NOVEMBER 2020 BOOK CLUB TITLE ANNOUNCED!

Please join us on Tuesday, November 10 at 7 pm (Central Time) for our Book Club discussion of THE WOMAN’S HOUR: THE GREAT FIGHT TO WIN THE VOTE, by Elaine F. Weiss.

We host our Book Club meetings via toll free conference call.  All you need to participate is a telephone!

To register, please call the Talking Book Program at 1-800-252-9605 or email us at tbp.ral@tsl.texas.gov.

THE WOMAN’S HOUR is available by mail on digital cartridge.  It is also available to download on BARD.

Please indicate if you would like us to mail you the digital cartridge, or if you prefer to download it from BARD.

We ask that everyone remember the following:

  • Be courteous and respectful of differing opinions
  • Keep discussion points concise and relevant to the book
  • Keep external distractions to a minimum
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is WOMANS-HOUR-book-cover-1-678x1024.jpg

THE WOMAN’S HOUR: THE GREAT FIGHT TO WIN THE VOTE

Elaine F. Weiss

An account of the battle to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment when, in 1920, Tennessee was the last state whose assent was needed.  Discusses the women fighting for ratification and the opposing forces, including politicians, liquor companies, and railroad magnates.  Some strong language.  Commercial audiobook.  2018.  DB 90697; LB 09425

We look forward to having you join us on November 10!

MAY 2020 BOOK CLUB TITLE ANNOUNCED!

Please join us on Thursday, May 21 at 7 pm (Central Time) for our Book Club discussion of THE GREAT ALONE, by Kristin Hannah.

We host our Book Club meetings via toll free conference call.  All you need to participate is a telephone!

To RSVP, please call the Talking Book Program at 1-800-252-9605; or email us at tbp.ral@tsl.texas.gov.  RSVP preferred by April 30.

THE GREAT ALONE is available by mail in digital cartridge.  It is also available to download on BARD.

Please indicate if you would like us to mail you the digital cartridge, or if you prefer to download it from BARD.

We ask that everyone remember the following:

  • Keep external distractions to a minimum.
  • Be courteous.  Try not to interrupt or talk over others.
  • Give everyone a chance to talk.
  • Be respectful of differing opinions.
  • Keep discussion points concise and relevant to the book.
  • If you feel comfortable doing so, preface your comments with your first name.

THE GREAT ALONE

Kristin Hannah

1974. Former Vietnam prisoner of war Ernt Allbright moves his family, including wife Cora and thirteen-year-old daughter Leni, north to Alaska.  While the weather is temperate, the family survives on the generosity of locals.  But when winter descends, Ernt’s mental health fractures.  Unrated.  Commercial audiobook.  Bestseller.  2018.  DB 90090

We look forward to having you join us on Thursday, May 21!

NEW TEXAS TITLES AVAILABLE ON BARD!

An interesting mix of locally-produced Texas titles were recently added to the National Library Service’s BARD collection.

Fiction readers can ride alongside Texas Rangers, follow the exploits of Sheriff Dan Rhodes, sample an early Larry McMurtry novel, and discover Louisa May Alcott’s sequel to LITTLE WOMEN.

Nonfiction titles explore Lone Star history, from Texas’ earliest days through the Korean War and beyond.

BARD users can download these and other Texas titles at https://nlsbard.loc.gov/login/TX.

AMONG THE VALIANT; MEXICAN-AMERICANS IN WW II AND KOREA

Morin, Raul

This is a true, hard-hitting saga of the role of the Mexican-American soldiers in World War II and Korea.

DBC 17909

BOOK OF INSULTS, ANCIENT & MODERN: AN AMIABLE HISTORY OF INSULT, INVECTIVE, IMPRECATION & INCIVILITY (LITERARY, POLITICAL & HISTORICAL) HURLED THROUGH THE AGES & COMPILED AS A PUBLIC SERVICE

Selection of impudent, verbal abuse with information about the author and the circumstances surrounding each quip.  Contains nearly 1000 ranging from Arab and Irish curses to vintage Mencken, Oscar Wilde, and George Bernard Shaw.

