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By Blake Ells
The History Press, 2020
Paperback: $21.99
Genre: History; Nonfiction
Review by Edward Journey

House-hunting for a move back to Birmingham in the spring, I passed the Southtown Court projects going toward the Expressway underpass on the way to look at a place in Highland Park. Just before the underpass, the Nick still stood in its converted convenience store location (“B’ham’s Finest Qwik Mart,” the sign used to say). My young realtor was waiting at the condo when I pulled up. “It’s good to know the Nick still rocks,” I said in greeting.

“Yeah, I’ve spent some time at the Nick,” he responded.

“So have I,” I said, and realized that my nights at the Nick predate my realtor’s birth.
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By Mike Bunn
NewSouth Books, 2020
Hardcover: $28.95
Genre: History; Nonfiction
Review by Edward Journey

Fourteenth Colony is a well-documented and researched exploration of British West Florida and its significance during the American Revolution. Bunn acknowledges in the Preface that “there are technically multiple competitors for the title of Britain’s fourteenth American colony, ranging from neighboring East Florida to several concurrent holdings in Canada.” His choice of West Florida, however, emphasizes the strategic value of the region and the many missteps the British made when they controlled the colony from 1763 to 1783.
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By Patti Callahan
Berkley, 2021
Hardcover $26.00
Genre: Fiction
Review by H.M. Cotton

Savannah, Georgia is a city filled with so much grace and Southern charm, the type of place with perfectly manicured front lawns and – quite literally – secrets in the attic: the perfect Southern gothic setting. For as much beauty and history as the city has, there’s also a sense of sadness and mystery tucked along its streets. Patty Callahan’s Surviving Savannah captures the lush and rich setting of Savannah, but doesn’t overlook that the city has a past filled with sorrow and pain. One traumatic event in particular – the tragedy of the steamship Pulaski – provides the backbone of Callahan’s narratives and leaves readers to question, “How will we survive the surviving?”
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By Rick Bragg
Alfred A. Knopf, 2020
Hardcover $26.95; paperback: $17.00
Genre: Personal Essays
Review by Edward Journey

Not long ago, a food writer friend from “Up North,” who now lives in Atlanta, told me that, thanks to my online journal and Rick Bragg, she feels “less a Northern fish out of water.” I was flattered to be included in the company of Mr. Bragg, but felt unworthy. I also feared that Bragg, if he ever came across my journal, might scoff that I was one of “the posers, talkin’ about Roy Acuff with gelato on their breath.”
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By John Archibald
Alfred A. Knopf, 2021
Hardcover $28.00
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir
Review by Edward Journey

“Are we going to play around with our own little pettiness, prejudice and pride until it is too late to understand the significant things that are happening in the world?” Rev. Robert L. Archibald Jr. grappled with that question from the pulpit of Monte Sano Methodist Church in Huntsville, Alabama, in a sermon entitled “Too Late,” on the morning of September 15, 1963. Rev. Archibald would not have known that, as he was speaking those words, Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was reeling in the aftermath of a bombing by members of the Ku Klux Klan. That bombing killed four young girls, injured twenty-two other churchgoers, and forever altered the narrative trajectory of the Civil Rights Movement.
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By Ben Raines
Foreword by E.O. Wilson
NewSouth Books, 2020
Hardcover $35.00
Genre: Nonfiction, Nature
Review by H.M. Cotton

Anyone who has spent any considerable amount of time in Alabama can attest to its breath-taking natural beauty. Those of us blessed enough to live here know that just a few steps from the front door, a scrawling wilderness of landscape and waterways teems with life. But what Ben Raines captures in Saving America’s Amazon: The Threat to Our Nation’s Most Biodiverse River System is the undervalued gem that is Alabama’s biodiversity and how close we are to losing this treasure.
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By Frye Gaillard
Negative Capability Press, 2020
Hardcover $21.99
Genre: Nonfiction, Biographical Memoir
Review by Edward Journey

My favorite passage in Frye Gaillard’s book, Live as if … A Teacher’s Love Story , sums up his wife Nancy Gaillard’s fearless and inquisitive approach to life. Nancy and Frye are on a trip to the city of Baku (in what is now Azerbaijan), which is under Soviet control at the time. Nancy impulsively leads Frye into the headquarters of Muslim radicals plotting the overthrow of Soviet control of their homeland. “Maybe we can learn about what’s going on,” she says. After the two are delayed from leaving for several hours, Frye tells Nancy, hopefully, “This will be a great story if we survive.”
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By Lana K. Austin
West Virginia Univeristy Press, 2020
Paperback $21.99
Genre: Fiction, Novel
Review by Edward Journey

