Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out with the Old Books, In with the New

No. Not really. It just sounded like an appropriate title for a New Year's Eve post.

What a year. I know that it has been tough for so many. Thank goodness for book people.

Christmas is just passed, and the giving and getting of books is always a big part of our household's holiday.

For instance, one of the gifts that my wife received from me this year was a book about sewage. How many people can say that? I'm just sentimental and romantic that way, I guess.

Oh, and didn't I score big this year, particularly on the used and hard-to-find book front. First, there was the book adaptation of Bill Forsyth's brilliant film 'Local Hero' (1983). Then there were the two angling gems that I received--Book of the Black Bass (1881) by J. A. Henshall and Fresh Water Bass (1954) by Ray Bergman. Finally, I received a book that I have wanted for nearly fourteen years--since returning to the U.S. from a two-year teaching stint in Albania--Red Cross, Black Eagle: A Biography of Albania's American School (1981) by Joan Fultz Kontos, and signed by the author.

My wife's sister and her family also gave me copies of Jon Meacham's new American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House and Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals. Both books are bestsellers. In addition to being a serious American history buff, I have taken real pleasure over the past ten years in seeing so many books like these become national bestsellers. These intelligent, well-written and well researched titles on the likes of Madison, Jefferson, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Lewis and Clark or the Band of Brothers are such the opposite of the simple-minded fluff of politician and pundit silliness (though, admittedly, the latter are great cash cows for the bookselling industry). It's exciting to see people buy these histories and biographies up in droves. Also, I had a really big crush on Doris Kearns Goodwin when I was in graduate school.

Regarding books and family, my nineth-grade niece and I have made an agreement. At her urging, I am going to read the first of the Stepahine Meyer Twilight series, and my niece, in turn, agrees to read Bram Stoker's Dracula. My niece insists that, once I read the first of the Meyer books, I will be hooked. We will see. I do know that America's booksellers (as well as the makers of black nail polish and eyeliner) must be quite grateful to Ms. Meyer.

In 2008, the book business sent me twice to Chicago. I was there in early December, and hoped to gather a little dirt from Grant Park, the site where our new President-elect gave his acceptance speech in November. Unfortunately, there was about three inches of snow on the ground and an arctic breeze blowing in off of Lake Michigan, so my thin Georgia blood did not allow me to carry through with that project. I did, however, get to have dinner one night at the largest Czech restaurant in America, where I visited a (former) brothel upstairs and saw a room where the former owner used to play cards with Al Capone.

Also, in 2008, I had the pleasure of having a beer with South Carolina author Roger Pinckney at his favorite hang-out on Daufuskie Island, where he lives. Finally, this past summer I suggested a book title to an acquaintance who also happens to be one of the book people for whom I have the greatest respect. Some months later, a positive review of that book(penned by my friend) appeared in one of the leading professional journals of the book world and to which my acquaintance is a regular contributor. This was very gratifying, and highlights several of the biggest reasons that people like me get into the business of recommending books in the first place--mind control and eventual world domination.

In with the new. Georgia author Phil Williams has a new book of poetry coming in February, An Ode to Water, by Mercer University Press. Already there is a line-up of excellent literary events coming to Atlanta and elsewhere in Georgia (see tomorrow's post).

So, it is off to the store to gather everything for a traditional Southern New Year's Eve Celebration (alchohol and explosives).

Happy New Year everyone. May 2009 bring many great books and much time on, in or near the water.


Monday, December 15, 2008

WordFeast, Horizon Theatre & Roy Blount, Jr.

Tonight, December 15, at 7:30 pm, Horizon Theatre in Atlanta's Little Five Points District will present WordFeast, a Georgia author-filled event to help the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Among those appearing will be Melissa Fay Greene, Pearl Cleage, Joshilyn Jackson, Carmen Deedy, and Rob Cleveland. It's just $15 to get in or--better yet--15 canned goods. For more information, call Horizon Theatre at 678-553-5972, or visit the Atlanta Community Food Bank at

In addition to a great line-up of terrific authors and performers, Horizon Theatre is a hoot all by itself. If it hasn't changed over the past few years, it kind of reminds you of what the original Saturday Night Live studio looked like. And they do great stuff (see Santaland Diaries, for example).

You'll also be in the Little Five Points District. While you are there, be sure to get over to A Cappella Books. You'll also be just a short distance from the Virginia-Highlands area. Get over there and visit the Atlanta Book Exchange. Finally, you'll also be just a short drive from Georgia's bookstore Mecca, Decatur.

Yesterday, Georgia native and author, and regular contributor to Garden & Gun Magazine, Roy Blount, Jr. was interviewed on NPR's Bob Edward's Weekend. He was discussing his new book, Alphabet Juice. Here is the perfect holiday gift for your college English major, your aspiring author loved one, or your favorite Scrabble addict. The interview was worth listening to just for the discussion of certain off-color words.

Could someone please send me a quick email and assure me that Memorable Books of Stone Mountain, Georgia has not fallen to the current economic times? I can't seem to get in touch with that famous Georgia book landmark.

Merry Christmas Everybody, and Happy Holidays (whatever your holiday happens to be).

And Good Luck.

Recommended (Santa, are you reading?): George, Being George--George Plimpton's Life by Nelson W. Aldrich (just out from Random House)


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Terry Kay Holiday Program at the Margaret Mitchell House

Author Terry Kay will be reading tomorrow night at the Margaret Mitchell House & Literary Center in downtown Atlanta. He will be reading selections from his book, To Whom the Angel Spoke-A Story of the Christmas. The author inscribed a copy of this book to my little girl when she was just two weeks old. Terry, she'll be reading that book to her little brother this year.

Mr. Kay will be accompanied by members of the Atlanta Public Schools Elementary Honors Chorus performing holiday favorites.

The event is free, but you'll need to RSVP. The reception begins at 5 p.m., and the program gets under way at 5:30 p.m. Mr. Kay will also be autographing books.

Here is a terrific opportunity to take a break from the phony, stressed-filled side of the season, and to be reminded of what the season is really about. It's free and involves no mall parking.

More information may be had at the Margaret Mitchell House website,

Terry Kay is the author of numerous works, including To Dance with the White Dog, Taking Lottie Home, The Valley of Light, and The Book of Marie.

Happy slow, inexpensive holidays everyone.