DBC 17915

BURN DOWN THE GROUND: A MEMOIR

Crews, Kambri

In this memoir, a daughter looks back on her unconventional childhood with deaf parents in rural Texas while trying to reconcile it to her present life, one in which her father is serving a twenty-year sentence in a maximum security prison.  As a child, she wished that she had been born deaf so that she, too, could fully belong to the tight-knit deaf community that embraced her parents.  Strong language and some violence.  2012.

DBC 17914

CAMINO SENCILLO

Teresa, Mother, 1910-1997

La Madre Teresa conocida alrededor del mundo por su trabajo incansable a favor de los pobres, los enfermos, y los moribundos, ha dedicado su vida a darles esperanza a los sin esperanza en mas de ciento veinte paises.  “Un camino sencillo” es una guia espiritual singular tanto para los catolicos como los no catolicos: esta lleno de sabiduria y esperanza de la persona que nos ha otorgado el mejor modelo de amor en accion en nuestros dias.  En espanol.

DBC 17913

CASTLE GAP AND THE PECOS FRONTIER

Dearen, Patrick

The Pecos River country of West Texas lies between San Angelo and the Pecos River and runs west to the edge of the Davis Mountains.  Six stories preserve some of the history, legends and folklore of an area known for Comanche raids, historic cattle drives and hidden treasure—sought after by so many generations.

DBC 17923

DIRTY SALLY: A NOVEL

Simon, Michael, 1963-

Austin, Texas in 1988 is a boomtown gone bust, blistering in the heat of a six-month summer.  Someone murdered a prostitute and parts of her body are turning up all over town.  Detective Dan Reles, a displaced New Yorker with a chip on his shoulder and a dead partner on his conscience, is the cop on the case.  As he follows the trail of the corpse nicknamed “Dirty Sally,” he finds himself crossing the lines between crack-ridden ghettos and the watering holes of the moneyed elite – lines it doesn’t pay to cross.  Violence, strong language, and explicit descriptions of sex.  2004.  (Book #1 of “Dan Reles Mystery” series.)

DBC 17921

GHOST OF A CHANCE: SHERIFF DAN RHODES #10

Crider, Bill, 1941-2018

Sheriff Dan Rhodes of Blacklin County, Texas, knows that times may change, but people are still people, some good, some bad, and most things can be explained with a little common sense—even the ghost haunting his jail.  Could it be the same ghostly culprit looting the local cemetery?  When Ty Berry, the president of one of two feuding historical societies, is found shot dead in a freshly dug grave, Rhodes decides the crime is of a more earthly nature.  2001.

DBC 17919

GOOD WIVES: LITTLE WOMEN, PART II

Alcott, Louisa May, 1832-1888

Three years after the ending of “Little Women” we again take up the story of the March girls and discover what has happened to them in that time.  For grades 5-8 and older readers.

DBC 17924

HOUND-DOG MAN

Gipson, Fred, 1908-1973

This book, appealing to children and adults alike, tells the story of friendship between Cotton, a frontier boy undergoing the huntsman’s rites of passage, and Blackie (the hound-dog man), who is corralled by the love of a good woman.  For grades 6-9 and older readers.

DBC 17910

JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES

Stroup, Herbert Hewitt, 1916-

The author provides a first-hand study of the Jehovah’s Witnesses—their history, their leaders, their beliefs and their attitudes.

DBC 17927

LEAVING CHEYENNE

McMurtry, Larry

McMurtry’s second novel, written when he was only 27, and said to be “… the starkest, most truthful, most terrible and yet beautiful treatment …” of the Texas ranching country and one which will “… offend many who prefer the glamour treatment …” It is the story of a 40-year love affair between a woman and two men—one reckless, the other cautious and careful.  Some profanity and descriptions of sex.

DBC 17926

MURDER MOST FOWL: SHERIFF DAN RHODES #7

Crider, Bill, 1941-2018

Mystery set in a dusty, dying Texas county where emu rustling, beer drinking, and cockfighting are the major recreational activities.  A murder victim is found floating down a creek in a porta-potty by a bunch of drunks, but it’s no joke to Sheriff Dan Rhodes, who has not one but two bodies on his hands.  Lige Ward, a local fellow who’s lost his hardware business to the big new Wal-Mart is found in the toilet and a few days later the body of Ward’s wife, Rayjean, is discovered in a cockfighting ring.  Rhodes thought he knew what went on in his town, but he discovers that not only did the locals hold illegal cockfights, but darned if they haven’t been covering up a whole bunch of other nasty secrets.  Some violence, some strong language, and some descriptions of sex.  1994.

