Don Noble's Book Reviews

Mondays at 7:45 a.m and 4:44 p.m.

Now a retired English professor at The University of Alabama, Dr. Noble's specialties are Southern and American literature.  He also hosts Bookmark on Alabama Public Television.

Don Noble's reviews can be heard most Mondays at 7:45am and 4:44pm.  and have been made possible in part through grants from the Alabama State Council for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

To listen to the audio version of Dr. Noble's reviews, just click on the book title to be taken to the full page.  Audio is found either at the very beginning of the transcript or at the bottom of the page.


Credit Alabama State Council on the Arts

Dr. Noble's Book Reviews are made possible in part with a grant from The Alabama State Council on the Arts, with the support of The University of Alabama, and from the generous support from our listeners.  Thank you!


“The Cat Man of Aleppo” 

Authors:  Irene Latham and Karim Shamsi-Basha 

Illustrated by Yuko Shimizu 

Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons 


Price: $17.99 (Hardcover) 

After Sundown



“After Sundown: A Novel” 

Authors: Linda Howard and Linda Jones 

Publisher: William Morrow 

Pages: 369 

Price: $27.95 (Hardcover) 


“Blue Marlin” 

Author: Lee Smith 

Publisher: Blair, an imprint of Carolina Wren Press 

Pages: 123 

Price: $15.95 (paper) 


Who Got Game?


“Who Got Game?: Baseball: Amazing but True Stories” 

Author: Derrick Barnes  

Illustrated by John John Bajet 

Publisher: Workman Publishing  

Pages: 171 

Price: $12.95 (paper) 

It has been over a month now since the 2020 baseball season should have opened and there is an empty place in the hearts of millions of Americans. The national pastime is on indefinite hold. 

Old Lovegood Girls


“Old Lovegood Girls: A Novel” 

Author: Gail Godwin 

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing 

Pages: 352 

Price: $27.00 (hardcover) 

The publication of “Old Lovegood Girls” is a genuine literary event, worthy of celebration. This book marks 50 years of publishing since Godwin’s debut with “The Perfectionists” in 1970. 

“Will the Circle be Unbroken?”


“Will the Circle be Unbroken?” 

Author: Sean “Sean of the South” Dietrich  

Publisher: Zondervan Books 

Pages: 256 

Price: $24.99 (Hardcover)  

Sean Dietrich has become truly famous for his blog posts which are eagerly, ritualistically, almost addictively, read by tens of thousands of people every morning. 

“Firebird: A Novel” by Mark Powell


“Firebird: A Novel” 

Author: Mark Powell 

Publisher: Haywire Books  

Pages: 312 

Price: $17.95 (Paperback)

Readers of “Firebird” might not immediately recognize Mark Powell as a Southern writer, but he surely is. At present, Powell is teaching creative writing at Appalachian State in Asheville, North Carolina. 

Glory Road


“Glory Road: A Novel” 

Author: Lauren K. Denton 

Publisher: Thomas Nelson 

The Testaments


“The Testaments “ 

Author: Margaret Atwood 

Publisher: Nan Talese/Doubleday 

Just Mercy



“Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” 
Author: Bryan Stevenson 
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau 
Pages: 336 
Price: $28.00 (Hardcover) 

I am embarrassed to say I am just now reading Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy,” but I am really glad I’ve read it. Every American should read this book.  

Library Girls of New York: A Secret Place

“Library Girls of New York: A Secret Place”

Author: Carolyn Rhodes

Publisher: Borgo Publishing

Pages: 101

Price: $15.99 (Paper)

The millionaire industrialist Andrew Carnegie believed deeply in philanthropy. He was famous for giving a dime to anyone who asked, which sounds cheap, but isn’t really. Most millionaires did not want to be bothered.

