Book Reviews

Troubled Revolutionary

Marcus Baram’s Gil Scott-Heron: Pieces of a Man explores the life of the late artist and activist

by Maria Browning

December 11, 2014 Gil Scott-Heron’s rise to prominence and inexorable fall into addiction seem to echo an old and oft-repeated story in the music world, but Marcus Baram’s Gil Scott-Heron: Pieces of a Man delves deeply into the artist’s life and psyche, offering insight into why this particular man went down that sad road.

Published Thursday, 11 December 2014

Dream Big and Work Hard

Oprah’s new book offers an assortment of her distinctive personal philosophies

by Tina LoTufo

December 9, 2014 Film critic Gene Siskel once asked Oprah Winfrey what she knew “for sure.” The Tennessee State University alum calls this “the central question of my life,” and her new book takes its title from Siskel’s query. A small, attractively bound volume, perfect for gift-giving, What I Know For Sure will undoubtedly delight Winfrey’s many fans.

Published Tuesday, 9 December 2014

What Can Be Said About the South

In Poems of the American South, David Biespiel assembles some of the best poets writing from or about this region

by Erica Wright

December 8, 2014 Poems of the American South, edited by David Biespiel, displays the rich poetic tradition of the South. From race to rattlesnakes, each poem reveals complicated truths about this region of the United States.

Published Monday, 8 December 2014

Pay Dirt

With Gold Digger, spoken-word artist Minton Sparks explodes into song

by Sarah Norris

December 4, 2014 “In my family, the only lucrative line of work is gold-diggin’,” Nashville-based spoken-word artist Minton Sparks announces in her fifth album, Gold Digger. Sparks will perform at The Basement in Nashville on December 5, 2014, at 7 p.m.

Published Thursday, 4 December 2014

Priceless Peer

In a new biography of Ralph Peer, Barry Mazor untangles the roots of American roots music

by Steve Haruch

December 3, 2014 Barry Mazor’s Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music traces the life and career of Ralph Peer, who rose from Kansas City phonograph salesman to one of history’s most influential A&R scouts, record producers, and music publishers. From the birth of what came to be known as country music to the popularization of blues, regional, and eventually Latin music, Mazor tracks it all.

Published Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Dispatches from the Default Period

In Richard Ford’s new volume of novellas, Let Me Be Frank With You, Frank Bascombe returns to reflect on life’s final act

by Ed Tarkington

December 2, 2014 Despite a body of work that traverses a broad landscape of American character and experience, Richard Ford will always be recognized first as the creator of Frank Bascombe, American Everyman. Bascombe returns in Let Me Be Frank With You, a series of spare, ruminative tales of quiet longing in New Jersey in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Richard Ford will appear on December 10, 2014, at 6:15 p.m. at the Nashville Public Library. The event, part of the Salon@615 series, is free and open to the public.

Published Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Killer Aim

Medical examiner Kay Scarpetta is back in Patricia Cornwell’s newest novel, Flesh and Blood

by Sarah Norris

November 25, 2014 Flesh and Blood is Patricia Cornwell’s twenty-second novel featuring medical examiner Kay Scarpetta. Since the series began, with the 1990 publication of Postmortem, Cornwell’s books have sold more than 100 million copies in 120 countries, and fans will be glad to know that Flesh and Blood includes the same core cast of characters they have come to know and love.

Published Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Untamed Narratives

In Short Stories by Jesus, Amy-Jill Levine revisits the parables with an eye toward their first-century context

by Beth Waltemath

November 24, 2014 Short Stories by Jesus, the latest book by Vanderbilt professor Amy-Jill Levine, analyzes a misunderstood and nearly forgotten literary form: the parable. Levine, a professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt, argues that Jesus’s parables have been domesticated into easy lessons, robbed of their power to surprise, subvert, and indict.

Published Monday, 24 November 2014

Appalachian Christmas

Sharyn McCrumb brings back fans’ favorite characters in her new Ballad novella

by Faye Jones

November 21, 2014 Sharyn McCrumb gives fans of her Ballad series an early Christmas present with her new novella, Nora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past, which is told in alternating vignettes featuring Sheriff Spencer Arrowood and Nora Bonesteel, two popular characters from the series.

Published Friday, 21 November 2014

Much More than Tea and Sympathy

In The Way of Tea and Justice, Becca Stevens tells the story behind Nashville’s Thistle Stop Café, a cottage industry for former prostitutes

by Tina LoTufo

November 20, 2014 “A Story in Every Cup”—that’s the motto of Nashville’s Thistle Stop Café. In The Way of Tea and Justice, Becca Stevens, Episcopal priest and founder of Thistle Farms, tells the story of the Thistle Stop Café, where, in Stevens’ words, “we recognize the dignity of each person” while providing additional employment opportunities for former prostitutes in recovery.

Published Thursday, 20 November 2014

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