Arts & Culture

February 2019 Book List

Mid-winter brings powerful memoirs, new novels, a lush photography book, and a beautiful reminder that spring will come again
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The Book of Delights, by Ross Gay

Nearly every day for a year, the poet Ross Gay wrote a short journal entry about something that delighted him: playing pickup basketball with kids in Marfa, Texas; pulling up carrots in his garden that grew into “carrot legs in need of some petite pantaloons.” By describing his own personal inspirations in easy-going prose, he connects to us all, acknowledging the moment-by-moment potential for joys big and small.

Sounds Like Titanic, by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman

From squeaking out Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star during the violin lessons her West Virginia parents scraped and saved for, to auditioning in New York City, Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman has lived a rags-to-riches musician story—sort of. In this surprising memoir, Hindman reveals the years she spent fake playing the violin in a traveling ensemble that quietly bowed along to classical music blasting from the speakers. “All of a sudden, my E string exploded into shreds. I instinctively stopped playing to survey the damage,” she writes. “I looked down, panicked with the too-late realization that my broken string had just jeopardized our entire charade.” Readers won’t be sure what’s truth and what’s fiction—but facts don’t really matter when one woman’s ship starts to sink and then slowly, goofily bobs along.

The Longest Silence, by Thomas McGuane

“The more we fish,” writes the outdoorsman Thomas McGuane, “the more weightlessly and quietly we move through a river and among its fish, and the more we resemble our own minds in the bliss of angling.” McGuane’s classic collection of fishing writing was first published in 1999. This month, it’s being rereleased with seven new essays from McGuane, a guy you’d want to spend hours with on the water.

American Pop, by Snowden Wright

This sprawling, impressive novel may seem like fizzy fun—it centers on soda—but it finds its depth by employing all the hallmarks of good Southern Gothic: a winding family tale, dark motives, and a setting that rambles from Mississippi to Paris to New York and then back down South. The author knows his stuff—he hails from Mississippi and now splits time between there and Atlanta.

The Atlas of Reds and Blues, by Devi S. Laskar

Originally from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Devi Laskar has journalism chops—she worked as a reporter at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution—but a poet’s sensibility. Her new novel jumps through time and space like memories do. The main action is a raid on the narrator’s home, and her thoughts unspool with reflections on growing up in a small Southern town, what it’s like to be a second-generation immigrant from India, and the power of being a mother to daughters.

Together, by Judy Goldman

When a basic medical procedure leaves Charlotte, North Carolina, author Judy Goldman’s husband of nearly forty years paralyzed, she must fill a new role as not only his advocate, but as a reimagined version of herself. A sensitive memoir of marriage and strength by Goldman, whose 1999 novel The Slow Way Back was called “achingly beautiful” by the author Pat Conroy.

Keith Carter: Fifty Years, by Keith Carter

Sometimes spooky, often filled with horses or dogs or grandmothers or back roads, and always atmospheric in black and white, the photographs that Keith Carter has snapped in his decades-long career are hauntingly lovely. Two-hundred-fifty of the Texas-based lensman’s greatest pictures feature handsomely in this large-format coffee table book.

From left: Caballos Blancos; Howling, both photographed in Texas.

Photo: Keith Carter

Gumbo Life, by Ken Wells

If anyone can get away with comparing the mixed-heritage culture of Louisiana to a gumbo, and do it with nuance and depth, it’s the longtime journalist and Cajun country native Ken Wells. His new book is a deeply reported look at the origins and variations on gumbo, and it ends, graciously, with a handful of a handful of time-tested recipes.

Seasonal Flower Arranging, by Ariella Chezar

With record-setting cold snaps hitting most of the country, we can dream of more colorful days with this lush collection of floral images. The book provides tips for arranging store-bought and garden-cut blooms, including Southern favorites: plop a single peony in a tiny vase; entwine wild elderberry with a handful of dark dahlias; let dramatic clematis wander along a mantel.

In her book Seasonal Flower Arranging, the author and floral designer Ariella Chezar suggests anchoring several clematis stalks in a narrow-neck vase and allowing the blooms to trail.

Photo: Erin Kunkel