DBC 17918

PASTORAL

Shute, Nevil, 1899-1960

A wartime romance, between an English bomber pilot and a pretty WAAF officer.  The men and women of the Royal Air Force fought daily for their lives and their country, while preserving the decencies and oddities of English country life on the rural airfields where they were based.

DBC 17912

PECKER’S REVENGE AND OTHER STORIES FROM THE FRONTIER’S EDGE

Van Pelt, Lori, 1961-

This is a collection of fourteen historical short stories featuring a variety of characters including miners, rodeo riders, railroad construction workers, young settlers, and others struggling with the conflicts and hazards of the nineteenth-century frontier.

DBC 17931

PISTOLS FOR TWO, AND OTHER STORIES

Heyer, Georgette, 1902-1974

These eleven Regency short stories by Georgette Heyer include: “Pistols for Two,” “A Clandestine Affair,” “Bath Miss,” “Pink Domino,” “A Husband for Fanny,” “To Have the Honour,” “Night at the Inn,” “The Duel,” “Hazard,” “Snowdrift,” and “Full Moon.” These stories are about affairs of honour between bucks and blades, rakes and rascals; and affairs of the heart between heirs and orphans and beauties and bachelors.

DBC 17922

RANGERS’ REVENGE

Miller, Jim, 1945-

They were once members of Texas’ proudest legion—Texas Rangers, men willing to fight and die to bring justice to the harsh frontier.  Will Carston lived the Ranger creed as he staked out his ranch and defended a raw new town.  And the tough Ranger spirit helped his hard-fisted sons survive the Civil War and left them a legacy they could neither deny nor forget.  Strong language and some violence.  (Book #1 of “Ex-Rangers” series.)

DBC 17934

RED, WHITE, AND BLUE MURDER: SHERIFF DAN RHODES #12

Crider, Bill, 1941-2018

County commissioners in Texas wield extraordinary influence, controlling the purse strings for all roads and public works.  Even in rural Blacklin County, that’s serious money.  Grat Bilson was a county commissioner, at least until someone whacked him over the head and set him on fire in his isolated hunting cabin.  Blacklin County Sheriff Dan Rhodes knows that where murder’s concerned, it’s either love or money.  Bilson’s roving wife has an alibi, which turns the focus to money, and sure enough, Rhodes quickly finds something rotten in the world of Blacklin’s county commissioners.  Some strong language.  2003.

DBC 17920

REVOLUTION REMEMBERED: THE MEMOIRS AND SELECTED CORRESPONDENCE OF JUAN N. SEGUIN

Seguín, Juan Nepomuceno, 1806-1890

Edited by Jesús F. de la Teja

Here is a wealth of information for serious historians as well as a readable, informative account for anyone interested in early Texas history and the influence of the Mexicans who settled in Texas generations before the Americans.  Violence.

DBC 17917

WILD COW TALES

Green, Ben K.

In thirteen stories full of rope burns and brush scratches the author of “Horse Tradin’” tells of the days when he made a speciality of catching wild cows that roundups couldn’t corral.  1969.

DBC 17911

NEW TEXAS TITLES AVAILABLE ON BARD!

The Texas Talking Book Program is justifiably proud its recording studio in Austin.

The quality of the audio books produced by our studio is evident in the number of their titles that are available to download on the National Library Service’s BARD (Braille and Recording Download) service.  Patrons throughout the United States are able to enjoy these books.

The following six Texas titles were recently added to the BARD collection.  Give them a listen!

ARGONAUTAS DE LA SELVA: LOS DESCUBRIDORES DEL AMAZONAS

Benites Vinueza, Leopoldo

More than a historical biography, the book attempts to give life to a character, an adventure, and an era.  Novel and drama, and yet true and rigorously documented history, it relives the life of one of the greatest captains of the era of conquest and one of the most singular adventures in history: the life of Don Francisco de Orellana and the adventure of the discovery of the Amazon River.  Spanish language.

