Arts & Culture

August Reading List

New books out this month, including Appalachian noir, a definitive sports biography, a coastal mystery, and a cookbook that’s quite cheesy
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Arthur Ashe: A Life, by Raymond Arsenault

Arthur Ashe was born in Richmond, Virginia, in 1943 and grew up to become the Jackie Robinson of men’s tennis. At age 49, he died from complications related to AIDS (he contracted HIV from a blood transfusion after heart surgery). This giant, deeply reported tome—by a professor of Southern History at the University of South Florida—is the first comprehensive biography of the athlete and influential civil rights activist.

Travels with Foxfire: Stories of People, Passions, and Practices from Southern Appalachia, by Phil Hudgins, Jessica Phillips

Say Foxfire! and we’re there. A new volume in the classic series of Appalachian storytelling, outdoors tips, and collected wisdom, this paperback original expands the usual Foxfire stomping grounds of the north Georgia mountains to the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

The Carrying: Poems, by Ada Limón

Lyrical, tender, and knowing—Kentucky-based author Ada Limón’s poetry connects the personal and the universal: a woman struggling with infertility; a daughter caring for her family. Above it all, hope alights. “Fine then, / I’ll take it,” she writes. “I’ll take it all.”

Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island, by Earl Swift

A “low-lying Virginia island, roughly the size of New York’s Central Park, is likely to be America’s first climate-change casualty—‘the first to go,’ as Earl Swift writes in Chesapeake Requiem, a deep dive into the past, present, and narrowing future of Tangier.” Read Jonathan Miles’s entire review here.

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America, by Beth Macy
With both compassion and no-bull reporting, Roanoke, Virginia–based journalist Beth Macy charts America’s current opioid crisis. Dopesick focuses on the I–81 corridor, from East Tennessee through Virginia—the deepest vein of the lethal heroin epidemic that painkillers, “the new moonshine in rural America,” wrought.

Louisiana Trail Riders, by Jeremiah Ariaz

Through stunning black and white photography, Louisiana lensman Jeremiah Ariaz captures the joy and athleticism of cowboys and cowgirls whose African American Trail Riding Clubs are deeply rooted in Creole history.

The Fighters, by C. J. Chivers

One of the most heralded living journalists today, Pulitzer Prize winner (and G&G contributor) C. J. Chivers uses his experiences as a Marine Corps veteran and combat reporter to get right to the grit of the lives of six soldiers—a Special Forces sergeant, an infantry officer, a scout helicopter pilot, a corpsman, a fighter pilot, and a grunt.

The Line That Held Us, by David Joy

Writer, hunter, and fisherman David Joy’s latest novel is a searing page-turner that barrels through a Western North Carolina forest of family-drama darkness. No one distills themes of mountain ruggedness—ginseng poaching, a hunting trip turned whodunit, deep and dangerous loyalties—quite like Joy.

Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History, by Keith O’Brien

The little-known story of female pilots who raced (and won!) the national air races of the 1920s and 30s. Among the five women was Alabama native Ruth Elder, the 1902-born pilot known as the Miss America of Aviation.

The Great Grilled Cheese Book, by Eric Greenspan

Classic white-bread-and-American-cheese opens this book before it expands into 49 more decadent takes on grilled cheese sandwiches. The L.A.-based chef’s Southern-inspired recipe is a behemoth: grilled pimento-cheese decked out with pickles and fried chicken.

Photo: Colin Price

Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, by Anne Boyd Rioux

One hundred and fifty years after its publication, Little Women stands as an internationally best-selling classic, although its readership has fallen off in recent years. Now, a professor at the University of New Orleans argues that this book should be considered a coming-of-age titan alongside Tom Sawyer. She shows how generations of women, including J. K. Rowling and Jane Smiley, have been stirred by the story (as writer Anna Quindlen put it, “Little Women changed my life.”)

Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mine: Stories, by Kevin Wilson

Novelist Kevin Wilson teaches fiction at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. This imaginative story collection is his first in nearly a decade and mines relationships—especially those between parents and their children—for their charming, funny moments.

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens

Slow down and let this lush nature-focused story unspool. The central character is “Marsh Girl” who lives off the land in rural North Carolina in the 1950s. A mystery will pull you along, but stay awhile in the descriptions of shifting tides, shell collections, and the mottled light of coastal Carolina.