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!

“When Stars Rain Down”


“When Stars Rain Down” 

Author: Angela Jackson-Brown 

Publisher: Thomas Nelson 

Pages: 358 

Price: $17.00 (Paper) 

1930s Small-Town South Setting for Dramatic Novel 

“Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss”


“Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss” 

Author: Margaret Renkl 

Publisher: Milkweed Editions 

Pages: 248 

Price: $24.00 (Hardcover) 

Southern Memoir Weaves Together Stories of Nature and Family  

Madness of the Q


“Madness of the Q” 

Author: Gray Basnight 

Publisher: Down & Out Books 

Pages: 349 

Price: $18.95 

Satisfying Thriller Based on Discovery of Papyrus Fragments 

Shaking the Gates of Hell


“Shaking the Gates of Hell: A Search for Family and Truth in the Wake of the Civil Rights Movement” 

John Archibald 

Alfred A. Knopf 

304 pp. 

$28.00 (Hardcover) 

Pulitzer Prize–Winning Alabama Journalist Writes Family Memoir 

Alabamians have come to know journalist John Archibald as an outspoken, bold liberal commentator for “The Birmingham News” and His columns won him the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2018. 

“Surviving Savannah”


“Surviving Savannah”  

Author: Patti Callahan 

Publisher: Berkley  

Pages: 419 

$26.00 (Hardcover) 

Novel of Shipwreck and Grief Addresses the Big Questions 

Patti Callahan Henry had 13 “popular” books and then, perhaps to signify more serious content, published the terrifically successful “Becoming Mrs. Lewis” as Patti Callahan.  

Where I Come From: Stories from the Deep South


“Where I Come From: Stories from the Deep South” 

Author: Rick Bragg 

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf 

Pages: 231 

Price: $26.95 (Hardcover)  

Collection of Pieces on Wide-Ranging Southern Subjects Will Please Rick Bragg Fans 

Not everyone subscribes to “Southern Living” and “Garden and Gun” and enjoys Bragg’s short pieces there. 

“The South Never Plays Itself: A Film Buff’s Journey Through the South on Screen”


“The South Never Plays Itself: A Film Buff’s Journey Through the South on Screen” 

Author: Ben Beard 

Publisher: NewSouth Books 

Pages: 288 

Price: $28.95 (Cloth) 

A Comprehensive Look at Films Set in the South from “GWTW” to “Gump” 

“Playing the Devil”
Barnes & Noble


“Playing the Devil” 

Author: R. J. Lee 

Publisher: Kensington Books  

Pages: 291 

Price: $15.95 (paper) 

Bridge-based Mystery Creates Multiple Suspects for Murdered Malefactor 


“Words to Die For” 

Author: Lynn Kostoff 

Publisher: New Pulp Press (Reissue) 

Pages: 382 

Price: $15.95 (Paper) 

Dark Novel Explores the Ethics of Damage Control PR 

In the 1980s, Lynn Kostoff was an instructor at UA, then held the post of writer-in-residence at Francis Marion College in South Carolina for 32 years. Recently he retired. 

“His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, A Life”


“His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, A Life” 

Author: Jonathan Alter 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 

Pages: 800 

Price: $37.50 (Hardcover) 

Jimmy Carter Biography Reveals Complicated, Confident, Capable Former President 

“I’ll Be Here for You: Diary of a Town”


“I’ll Be Here for You: Diary of a Town” (linked stories) 

Author: Robert McKean 

Publisher: Livingston Press 

Pages: 218 

Price: $25.95 (Hardcover) 

Prize-Winning Collection Tells Compelling Stories of Small-Town Life 

“Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir”


“Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir” 

Author: Natasha Trethewey 

Publisher: Ecco New York 


Pages: 213 

Price: $27.99 (Hardcover) 

Former U.S. Poet Laureate’s Memoir of Murder, Grief, and Buried Emotions 

Natasha Trethewey, known primarily as a poet, won the Pulitzer Prize for her third volume of poetry, “Native Guard,” in 2006 and served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2012 to 2014. 

“The Wife Upstairs”


“The Wife Upstairs” 

Author: Rachel Hawkins 

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press  

Pages: 304 

Price: $27.99 (Hardcover) 

Classic British Novel Re-envisioned in Mountain Brook Is Full of Surprises 

Two is a coincidence. Three we might call a movement. 

In the last few years three Alabama novelists have struck out in new directions with really astonishing results. 

“Saving America’s Amazon: The Threat to Our Nation’s Most Biodiverse River System”


“Saving America’s Amazon: The Threat to Our Nation’s Most Biodiverse River System”

Author: Ben Raines 

Foreword by E. O. Wilson  

Publisher: NewSouth Books 

Pages: 127 

Price: $35.00 (Hardcover) 

“Atty At Law”


“Atty At Law” 

Author: Tim Lockette 

Publisher: Seven Stories Press 

Pages: 239 

Price: $18.95 (Hardcover) 

Tim Lockette of Jacksonville, Alabama is a journalist, not a lawyer as one might expect from the title. This is his debut novel and I truly hope the first of many. 

“Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret”


“Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret” 

Author: Catherine Coleman Flowers 

Foreword by Bryan Stevenson 

Publisher: The New Press 

Pages: 206 

Price: $25.99 (Hardcover) 

“Waste” is both a study of the horrific sanitation problems in rural Lowndes County and a memoir, the story of a very determined Alabama woman.  

