FREE Shipping!
May 2022 Reviews

May 2022 Reviews


West Virginia (Blastoff! Discovery: State Profiles) by Betsy Rathburn. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bellweather Media, 2022. 32 pages with an Index, Glossary, “To Learn More,” and full color illustrations and photos. 6.75” X 9.5” hardback with pictorial cover and library binding.

Each of the 50 states is covered in this pictorial series for grades 2-5. Most of the text is picture captions, but it includes a treatment of native peoples; Minnie Buckingham Harper, the first Black woman to serve in an American state legislature; country music star Brad Paisley, and a recipe for pepperoni rolls.


Appalachian Health: Culture, Challenges, and Capacity edited by F. Douglas Scutchfield and Randy Wykoff. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2022. 219 pages with an Index, a Foreword by Alonzo Plough, maps, graphs, charts, and photos. Hardback with a pictorial cover.

Even if you hate books that collect a bunch of essays by professors apparently trying to get tenure, you may actually really appreciate this book that at first glance may look like just another of these. To begin with, it really does serve the needs both of those seeking an introduction to a new field and those who have already garnered considerable expertise. The subject is put in context, not just sprung on the reader, beginning with an essay by Ron Roach, the Director of the Appalachian Center at East Tennessee State University, providing an overview of the region so all the readers understand the context of what follows. And - get this! – Ron’s essay is the only one by a single author. Wow. No one-author wonders. I mean collaboration is the name of the game for this book, often teaming up an academic with a government or public health worker. This provides not just greater substance, but also greater perspective, to the essays. And the wrap-up essay has four authors – the co-editors, Ron Roach, and Ron Eller, the retired former Director of the University of Kentucky Appalachian Center. This book doesn’t ignore opioids, but that’s just one chapter. Others explore crucial issues like mortality, “The Social Determinants of Health,” health behaviors, health care availability, the environment, and public health. Quantitative measures abound in this book, but so does wisdom, and it even offers some evidence-based suggestions of public programs that address the problems identified. "Appalachian Health makes a significant impact on the ways that we think about health in the region and the need for upstream approaches. The framework and information provided in this text can help leaders, policymakers, and researchers in incrementally implementing needed policy, environmental, and systems changes. My hope is that all public health and social science scholars across Appalachia make use of this book and share it with their students along the way."―Adam Hege. Co-editor J. Douglas Scutchfield founded the University of Kentucky School of Public Health, and co-editor Randy Wykoff founded the College of Public Health at East Tennessee State University. Overall, this book is not just a great contribution to a crucial topic itself, but also serves as a wonderful model of how somewhat similar books might become much more exemplary.

Still Upright & Headed Downstream: Collected River Writing by John Lane. Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2022. 190 pages.

For the last 40 years, John Lane has been writing poetry and prose about rivers from his home in Spartanburg, South Carolina, to river destinations all over the world, but mostly in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This book presents his river writing chronologically alternating chapters of poetry with those of prose. "What a wondrous watery collection of essays and poems this is. John Lane is a master of combining moments of thrill and meditation, environmental ugliness and natural beauty; he is at home in a world where down is up and up is down. Follow this mad kayaker as he strings together one mad sentence after another." --Susan Fox Rogers. "John Lane is a teacher, and his essays and poems teach us just how much rivers matter. Rivers have stories to tell too, and Lane puts those stories into words. He understands the natural and human history of the rivers of the South and understands the culture of rivers at a deeply personal level." --Joe Pulliam. "If adventure is activity on one's personal frontiers, then John Lane has spent his life on those frontiers. He enters them through rivers rapid and meandering: through prose, poetry, teaching, and social justice. He takes us off waterfalls in Mexico, down his beloved Chattooga River, on urban creeks renewed by communities, in swamps capturing alligators, and in wounded landscapes through which Piedmont rivers flow, cleansing themselves and all who travel them. His message is clear: you can go home again into nature to rediscover what has been lost and found repeatedly.”- Gordon Grant. The author, John Lane, is professor emeritus at Wofford College where he taught creative writing and environmental studies.

Ten Thousand Voices: 150 Years of the Virginia Glee Club by Timothy Jarrett. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2022. 290 pages with an Index, appendices, and photos. Hardback in dust jacket.