DBC 17905

AROUND THE WORLD WITH LBJ: MY WILD RIDE AS AIR FORCE ONE PILOT, WHITE HOUSE AIDE, AND PERSONAL CONFIDANT

Cross, James U. (James Underwood)

LBJ’s personal pilot–one of the few to fly Air Force One and simultaneously hold a full-time job in the White House–offers vivid recollections of the thirty-sixth president.  Some strong language.

DBC 17907

DUEL OF EAGLES: THE MEXICAN AND U.S. FIGHT FOR THE ALAMO

Long, Jeff

In a comprehensive history that removes the myths from the battle for Texas, the author gives us the true story of what led to the Alamo and what followed it by examining accounts from both sides.

DBC 17893

HAUNTED TEXAS: FAMOUS PHANTOMS, SINISTER SITES, AND LINGERING LEGENDS

Williams, Scott Allen

Texas history buffs and travelers have an eerie need for this book, which offers an unusual twist to seeing the sights in the Lone Star state.  Organized by region–Gulf Coast, Rio Grande Valley, South Texas, Central Texas, North Texas, and West Texas—this book is the complete guide for both hardcore ghost hunters and more earthly tourists seeking to add some spirited fun to their travels.

DBC 17908

JESS SWEETEN, TEXAS LAWMAN

Lindquist, Allan Sigvard

Known as the “Law East of the Trinity,” Jess Sweeten served as sheriff between 1929 and 1954, an era when violence was the order of the day.

DBC 17906

NOCHEBUENA.  EL PAÑO DE LA VERÓNICA

Lagerlöf, Selma

The author recalls two stories told by her grandmother, one short tale on the birth of Christ and a longer story concerning Veronica’s veil. Spanish language. For grades 4-7.

DBC 17903

DECEMBER 2019 BOOK CLUB TITLE ANNOUNCED!

Please join us on Tuesday, December 3 at 7 pm (Central Time) for our Book Club discussion of MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON, by Elizabeth Strout.

We host our Book Club meetings via toll free conference call.  All you need to participate is a telephone!

To RSVP, please call the Talking Book Program at 1-800-52-9605; or email us at tbp.ral@tsl.texas.gov.  RSVP preferred by November 12.)

MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON is available by mail in digital cartridge.  It is also available to download on BARD.

Please indicate if you would like us to mail you the digital cartridge, or if you prefer to download it from BARD.

We ask that everyone remember the following:

  • Keep external distractions to a minimum
  • Be courteous.  Try not to interrupt or talk over others.
  • Give everyone a chance to talk.
  • Be respectful of differing opinions.
  • Keep discussion points concise and relevant to the book.
  • If you feel comfortable doing so, preface your comments with your first name.

My NAME IS LUCY BARTON

Elizabeth Strout

In the hospital, recovering from what should have been a simple operation, Lucy Barton gets a visit from her estranged mother.  While her mother shares gossip from home, Lucy thinks back on her past and their difficult relationship.  Unrated.  Commercial audiobook.  2016.  DB 83379; BR 21890; LB 08482


We look forward to having you join us on Tuesday, December 3!


JULY 2019 BOOK CLUB TITLE ANNOUNCED!

Please join us on Tuesday, July 23 at 7 pm (Central Time) for our Book Club discussion of ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE, by Gail Honeyman.

We host our Book Club meetings via toll free conference call.  All you need to participate is a telephone!

To RSVP, please call the Talking Book Program at 1-800-252-9605; or email us at tbp.ral@tsl.texas.gov.  RSVP preferred by July 2.

ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE is available by mail in digital cartridge.  It is also available to download on BARD.

Please indicate if you would like us to mail you the digital cartridge, or if you prefer to download it from BARD.

We request that everyone remember the following:

  • Keep external distractions to a minimum.
  • Be courteous.  Try not to interrupt or talk over others.
  • Give everyone a chance to talk.
  • Be respectful of differing opinions.
  • Keep discussion points concise and relevant to the book.
  • If you feel comfortable doing so, preface your comments with your first name.

ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE

Gail Honeyman

Socially awkward and perpetually cranky, Eleanor works a boring office job and avoids dealing with other people whenever possible.  She begins to open up after she develops a crush on a local musician and also becomes friendly with Raymond, the new IT guy.  Strong language.  Commercial audiobook.  2017.  DB 87829; LB 09081.

We look forward to having you join us on Tuesday, July 23!

Staff Pick — John — THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US: A MEMOIR, by Reyna Grande, DB 85006

National Hispanic Heritage Month was September 15-October 15.  It recognizes the contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.  One such person is author Reyna Grande, who describes her tumultuous journey from Mexican immigrant to American citizen in THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US: A MEMOIR.

Grande tells of being left behind in Iguala, Mexico by her father when he leaves for the United States, or El Otro Lado.  Later, her mother follows him to “The Other Side.”  Reyna and her older siblings, Mago and Carlos, are left in the care of their neglectful and mean-spirited paternal grandmother.

Three years later, Reyna, Mago, and Carlos cross the border with their father and join him in Los Angeles.  Years of hardship and resiliency follow.  At turns aspirational and callous, their father pushes his children to succeed in their new country, and Reyna becomes the first person in her family to graduate from college.

Flavored with a sprinkling of Spanish words and phrases, this is a direct, no-frills memoir.  Grande doesn’t diminish or romanticize the poverty she endures in Mexico, describing bellies bloated with roundworms and scorpions crawling the walls of her family’s shack.

Nor does she shy away from detailing the emotional and physical abuse they suffer at the hands of their alcoholic father.  Grande has a profoundly complicated relationship with her father, one that continues to evolve even when he’s on his deathbed.

Grande’s father told his children that “just because we’re illegal doesn’t mean we can’t dream.”  Her journey from Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico to Santa Cruz and beyond, reveals the truth behind those words.

What makes THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US memorable is the unrelenting bond between Reyna and her siblings.  They refuse to let any distance come between them.

 

NLS Annotation: The author recounts her childhood, when her father left her, and her siblings, and her mother behind in Mexico to cross the United States’ border.  Years later he summons his wife to join him, but Reyna and her siblings are left behind with their stern grandmother.  Some violence.  2012.

LA DISTANCIA ENTRE NOSOTROS (DB 79963) is the Spanish language version.

Meet author Reyna Grande at www.reynagrane.com.

Enjoy an October 2015 BookTV interview with Reyna Grande: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Rv-hP6hflU.

If you’d like to read other accounts of migration from Mexico and other Latin American countries, sample these titles:

WAITING FOR SNOW IN HAVANA: CONFESSIONS OF A CUBAN BOY, by Carlos Eire (DB 57745), offers a starkly different perspective on the immigrant experience.  Born in privilege in Cuba, Eire and his brother fled Cuba when Fidel Castro came to power.  However, a child’s longing for family left behind crosses all cultural and socio-economic lines.

Travel THE DEVIL’S HIGHWAY: A TRUE STORY, by Luis Alberto Urrea (DI 03701), and enter the “complicated, dangerous world of the border.”

ENRIQUE’S JOURNEY (DB 62628), by Sonia Nazario, recounts a young Honduran boy’s harrowing journey to rejoin his mother in America.  (TRAVESIA DE ENRIQUE, DB 76963).

SPARE PARTS (BR 20681 / DB 80725) is the astonishing story of four undocumented Mexican immigrants in Arizona who won the 2004 National Underwater Robotics Competition.

The dangers of life—and travel—in Mexico are explored by Richard Grant in GOD’S MIDDLE FINGER: INTO THE LAWLESS HEART OF THE SIERRA MADRE, DB 67469.

Grande was born in Iguala, Mexico, which made international headlines in 2014 when 43 male college students were kidnapped and murdered.  Although the kidnapping occurred some 30 years after Grande left Iguala, it speaks to the danger and desperation the drives people to “El Otro Lado.”

The Los Angeles Times revisits the mystery of the 2014 Iguala mass kidnapping: http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-fg-mexico-ayotzinapa-20160926-snap-story.html.

