The folks from Thank You Books will be there too, selling Flynt’s book so you can walk out with a signed copy as well as get to hear from one of Alabama’s best historians and storytellers. Flynt’s books are always some of the best-researched and poignant.
Wayne Flynt and Harper Lee were longtime friends, so he knows the very private novelist well enough to write a book like this. It sounds like most of the stories and reflections come from his visiting Lee during the last years of her life (she died in 2016). No doubt Flynt has some unique insights to share from all of his discussions with Lee.
Afternoons with Harper Lee is published by New South Books which was recently acquired by the University of Georgia Press. While it’s sad that Alabama lost a publisher it is great to see that they have landed somewhere as srong as the UGA Press program is.
I love this praise quote that is inside the book:
“Wayne Flynt is the great Talmudic scholar of Alabama, and this vivid, affecting deconstruction of his friendship with Harper Lee through the history that produced them both is a huge reward and pleasure for those of us who understand that, unaccountably, all roads seem to lead to our grand and terrifying state.” – Diane McWhorter, author of Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama–The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution
Things are still a tad chilly, wet, and gray, but I’ve bagged a few great reads at the start of 2023. Here are a few short reviews as I’d love the chance to chat with folks about any of these books.
River of the Gods by Candice Millard.
This book is a straight-up history of the search for the source of the Grey Nile portion of the Nile River. River of the Gods is one of those books I would never have picked up had it not been selected as a book club pick. In less skilled hands (which many history books suffer under), this would have been bone dry and b-o-r-I-n-g. Still, Millard did a masterful job weaving in the characters, the political and social climate of the times, and the expeditionary journeys. It was time well spent. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.
This Isn’t Going to End Well: the True Story of a Man I Thought I Knew by Daniel Wallace.
Nothing I’ve read online about this book has done this one justice. Coming out in April 11, 2023, Wallace’s book is a unique first-hand account and dive into what it means when we find out those we love, learn from, and share life with, are flawed and have real struggles of their own.
Up front, Wallace shares that his brother-in-law William Nealy committed suicide. The rest of the book explores the lives, the stories, and the conditions that were to this tragic event. Much of This Isn’t Going to End Well is set in Birmingham, AL. Nealy was an artist, author, handyman, paddling instructor, and adrenaline junkie. He was a master of everything he attempted. Memoirs are pretty standard. People using primary source materials in writing about others is pretty standard.
But, finding a memoir that tackles some of the most challenging topics, filled with the primary source material, plus having first-hand knowledge of the subject AND being in the skilled wordsmith-y hands of an author like Daniel Wallace is unheard of.
This book is a fast read. It hits you in the head and the heart. Sometimes at the same time. Throughout this rollercoaster the book shows off some of Nealy’s more famous as well as lesser known comic illustrations.
This book is for you if you like Hollywood memoirs about larger-than-life folks. If you enjoyed Big Fish, this book is for you. This book is for you if you enjoy reading about creative people, art, and the creative process. If you now live in or lived in Birmingham, AL, in the 1980s-2000s, this book should be required reading.
It’s my first 5-star read of 2023, and I can’t wait to be able to talk with other local folks about this book.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
Zevin’s newest novel Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrowwas an entertaining read. The cover is excellent, and the story lives up to the hype. The story follows some college buddies who code a video game together and build a gaming company. Zevin (The Storied Life of AJ Fickry) creates some characters here that are so fun to follow. Their conversations are sincere, and with some much love and closeness, their losses feel natural to the reader as well. The whole story is dripping with techie talk and retro video game references. So all that was fun for someone my age.
Today is Clean Out Your Bookcase Day. It’s a holiday that I’ve never heard of, but fully support the idea. In fact, I’d probably sign a petition to make it a week long observance.
Don’t get me wrong. I love having stuffed shelves. They’re way more interesting and have a nice “lived in” kind of feel. Displaying art and other items alongside your books is always interesting too. Though I imagine many books are little art pieces themselves, if we’d just display them face out.
I spent some time culling a case of its older books (bindings that may need some attention, foxing that needs to be addressed, etc.). Overall, it was worth it. Plus, there was the added bonus of finding a copy of Mathew Crawford’s The World Beyond Your Head, which I had forgotten about and will pair nicely as a follow up toStolen Focus by Johann Hari, which I just started reading.
Though I have to wonder… does one’s Clean Out Your Bookcase Day efforts count if all the extra books just wind up stacked on the floor?
Maybe that’s the week-long holiday I need – “National Pick Up All The Book Piles on the Floor Week”… thank you for stopping by and reading… any chance you took a moment to straighten a shelf or two today?
I finally made it by Little Professor – Pepper Place, back just before Christmas. This is an offshoot of Homewood, AL’s longstanding bookstore – Little Professor Book Center. The new location is tucked around the corner from the main parking lot and is a fantastic spot. The location is walkable from a number of shops and restaurants all the while maintaining a “hidden shop” feeling even with its high ceilings and big bright windows.
They are located at: 2807 2nd Ave S, Suite B Birmingham, AL 3523
Their hours are: Everyday 8:00am – 3:00pm
The selection is on par with the Homewood location, but the sidelines and gift-y items, at the Pepper Place location, are a bit different. There were plenty of shelves full of new titles and plenty of empty shelves ready to be filled.
Here are a few photos that I took of the bookshop. If you’re in the area, it’s worth swinging by to see what they have in your area of interest.