building Value Chains. His new book examines five transitions that the author believes can revitalize American society. They start and end with a new consumer consciousness dedicated to small-scale, sustainable alternatives to dependence upon the current top-down economy and society. His other chapters illustrate small local alternative producers of food, energy, and other vital goods and services; alternative financial and investment institutions; regional and national networks that strengthen these initiatives, and media, art, and civic alternatives.  Each of these transitions is the focus of a chapter with an emphasis on concrete examples of successful alternative institutions. This book thus comprises an exciting recounting not only of how individuals can make a difference, but also real reasons to be optimistic despite discouraging day-to-day news.  

Religion and Resistance in Appalachia: Faith and the Fight Against Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining by Joseph D. Witt. Lexington, The University Press of Kentucky, 2016, 284 pages with an index, notes, bibliography, and a few photographs. Hardback with pictorial cover, $50.

It has been said that publishers will do books that please the political left, but they will charge so much for them that their conservative backers won’t mind. I have been involved in the struggle against strip mining in Appalachia since the early 1970s, so it is easy for me to find areas I don’t believe are covered adequately here.  Is Witt uncomfortable seeking out working class opposition, especially by women? Where is Granny Hager, Eula Hall, Bessie Smith Gayheart, Hazel Dickens, even? And where is J. W. Bradley?  And how do you address this topic when only one paragraph is devoted to the Commission on Religion in Appalachia, and Appalachian Ministries Educational Resource Center isn’t even mentioned?  And how can you lump MACED in with SOCM and KFTC without recognizing the difference between activist groups and a group devoted to research and community service. I believe that the role of evangelicals was crucial in the early days of opposition to strip mining.  That topic cries out for more attention. But Witt hardly covers its prominent figures at all. Dan Gibson and Warren Wright are in the index, but they are only mentioned in passing with no reference to the evangelical roots of their environmentalism, and Preacherman Hamilton isn’t even mentioned.. The author teaches religion at Mississippi State University.

The Arthurdale Community School: Education and Reform in Depression-Era Appalachia by Sam F. Stack, Jr. Lexington, The University Press of Kentucky, 2016. 197 pages with an index, notes, bibliography and photographs.  Hardback with pictorial cover, $50.

Sam F. Stack is ideally suited for the task of writing the first book-length study of this important school.  He is a professor at West Virginia University in Morgantown, only fifteen miles away, and his two previous books were about Elsie Ripley Clapp who directed the school from 1934 until 1936 and John Dewey, whose educational ideas formed the school’s philosophical grounding. Arthurdale was the first of thirty-four new communities - in rural area and sometimes near cities - created by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal to re-settle poor residents in communities near their previous residences. Each homestead was for a single family and was comprised of not just a home, but some outbuildings and land to raise and grow their own subsistence. Only a few  of the homestead communities were racially integrated.  Arthurdale was not. Many of the original structures all over the country still exist, though many have been remodeled and some destroyed.

Tales from Kentucky Doctors by William Lynwood Montell. Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, a 2016 paperback reprint of a 2008 release. 249 pages with biographies of story-tellers. Trade paperback, $18.

Lynwood Montell was a pioneer and consummate practitioner of the scholarly pursuit and art of oral history.  He taught at Western Kentucky University from 1969 until 1999, and is the author of 22 books. This volume collects nearly 350 stories from throughout Kentucky, with an emphasis on the rural southern hill country of the state.  These stories are often humorous, sometimes tragic, and almost always heart-warming.  “A compelling book.” – The Lexington Herald-Leader.

Tales from Kentucky Funeral Homes by William Lynwood Montell. Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, a 2016 paperback reprint of a 2009 release. 198 pages with biographies of story-tellers. Trade paperback, $18.

Lynwood Montell, professor emeritus of folk studies at Western Kentucky University presents another striking compendium of oral histories, this time from funeral homes. They are revealing, sometimes funny, and usually fascinating.  “This is his piece de resistance and it deserves a prime spot on your shelf, due to the fact that it can be read again and again.” – Meade County Messenger.

Tales from Kentucky Lawyers by William Lynwood Montell. Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, a 2016 paperback reprint of a 2003 release. 264 pages with biographies of story-tellers. Trade paperback, $18.

“When you get 39 lawyers and judges talking about what happens in court, the stories may prove enlightening, disappointing, humorous, sad, hopeful, downright real—and occasionally almost unbelievable.” – Kentucky Monthly.

Tales from Kentucky Nurses by William Lynwood Montell. Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, a 2016 paperback reprint of a 2015 release. 281 pages with biographies of story-tellers and a county index. Trade paperback, $18.

This book features nearly 200 firsthand accounts. “This book will be useful to many: historians, educators, medical professionals, and other scholars.  But it will also be useful to those who simply love to read . . . and to those who do not want to forget the past.” – Journal of Folklore Research.

Tales from Kentucky One-Room School Teachers by William Lynwood Montell. Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, a 2016 paperback reprint of a 2011 release. 293 pages with biographies of story-tellers and an index of counties represented. Trade paperback, $18.

“Does an excellent job of using the stories to paint a clear picture of life in these one-room school houses, and to show the challenges and triumphs of teaching in this setting.” – Kentucky Libraries.

Tales from Kentucky Sheriffs by William Lynwood Montell. Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, a 2016 paperback reprint of a 2011 release. 290 pages with biographies of story-tellers. Trade paperback, $18.

“From shooting skunks to chasing wild hogs, Tales of Kentucky Sheriffs showcases the unpredictable situations in which officers find themselves.” – Paintsville Herald.

Tales of Kentucky Ghosts by William Lynwood Montell. Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, a 2016 paperback reprint of a 2010 release. 211 pages with biographies of story-tellers and a county index. Trade paperback, $18.

“Those who first and foremost seek a sense of how ghost stories are told may well favor Tales of Kentucky Ghosts above all his other books.”  Appalachian Journal.

Oh, Shenandoah: Paintings of the Historic Valley and River by Andrei Kushnir.  Staunton, Virginia: George F. Thompson Publishing, distributed by the University of Virginia Press, 2016.  414 pages with 264 full-page, full-color paintings and essays by Edward L. Ayers, Dana Hand Evans, Jeffrey C. Everett Warren R. Hofstra, and William M. S. Rasmussen.  Oversized hardback in dust jacket, $60.

Wow!  This magnificent coffee table book measures 11.25” high and 10.25” wide and is an inch and a half thick! But what is spectacular about it are the 264 full-page paintings in full color all created en plein air – by Andrei Kushner.  He spent more than a decade, determining an outdoor Shenandoah Valley spot , setting up an easel, and completing a beautiful painting!  The painter, Andrei Kushnir, was born in Germany in 1947, the son of Ukrainian parents who immigrated to the US.  He attended the University of Illinois, Chicago, but is essentially a self-taught artist. He has painted landscapes around the world and this is his fifth book, including a book of his Potomac River paintings.  He lives in Maryland and has a studio in New York City.  “In Oh, Shenandoah, the magnificent paintings of Andrei Kushnir, accompanied by the softly woven essays about the Valley’s settlement, geography, and natural history, create a tapestry of joy in the discovery of Shenandoah’s many faces.” – Nancy T. Sorrels. What an inspiring and gorgeous tribute – not just visually, but in text -  to one of the world’s greatest geographical features.