Learn more about the notorious Iguala mass kidnapping: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Iguala_mass_kidnapping.

 

Staff Pick — John — THAT TERRIBLE TEXAS WEATHER: TALES OF STORMS, DROUGHT, DESTRUCTION, AND PERSEVERANCE, by Johnny D. Boggs, DT 07156

It’s been said that Texas has four seasons: drought, flood, blizzard, and twister.

There’s some truth in that.  But like root canals and head cheese, bad weather is something I’d rather read about than experience.

That’s the beauty of Johnny D. Boggs’ THAT TERRIBLE TEXAS WEATHER: TALES OF STORMS, DROUGHT, DESTRUCTION, AND PERSEVERANCE (DT 07156).  Boggs puts the reader in the middle of stifling droughts, deadly floods, and fearsome storms—but firmly out of harm’s way.  Just the way I like it.

Boggs shares true-life stories of calamitous Texas weather, from the 1882 Ben Ficklin flood and the blizzard of 1886 to the heartbreaking 1987 Saragosa tornado.  Weathering frigid blue northers and dodging softball-sized hail, Boggs highlights unsung Texans who meet death and devastation with courage and heroism.

THAT TERRIBLE TEXAS WEATHER is spiked with delicious nuggets of Texas history.  We meet the utopian namesakes of Reunion Tower in Dallas.  We learn why San Angelo, not Santa Angela, is the seat of Tom Green county.  And we discover the blessings—and the curses—of drift fences.  Boggs even explores the U. S Department of Agriculture’s “concussive” 1891 rainmaking experiment.

Boggs writes award-winning western novels, but he cut his teeth as a sportswriter in Dallas and Fort Worth.  His experience as a reporter is evident in his tight writing and eye for telling detail.  Boggs also displays a novelist’s gift for infusing his narrative with incisive slivers of humanity.

An undercurrent that flows through THAT TERRIBLE TEXAS WEATHER is the certainty that no matter how dire the circumstances, Texans don’t lose faith in the future.  They find the resilience and grit to rebuild and recover.  Resilience and grit are still core Texan attributes.  Even in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Texans continue to persevere despite that terrible Texas weather.

NLS Annotation:  Through a collection of newspaper reports and eyewitness accounts of victims caught up in some of the most devastating weather Texas has ever produced, this is a sampler of Texas weather through the years.  From the hurricanes of Indianola and Galveston to the tornado at Wichita Falls to the drought and heat wave of 1998, these are the stories of the people who perished and the people who endured, and of their Texas-sized courage and heroism.  Contains some violence.

A sampling of Johnny Boggs’ western fiction includes HARD WINTER: A WESTERN STORY (DB 72627); ONCE THEY WORE THE GRAY (DB 80003); SPARK ON THE PRAIRIE: A GUNS AND GAVEL NOVEL (DB 64703); and PURGATOIRE (DB 73519).

More information about author Johnny D. Boggs is at: http://www.johnnydboggs.com/

A classic account of terrible Texas weather is THE TIME IT NEVER RAINED (DB 49217), by the incomparable Elmer Kelton.  Although a work of fiction, it’s rooted in Kelton’s lived experiences during the 1950s drought.  (Kelton makes cameo appearances in THAT TERRIBLE TEXAS WEATHER.)

ISAAC’S STORM: A MAN, A TIME, AND THE DEADLIEST HURRICANE IN HISTORY (DB 48811), by Erik Larson, is a riveting account of the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900.

Larson discusses ISAAC’S STORM at the 1999 Texas Book Festival: https://www.c-span.org/video/?153573-1/isaacs-storm.

Al Roker of “The Today Show” offers a fresh look the Galveston Hurricane in THE STORM OF THE CENTURY: TRAGEDY, HEROISM, SURVIVAL, AND THE EPIC TRUE STORY OF AMERICA’S DEADLIEST NATURAL DISASTER: THE GREAT GULF HURRICANE OF 1900 (DB 85045).

Texas figures prominently in THE WORST HARD TIME: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THOSE WHO SURVIVED THE GREAT AMERICAN DUST BOWL (DR 01742), by Timothy Egan.