This book offers an interesting lens through which to view the last 150 years of American history and especially the life of the University of Virginia. It follows choral music as U. Va. evolves into “co-education,” “integration,” technological advances, etc. Of course, this book also provides really interesting and instructive reading for all those involved in music at the post-secondary level and choral music in general.

Trailed: One Woman's Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders. Chapel Hill,  North Carolina: Algonquin Books, 2022. 320 pages with Notes, maps, and photos. Hardback in dust jacket.

For almost all of my life, I have considered “true crime” books to be my least favorites. Why infuse my life with stories of horrible crimes? But, this book got me hooked right away. Why? In the first place, the author, Kathryn Miles, is a very sympathetic character. She loves to explore wilderness and woods. She chose to teach at Unity College in Unity, Maine, an innovative environmental college. While she was there, the FBI announced that they had a suspect – six years later – in the 1996 murders of Lollie Winans and her lesbian lover, Julie Williams, in Shenandoah National Park. This resulted in multiple campus-wide tributes to a well-loved former student and townie. In turn, this led Kathryn Miles first to a deeply researched magazine article, and then this book. The suspect, who was never prosecuted, was a predator convicted of the attempted abduction of another young woman there in the Park. This book is about the author’s quest both to learn more about the victims and to try to figure out who killed them. In the process, so much more is illuminated: the vulnerability of young women in the woods, the victimization of gay women; the law enforcement efforts and policies in National Parks, the work of the FBI, the relationships between law enforcement entities, and the existence of predators. Sadly, all her research leads Kathryn Miles to conclude that Lollie and Julie were killed by a different predator, a serial rapist and killer who also preyed upon young women in Virginia recreation areas. “​A beautifully written account of a great American tragedy—the unsolved murders of an undetermined number of young women, all by the same serial killer, who got away. The truth is still buried. I couldn’t put it down.”—John Grisham. “A tragic story of young lovers, gone too soon. A #metoo reckoning, long overdue. A study of trauma’s ripple effects, extending for decades. Trailed is meticulously investigated, achingly intimate, and doggedly persistent in the pursuit of justice."—Robert Kolker. “A beautiful story about a female journalist seeking clarity and life for two women she never knew, and looking to restore the wilderness as a place of healing and safety for all women in the process. An established backcountry hiker herself, Miles follows a serpentine trail of misogyny and the resilience and joy of women in spite of it. Trailed is also a love story. You will turn pages as fast as you can.”—Lacy Crawford.

Y’all Means All: The Emerging Voices Queering Appalachia edited by Z. Zane McNeill.  Oakland, California: PM Press, 2022. 200 pages with an Index and photos. Trade paperback.

This book features seventeen essays arranged in three sections: “Finding Self and Discovering Queer in Appalachia,” “Queer Hills, Hollers, and Mountain People,” and “Creating the Queer-Appalachian Archive.” “The works in Y’all Means All: The Emerging Voices Queering Appalachia are thoughtful, well-researched, emotionally resonant, and beautifully made, all of which balances their sometimes harrowing imagery, and the hard truths they must share about queer experiences in a region that has not always treated the LGBTQ+ community with the care it deserves. Z. Zane McNeill has done a service for the public good in bringing together the eclectic perspectives of artists and makers from across a broad field of scholars, creative writers, photographers, naturalists, and more. I was continually moved by the love I felt expressed for Appalachia in this collection, a love soldered and made stronger by pain and resilience, by healing and kindness. I really cannot imagine an open-hearted reader not returning that feeling of love toward this book, built as it is on hope, generosity, and the recognition that every voice belongs in the chorus.”—Jesse Graves. “These deeply personal and theoretically informed essays explore the fight for social justice and inclusivity in Appalachia through the intersections of environmental action, LGBTQA+ representational politics, anti-racism, and movements for disability justice. This Appalachia is inhabited by a queer temporality and geography, where gardening lore teaches us that seeds dance into plants in their own time, not according to a straight-edged neoliberal discipline.” - Rebecca Scott. “This collection adds important voices to the chorus rising from the region, singing their own songs and telling their own stories. Playing with genre, form, subject, and positionality, the text offers a beautifully messy vision of a beautifully messy place. The resistance to category serves us all, pushing boundaries and reminding us of the superficialities of most boundaries that shape us. The inclusion of voices unused to existing in the same volumes—of gerontologists and artists and farmers and activists and folklorists and more—creates an overwhelming sense of complexity. That complexity is precisely what we need in mind when we try to write about Appalachia, or when we try to write about queerness. This collection is disruptive and unsettling—in the very best ways” - Meredith McCarroll. The editor lives in West Virginia and co-edited Queer and Trans Voices: Achieving Liberation Through Consistent Anti-Oppression.