“Gifts: A Novel”

Author: May Lamar

Publisher: The Donnell Group

Pages: 246

Price: $28.00 (Hardcover)

May Lamar’s new novel is a fictionalized account of the life of pioneering artist Anne Goldthwaite, who lived from 1869 till 1944. Goldthwaite, raised partly in Montgomery, was a suffragette, and an artist in several media. She began but did not complete a memoir.

May Lamar had published a similar book, “Brother Sid,” based on the life of the poet Sidney Lanier.

This novel is even more ambitious and a delight to read.

Operation Dimwit

“Operation Dimwit: A Penelope Lemon Novel”

Author: Inman Majors

Publisher: LSU Press

Pages: 219

Price: $29.95 (Hardcover)

Inman Majors, a Tennessean with an MFA from UA, is in mid-career and in fine form. He has an amazing and underrated serious novel in “The Millionaires,” set at the World’s Fair in Knoxville, but also that rarest of gifts these days, a comic sensibility.

Dear Betty, Love, Byron

“Dear Betty, Love Byron: The Letters of Lieutenant Byron Yarbrough and Betty Jones, 1944-1945”

Introduction by Mark Wilson

Preface by Dennis Blocker II

Publisher: Solomon & George Publishers

Pages: 107

Price: $10.00 (Paper)

There could be literally thousands and thousands of books like this one, letters between a sailor away at war and a young woman at home. My own father and mother did exactly this during WWII.

The Nickel Boys

“The Nickel Boys”

Author: Colson Whitehead

Publisher: Doubleday

Pages: 210

Price: $24.95 (Hardcover)

Years ago I met a man who had made a success in Hollywood writing ethnic wedding scenes, a narrow specialty indeed.  This man wrote the extraordinary wedding scenes for the first “Godfather” movie, Italian Roman Catholic, and “The Deer Hunter,” Russian Orthodox.

If Hollywood should develop a need for a specialist to write scenes of savage beatings, Colson Whitehead is their man.

Year-Round Trouble: 14 Cozy Holiday Mysteries

“Year-Round Trouble: 14 Cozy Holiday Mysteries”

Editor: Susan Y. Tanner

Publisher: Kalioka Press

Pages: 463

Price: $16.99

A reminder: a cozy is a mystery with little or no onstage violence, little blood, profanity or sex. The problem may be murder, but may be theft or even a misunderstanding. Most cozies have small-town settings, and the detective, the problem-solver, usually an amateur, almost always female, is assisted by a quirky friend or friends.

Night Boat to Tangier

“Night Boat to Tangier”

Author: Kevin Barry

Publisher: Doubleday

Pages: 255

Price: $25.95 (Cloth)

The population of Ireland is 4.8 million. Alabama is also 4.8 million.

Another factor in common: these two relatively small places have given the world a wildly disproportionate number of writers.

In the early twentieth century the most influential poet in the world was William Butler Yeats, James Joyce was the wellspring of modernist fiction and Sean O’Casey arguably the leading dramatist in the west.

The Andean Cross: A Novel

“The Andean Cross: A Novel”

Author: Lawrence Clayton

Publisher: Westwood Books Publishing LLC

Pages: 216

Price: $14.99 (Hardback)

Lawrence Clayton, retired professor of Latin American history, has written his debut novel. Appropriately enough, it is set in Central and South America and reflects his expertise in these areas.

The novel opens on the Pacific coast of Panama, in 1544. There has been a catastrophe.

Mobile Under Siege: Surviving the Union Blockade

Mobile Under Siege: Surviving the Union Blockade

Author: Paula Lenor Webb

Publisher: History Press

Pages: 142

Price: $ 21.99 (Paper)

When I commenced reading “Mobile Under Siege,” I believed it would be the story of the Port City during most of the Civil War, under Union naval blockade, with plucky blockade runners dashing out in the fog with contraband cotton bound for the mills of England by way of Havana, Cuba, and dashing in with a fresh load of fine wine and cigars.

It is not.