“The Exiles” by
Christina Baker Kline

“The Exiles”

Author: Christina Baker Kline

Publisher: Custom House, William Morrow

Pages: 371

Price: $27.99 (Hardcover)

Kline’s Latest Tale Takes on Crime and Punishment in Australia 

Christina Baker Kline is, to begin with, a fine storyteller. “The Exiles” is that rarest of novels, a true page-turner. The action moves along; the reader feels himself to be in the hands of a professional.

Of Kline’s seven previous novels I had read and reviewed two and they are, praise be, not the same.

“Down Along with That Devil’s Bones: A Reckoning with Monuments, Memory, and the Legacy of White Supremacy”

“Down Along with That Devil’s Bones: A Reckoning with Monuments, Memory, and the Legacy of White Supremacy”

Author: Connor Towne O’Neill

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Chapel Hill


Pages: 272

Price: $26.95 (Hardcover)

Connor O’Neill, a recent graduate of the U of A MFA program, may be known to Alabamians for his work on the podcast “White Lies.” This is his first book and it is a solid and timely assessment of the history of Confederate monuments, focusing on those dedicated to Nathan Bedford Forrest.

“Like Light, Like Music”

“Like Light, Like Music”

Author: Lana K. W. Austin

Publisher: West Virginia University Press

Pages: 289

Price: $21.99 (Paperback)

“Exile’s Return to a Place of Violence and Prejudice But Also Unlikely Wonders”

Lana Austin teaches writing at UAH. “Like Light, Like Music” is her first novel and it is impressive and unusual.

“The Golfer’s Carol: A Novel”


“The Golfer’s Carol: A Novel” 

Author: Robert Bailey 

Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons 

Pages: 226 

Price: $24.00 (Hardcover) 

Despairing Father Visited by Ghosts of Golfers Past in Moving Novel  

The title of this novel, released just before Christmas, leads the reader in the direction of Charles Dickens’s classic—the full title of which is “A Christmas Carol, In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas.” 

“Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: A Novel”


“Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: A Novel” 

Author: Donald Jordan 

Publisher: Negative Capability Press 

Pages: 190 

Price: $18.99 (Paper) 

Novel Set in Columbus, Georgia Evokes a 1940s Childhood 

I probably shouldn’t say so, because it may start a cascade of similar letters, but a letter from the small press Negative Capability in Mobile persuaded me to have a look at this novel.  

“A Garland of Bones” by Carolyn Haines


“A Garland of Bones” 

Author: Carolyn Haines 

Publisher: Minotaur Books 

Pages: 323 

Price: $25.99 (Hardcover) 

“Festivities and Folly in Cozy Christmas Mystery” 

“A Garland of Bones” is Carolyn Haines’ twenty-second “Bones” book and I believe her first specifically Christmas-themed mystery. 

“The Killer’s Shadow”


“The Killer’s Shadow” 

Authors: John Douglas and Mark Olshaker

Publisher: Dey Street  

Pages: 304 

Price: $21.00 (paper) 

“Chilling True-Crime Story of Alabama-Born Serial Killer” 

After years of watching crime drama on television, we think we know what an FBI profiler does. 

A Good Life by William Cobb


“A Good Life: Book Two of The Lily Trilogy” 

Author: William Cobb 

Publisher: Livingston Press 

Pages: 180 

Price: $18.95 (Paper) 

“Academic Satire from the Late Alabama Novelist William Cobb” 

The World through the Dime Store Door: A Memoir


“The World through the Dime Store Door: A Memoir” 

Author: Aileen Kilgore Henderson 

Publisher: University of Alabama Press 

Pages: 135 

Price: $24.95 (Hardcover) 

Any discussion of Aileen Kilgore Henderson will begin with considering some amazing numbers. 

This new book, her eighth, is being published in Henderson’s ninety-ninth year. 

“You Ought To Do a Story About Me: Addiction, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Endless Quest for Redemption”


“You Ought To Do a Story About Me: Addiction, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Endless Quest for Redemption” 

Author: Ted Jackson 

Publisher: Dey St. / Harper Collins 


Pages: 329 

Price: $27.99 (Hardcover) 

“The Forever Wish of Middy Sweet: A Story of What Might Have Been”



"The Forever Wish of Middy Sweet: A Story of What Might Have Been” 

Author: Terry Kay 

Publisher: Mercer University Press 

Pages: 328 

Price: $24.00 (Hardback) 


“Lost Girls: Short Stories” 

Author: Ellen Birkett Morris 

Publisher: TouchPoint Press 

Pages: 132 

Price: $13.99 (Paper) 

“Lost Girls” is a debut volume of 17 stories, about 7 pages each, with each one an examination of a particular turning point or crisis in the life of a female protagonist. Some stories are of childhood. In others, the protagonist might be in her seventies. 

Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle



Author: Jill McCorkle 

Publisher: Algonquin Books 

Pages: 309 

Price: $26.95 (Hardcover) 

Many, many years ago on an elementary school field trip to the New York Museum of Natural History, I was stopped in my tracks by the Egyptian hieroglyphics. I had a little notebook and pencil and was copying them, thinking that I could somehow, later, figure out at least a part of what this writing from the past meant. 

Stay Hungry


“Stay Hungry” 

Author: Charles Gaines 

Publisher: Doubleday 

Pages: 244 

Price: Out of print: purchase used 

Charles Gaines is a professional, hardworking writer with about 19 books, several movie scripts and 300 magazine articles to his credit and although he lives north of Birmingham half the year-the other half in Nova Scotia—he is not seen much around Alabama literary world.