Dig deeper into the American Dust Bowl with author Egan: https://www.c-span.org/video/?200420-1/the-worst-hard-time.

Experience “Surviving the Dust Bowl”: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/dustbowl/

WHAT STANDS IN A STORM: THREE DAYS IN THE WORST SUPERSTORM TO HIT THE SOUTH’S TORNADO ALLEY (DB 83439) is a nonfiction weather thriller.  Author Kim Cross chronicles the swatch of 757 tornadoes that ravaged the South in April 2011.

Staff Pick — John — A WALK IN THE WOODS: REDISCOVERING AMERICA ON THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL, by Bill Bryson, DB 46519

I recently spent a week in northern Minnesota.  When I wasn’t not-catching fish, listening to loons, or feeding the mosquitoes, I spent quite a bit of time walking in the woods.  It was wonderful.  Breathing air that didn’t taste like car exhaust was different, but I got used to it.

Spending time in nature—whether walking in the woods, puttering in the backyard, or strolling in a park—is good for the body.  And the mind.  And the soul.  Being outdoors activates what’s known as the “happiness effect.”

Even a 15-minute walk in the woods—or on the prairie—helps you relax and offers a much-needed break from the chaos and noise of the “real” world.  John Muir got it right when he said, “of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”

Travel writer Bill Bryson takes Muir at his word.  Having hiked a good bit of England, Bryson stumbles upon an outcropping of the Appalachian Trail (AT) near his home in New Hampshire and decides to tackle “the granddaddy of long hikes.”

Stephen Katz, a ne’er-do-well friend from Des Moines, volunteers to accompany Bryson, and the “waddlesome” duo hit the trail at Springer Mountain, Georgia, intent on hiking the Trail’s rugged 2,190 miles to Mount Katahdin, Maine.

it’s immediately clear that they have no business on the AT.  Woefully unprepared for its rigors, they come to their senses in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and abandon the lunacy of hiking the entire Trail.  They hopscotch their way via cab and rental car to Virginia, where they hike a more agreeable stretch of the Trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains, before suspending their odyssey.

Smitten with the AT, Bryson continues hiking abbreviated stretches of it on his own.  He samples the Trail in Pennsylvania (home of the meanest rattlesnakes on the AT), climbs Kittatinny Mountain, and survives the deceptively deadly slopes of Mount Washington.

Months later, Bryson and Katz resume hiking the AT in the notorious Hundred-Mile Wilderness of Maine.  Katz gets hopelessly lost, and they mercifully decide to call it a hike.  Later, mellowed by cream soda, they conclude that although they didn’t hike the Appalachian Trail, they DID hike the Appalachian Trail.

By turns whimsical, scholarly, cantankerous, and philosophical, Bryson paints a thoughtful portrait of the Appalachian Trail, recounting its curious history and uncertain future.  He mourns the passing of the “massively graceful” American chestnut and marvels at the astounding biological richness of the Great Smoky Mountains.  Bryson even knits together earthquakes, Alaskan glaciers, and swimming pools in Texas.

Like the best guides, Bryson leads us on surprising and offbeat detours.  We glimpse Stonewall Jackson, meet house proud loons, and explore the strange, sad town of Centralia, PA.  We also meet some of the Trail’s abundant wildlife, from hellbender salamanders to “dopily unassuming” moose.

Zoologist Desmond Morris observed that “the city is not a concrete jungle, it is a human zoo.”  A WALK IN THE WOODS is an invitation to escape that zoo, and Bryson is a worthy companion.  Just don’t get him started on cabbies in Gatlinburg, TN.

 

NLS Annotation: Bryson relates the adventures and misadventures of two totally unfit hikers as he and longtime friend Stephen Katz traverse the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail.  Returning from more than twenty years in Britain, he set out to rediscover his homeland, but the two men find themselves awed by the terrain and stymied by the unfamiliar local culture.  Bestseller.  Some strong language.  1998.