Debris Cloud

“Debris Cloud”

Author: James Ezell

Publisher: Author House

Pages: 290

Price: $20.99 (Paper)

It is no surprise that a cataclysm like the 2011 tornado in Tuscaloosa would spawn a lot of written responses, in several genres.

Bay Boy

“Bay Boy: Stories of a Childhood in Point Clear, Alabama”

Author: Watt Key

Publisher: University of Alabama Press

Pages: 136

Price: $24.95 (Cloth)

The Paris Husband

“The Paris Husband: How It Really Was Between Ernest & Hadley Hemingway”

Author: Scott Donaldson

Publisher: Simply Charlie

Pages: 139

Price: $11.99

Ernest Hemingway lived in Italy, in France, in Key West and in Cuba, was a prodigious drinker, loved hunting birds and big game, went to WWI as an ambulance driver and The Spanish Civil War and WWII as a correspondent. As a young man, he loved fishing for trout and later, in the Gulf, for marlin. It was undeniably an exciting life.


“The Story of Alabama in Fourteen Foods”

Author: Emily Blejwas

Publisher: University of Alabama Press

Price: $39.95 (Hardback)

Pages: 325

There are recipes in this book, even one for Sunday School punch, which is iced tea, muscatel and rum, but this not a cookbook.


“Agent Running in the Field”

Author: John Le Carré

Publisher: Viking

Pages: 281

Price: $29.00 (Hardcover)



When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, presumably ending the Cold War, readers and critics feared for the careers of spy novelists like John Le Carré. What would these fellows write about now?

No problem, really.

There is always plenty of crime, rottenness and misery in the world.

Brooding: Arias, Choruses, Lullabies, Dirges, and a Duet

“Brooding: Arias, Choruses, Lullabies, Dirges, and a Duet”

Author: Michael Martone

Publisher: The University of Georgia Press

Pages: 191

Price: $24.95 (Paper)

Michael Martone, just finishing a career teaching at the U of A, is the author of a shelf of books, nonfiction, generally speaking, essays on every imaginable subject.

Maya Angelou turned every experience, every day, into memoir.

“Robert B. Parker’s Angel Eyes”

Author: Ace Atkins

Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Pages: 320

Price: $27.00 (Hardcover)

“L’Chaim and Lamentations”

Author: Craig Darch

Publisher: NewSouth Books

Pages: 158

Price: $ 24.95 (Hardcover)

As readers surely know, my mandate here is to discuss Alabama-related books, and for the last many months, during this bicentennial year especially, I have read a string of histories of early Alabama and Selma and Birmingham and Mobile Bay.

However, my mandate also extends to books by Alabama authors, and Craig Darch, who has taught at Auburn for over thirty years, qualifies as such an Alabama author.

“The Gulf of Mexico; A Maritime History”

Author: John S. Sledge

Publisher: The University of South Carolina Press

Pages: 264

Price: $ 29.99 (Hardcover)

John Sledge, architectural historian for the city of Mobile, began publishing books with a rather narrow focus. He wrote on subjects such as Mobile cemeteries and Mobile ironworks. More recently he published a collection of literary columns from the “Mobile Press Register,” a study of the Mobile River and now, a history of the Gulf of Mexico and a summary of all that has happened in, on and around it.

“Tell Me a Story: My Life with Pat Conroy”

Author: Cassandra King Conroy

Publisher: William Morrow

Pages: 400

Price: $24.99 (Hardcover)

When Eugene O’Neill finished his masterpiece, “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” the painful dramatization of his tormented family, he gave his wife, Carlotta, the manuscript with this dedication:

“Dearest, I give you the original script of this play … written in tears and blood.”

“Selma: A Bicentennial History”

Author: Alston Fitts III

Publisher: University of Alabama Press

Pages: 360

$39.95 (Cloth)

Alston Fitts, originally from Tuscaloosa, has lived and worked in Selma since the early 1970s. A trained scholar with a PhD from the University of Chicago, Fitts is an excellent choice for this one-volume, richly illustrated history of Selma.