In The Waves: My Quest to Solve the Mystery of a Civil War Submarine by Rachel Lance (Dutton Books)
“This past July, I visited the Hunley Museum (in North Charleston, SC, and was later shocked (pun intended!) that Rachel Lance’s blast trauma theory of what killed the men inside the CSS H. L. Hunley was not the leading cause of death discussed in the exhibit. The crank-powered submarine sunk the USS Housatonic, but she herself was also sunk by the force of the blast on the cold night of February 17, 1964. This book delves into what a scientist has to go through in order to establish a theory; it’s so fascinating to learn about someone else’s work life and obsession for the truth,” writes Board member Alice Osborn.
“I’m loving Anne K. Yoder’s “scathing speculative debut” (Publisher’s Weekly), The Enhancers (Meekling Press) which is a sort of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets Harrison Bergeron, but for internet gals. It deftly critiques achievement culture (which I think all millennials are reeling from). And also, shout out to a book that’s set in Greenville, North Carolina–Kristine Langley Mahler’s essay collection, Curing Season: Artifacts (WVU Press), which is a book that feels like a childhood rock collection, and experimentally maps how to fit oneself between the hard places of life (in this instance, the South),” writes Board Secretary Cassie Mannes Murray.
Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes by Ronni Lundy (Clarkson Potter Publishers)
Executive Director Ed Southern writes: A few weeks ago, at the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival in Burnsville, our board member Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle invited me along to dinner with a few local folks she knew. We were well into a lively conversation when I realized that the pleasant woman who’d introduced herself only as Ronni was in fact Ronni Lundy, the legendary food writer and Appalachian advocate who now owns and runs Plott Hound Books just off the Burnsville town square.
The rest of the conversation was great fun but ultimately disappointing: Ronni kept talking to me about sports, when I wanted to talk to her about food. (Sometimes you don’t want to meet your heroes because they turn out to be too damn nice.) So before I left town the next day I went by her store and bought a copy of Ronni’s Victuals, named the James Beard Foundation Book of the Year after its 2016 release.
I’m a competent but very limited cook, and I’m trying to learn to cook more, better. Victuals, though, is as much a travelogue, and a memoir, and a history, and a social commentary, as it is a cookbook. I’m far more interested in reading the stories Ronni tells than in cooking the recipes she offers, but I’ll get to those recipes sooner or later, I’m sure.
All That She Carried by Tiya Miles (Random House Trade)
“All That She Carried by Tiya Miles is a remarkable account of the life of an enslaved family as ‘told’ by a small piece of material culture—a burlap sack. What a brilliant treatment by a creative writer and diligent historian,” writes Board member Georgann Eubanks.
Calling for A Blanket Dance by Oscar Hokeah (Algonquin Books)
“There’s so much to love about this debut novel. Hokeah writes about life with real rawness and vulnerability. He writes about what it is like to be working poor; the beautiful (and challenging) complexities of indigenous identity. One mark of excellent writing is how the prose can disorient the reader (in a good way). I finished this book in less than a day and couldn’t stop thinking about it. His voice is urgent, necessary, and one to watch,” writes Membership Coordinator Deonna Kelli Sayed.
The Year of the Horses: A Memoir by Courtney Maum (Tin House)
“The Year of the Horses had a profound effect on me as a person and a writer. I’m grateful for Maum’s honesty as well as her humor. I’m working on a novel set in rural Louisiana where my family is from. The protagonist Lyla is struggling with understanding what her life ambitions are, who she is in this world, and how to process her emotions instead of running away from them. Like most writers, Lyla’s internal struggles, in part, reflect my own. I rode horses competitively for fifteen years and desperately miss it. Maum’s memoir ignites my horse girl love again. Reminding me that when we turn to horses, they give us room to learn more about ourselves. We can’t hide any feeling we’ve left unprocessed in our bodies when we work with a horse. Returning to a sport that uplifts her spirit again. Courtney Maum’s memoir is a spark, a tender look into self-forgiveness, the animals we love, and how we heal through their guidance,” writes Communications Director Katherine O’Hara