For information about the 2015 movie adaptation, “A Walk in the Woods,” starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1178665/?ref_=fn_al_tt_3

Hike back in time and enjoy a June 1998 book talk by Bill Bryson at Olsson’s Books and Records in Washington, DC: https://www.c-span.org/video/?105484-1/walk-woods

An amazing and altogether different real-life tale of hiking the Appalachian Trail is GRANDMA GATEWOOD’S WALK: THE INSPIRING STORY OF THE WOMAN WHO SAVED THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL, by Ben Montgomery:

Biography of Emma Gatewood (1887-1973), who left her family in Ohio in May 1955, saying only that she was going for a walk.  Four months later she completed a solo hike of the Appalachian Trail, from south to north—the first woman to do so.  Details her trip and subsequent celebrity.  2014.  BR 21504 / DB 80502

Tom Ryan covers heartwarming New England terrain in FOLLOWING ATTICUS: FORTY-EIGHT HIGH PEAKS, ONE LITTLE DOG, AND AN EXTRAORDINARY FRIENDSHIP (DB 74367).

The Appalachian Trail’s treacherous West Coast cousin is the star of WILD: FROM LOST TO FOUND ON THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL, by Cheryl Strayed.  (DB 80502).

 

Staff Pick — John — JUNCTION BOYS: HOW TEN DAYS IN HELL WITH BEAR BRYANT FORGED A CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM, by Jim Dent, DT 07156

Are you ready for some Football?

Of course, you are.  The only thing bigger than Football in Texas is Texas itself.

Football season is finally here.  Fans have lots of options when it comes to reading about gridiron glory.  A hard-nosed, old-school book about Football and Texas is JUNCTION BOYS: HOW TEN DAYS IN HELL WITH BEAR BRYANT FORGED A CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM, by Jim Dent.

Hired in 1954 to revive Texas A&M’s moribund football program, Paul “Bear” Bryant decided to “separate the quitters from the keepers.”  In the midst of an historic drought, Bryant took 115 Aggie football players to the Hill Country town of Junction for preseason training camp.  10 days later, only 35 players remained.

Brutal doesn’t being to describe what the players endured.  The practice “field” was a rock-strewn, goathead-encrusted patch of sunbaked dirt.  Temperatures soared well beyond 100°, but Bryant forbade water breaks.  One player nearly died of heatstroke.

After returning to College Station, the survivors battled through a 1-9 season. Two years later, they were undefeated Southwest Conference champions.  Bryant not only revived the football program, he may have saved the University itself.

After the 1957 season, Bryant left Texas A&M and returned to his alma mater, the University of Alabama.  The rest is history.  Bryant won six National Championships at Alabama and is considered the greatest college football coach of all time.

But despite all those glorious Crimson Tide championship teams, that gritty 1954 Texas A&M squad was his favorite.  Bear loved the “Junction Boys.”

With cameo appearances by Bonnie & Clyde,the Chicken Ranch, Elvis Presley, and a hay bale stuffed with $10,000 in hundred-dollar bills, JUNCTION BOYS: HOW TEN DAYS IN HELL WITH BEAR BRYANT FORGED A CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM is a treasure for college football fans and Texas History buffs alike.

NLS Annotation: The story of Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant’s legendary training camp in 1954 in the small town of Junction, Texas. In a move that many consider the salvation of the Texas A&M football program, Coach Bryant put 115 players through the most grueling practices ever imagined. Only a handful of players survived the entire ten days, but they turned a floundering football team into one of the nation’s best. Strong language.  1999.

If you view football through burnt orange glasses and prefer a 24-letter alphabet (no A&M, please), turn your Eyes of Texas toward THE DARRELL ROYAL STORY (DT 02830) by Jimmy Banks; or BLEEDING ORANGE: TROOULBE AND TRIUMOH DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS (DT  5515), by John Maher.  Another amazing story of Texans and football is TWELVE MIGHTY ORPHANS: The Inspiring True Story of the Mighty Mites Who Ruled Texas Football (DT 07025), also by Jim Dent.

Elmer Kelton’s novel, THE TIME IT NEVER RAINED (DB 49217; LB 03803), is a superb account of the of the 1950s drought that ravaged west Texas.

Catch a peek of the 2002 television movie, “The Junction Boys,” starring Tom Berenger as Bear Bryant, here: http://www.espn.com/eoe/junctionboys/index.html.