On the surface, Like Light, Like Music, the unique debut novel by Lana K.W. Austin, is a printed text, but within it runs its own evocative, suggested soundtrack. The story is a mystery, of sorts, but no concrete answers are discovered; the mysteries only compound as the narrative of this tightly spun novel, set in Kentucky in 1999, unfolds. Austin draws from Kentucky and southern Appalachian folk traditions to create a strong sense of place and intrigue. The novel exhibits a prodigious knowledge of music from start to finish.
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By Yaa Gyasi
Knopf, 2020
Hardcover $27.95
Genre: Fiction, Novel
Review by Laura Lilly Cotten

During what now feels like the early days of the pandemic, I read an advance copy of Yaa Gyasi’s Transcendent Kingdom. I hadn’t been sleeping much and was in a reading rut, so my business partner handed me Transcendent Kingdom saying, “It reads like a prayer.” She was right. Transcendent Kingdom is a novel-length meditation on not knowing.
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By Randall Horton
Univeresity of Kentucky Press, 2020
Hardcover $29.95, Paperback $19.95
Genre: Poetry
Review by Zanice Bond

{#289-128} is the fourth collection of poetry by Birmingham, Alabama, native Dr. Randall Horton. It contains forty-six poems and is divided into three sections: PROPERTY OF THE STATE, PO-ET IN RESIDENCE, and POET IN NEW YORK. At first glance, these sections might be deceiv-ing, suggesting perhaps that the collection is autobiographical or focuses on Horton and his move from a 20-year-old college student with seven felonies to a tenured university professor with a Ph.D.
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The Age of Phillis
By Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
Wesleyan, 2020
Hardcover $26.95
Genre: Poetry
Review by Jacqueline Allen Trimble

Phillis Wheatley Peters (aka Phillis Wheatley) is an iconic 18th century American poet, often lauded for her genius which challenged notions of black and female inferiority, sometimes dismissed for her alleged assimilationist bent. Much of what is known about her comes from two sources that may not be as reliable as previously thought, or so argues Honorée Fanonne Jeffers in The Age of Phillis, a beautifully rendered collection of poems which rescues Peters from the mythologies that have shaped our notions about her.
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COVID19 SUTRAS
By Hank Lazer
Lavender Ink, 2020
Paperback: $18.95
Genre: Poetry
Review by Edward Journey

In this autumn of the 2020 pandemic, one would be hard-pressed to find a more “of the moment” volume of poetry than Hank Lazer’s COVID19 SUTRAS. Comprised of sutras composed between March 1 and June 13 of 2020, Lazer’s poems provide contemplative meditation and real-life scenarios in a frequently startling and vibrant book of images from a most exceptional year in each of our lives. The classic sutras of Hinduism and Buddhism are collections of phrases leading to enlightenment; Lazer adapts the format for our specific time by providing glimpses of nature, compassion, and “normal” life amidst the despair and confusion of global disease and unrest.
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Boys of Alabama
By Genevieve Hudson
Liveright, 2020
Hardcover: $26.95
Genre: Fiction
Review by Carla Jean Whitley

Max is new to Alabama. He and his parents arrive by plane and are greeted by some of the state’s most obvious symbols: sweet tea (“served in Styrofoam cups so big [Max] had to hold his with both hands”), the University of Alabama’s iconic A and stifling heat. The German family has relocated to America for Max’s father’s job at a car plant, and they find Alabama unusual, with its Confederate flags, streets named after football coaches, and private Christian schools. Regardless of talent, boys are welcomed to the school’s football team. It’s Alabama, after all, and football is the center of social life for most of the students.
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Furious Hours
By Casey Cep
Knopf, 2019
Hardcover: $26.95
Genre: Nonfiction
Review by Katie Lamar Jackson

Sometimes it takes an outsider to help us understand our own history, which is just what Casey Cep did for me, and I suspect many of my fellow Alabamians, in the pages of her first (and I suspect, not her last) best-selling book, Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee.
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Happy Like This
By Ashley Wurzbacher
University of Iowa Press, 2019
Paperback: $17.00
Genre: Fiction, Short Fiction
Review by Laura Lilly Cotten

In Virginia Woolf’s 1927 novel To the Lighthouse, Lily Briscoe is a minor character, a painter who almost never paints. Mrs. Ramsay, the novel’s subject, is a mother and match-maker. She is such a force that even after she dies, Lily is pondering and reacting to advice she had given a decade earlier. Only after Mrs. Ramsay’s death is Lily finally able to paint the portrait of her that Lily has imagined for a decade, to make Mrs. Ramsay into an object. Lily delights at the thought of informing Mrs. Ramsay that those she tried to influence haven’t listened: “It has all gone against your wishes. They’re happy like that; I’m happy like this.”
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