The Book Woman’s Daughter by Kim Michele Richardson. New York: Landmark/Sourcebooks, 2022. 334 pages with “A Note from the Author,” “Images from the Pack Horse Library Project,” and “Reading Group Guide.”  Trade paperback.

Like Kim Michele Richardson’s previous book, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek (2019), this book quickly landed on the New York Times best-seller list. It can be read as a stand-alone novel that opens in 1953, sixteen years after the events of the previous book. It takes up the story of Honey Lovett, a teen, after her parents are arrested and jailed for violating the state’s anti-miscegenation laws because her mother, Cussy has methemoglobinemia, giving her skin a blueish tone, a condition very rare even in Knott County, Kentucky, where it has been mostly found. Faced with the threat of being placed in the House of Reform until her 21st birthday, Honey finds allies among characters in the previous book, including a moonshiner, “Devil John,” and elderly Retta as well as new characters including Pearl, a fire lookout, and Bonnie, a coal miner. "In Kim Michele Richardson's beautifully and authentically rendered The Book Woman's Daughter she once again paints a stunning portrait of the raw, somber beauty of Appalachia, the strong resolve of remarkable women living in a world dominated by men, and the power of books and sisterhood to prevail in the harshest circumstances. A critical and profoundly important read for our time. Badassery womanhood at its best!" ― Sara Gruen. "Steeped in an intimate knowledge of the traditions and lore of the region and written with a loving eye to the natural beauty of the landscape, The Book Woman's Daughter is a brilliant and compelling narrative - a powerful portrait of the courageous women who fought against ignorance, misogyny, and racial prejudice." ― William Kent Krueger. The author, Kim Michele Richardson, is no stranger to both Kentucky cruelty and tenderness. She spent the first ten years of her life in Saint Thomas-Saint Vincent Orphan Asylum in Northern Kentucky and then became part of a successful suit against the institution alleging sexual and physical abuse. Her memoir, The Unbreakable Child, recounts that experience as well as homelessness and other experiences. Richardson, now married, still lives in Kentucky, the setting for all her books.

Live Caught by R. Cathey Daniels. New York: Black Lawrence Press, 2022. 300 pages. Trade paperback.

The protagonist, Lenny, after losing his arm to his abusive older brothers, escapes the Western North Carolina farm where he has lived his whole life seeking to follow rivers downstream to the ocean, but his stolen skiff sinks, landing him in the clutches of a drug-dealing priest, forcing him, once again, to attempt an escape. Will his circumstances land him again back home having learned that nowhere else is safe? The author, R. Cathey Daniels, grew up in Western North Carolina, graduated from Brevard College there, and earned a masters in education from UNC. After teaching in East Tennessee, she became a reporter for The Oak Ridger and still resides in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, after studying novel-writing at Stanford.


Eden’s Last Horizon: Poems for the Earth by Philip Lee Williams. Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2022. 153 pages. Trade paperback.

The poet, Philip Lee Williams, grew up in Morgan County, just south of Athens, Georgia, and now lives in the woods in Oconee County near Wildcat Creek, just east of Athens. He explained the title of his twenty-first book to the Athens Banner-Herald: “The idea of Eden – is the idea of the garden of wonder and beauty. The Last Horizon is our last chance. The poems recognize the beauty, but also recognize the horrible things we have done. My whole feeling while writing it is this is our last chance and we better get it right. And if we don’t our descendants will pay for it in terrible ways. It’s more reacting with sorrow and regret to what we’ve done to the planet and to praise and glorify the wonderful things we still have with the idea that we can work to make things better.” None of the 70 poems in this collection have titles, but they are all numbered. Williams has often chosen mountain settings for his fiction, poetry and non-fiction writing.