Alabama Bookshelf

Alabama Living Magazine

In this periodic feature, we highlight books either about Alabama people or events, or written by Alabama authors. Summaries are not reviews or endorsements. We also occasionally highlight book-related events. Email submissions to Due to the volume of submissions, we are unable to mention all the books we receive. 

Of Mules and Mud: The Story of Alabama Folk Potter, Jerry Brown, by Jerry Brown, edited by Joey Brackner, The University of Alabama Press, $22.95 (Alabama history/folklore) Folklorist Joey Brackner met famed folk artist and traditional stoneware pottery maker Jerry Brown, who was from Hamilton, Alabama, in 1983, and the two became friends who collaborated on a variety of documentary and educational projects. A year before Brown’s death, Brackner sat down with him to record his life story; the result is this book. An annual festival in northwest Alabama honors Brown’s memory. 

Dear Denise: Letters to the Sister I Never Knew, by Lisa McNair, The University of Alabama Press, $19.95 (family memoir) This book takes the form of 40 letters from the author to her sister, one of the four little girls who died in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. McNair apprises her sister of all that has come to pass since her death, both on the intimate level of their family and on the large scale of the struggle for racial equality. The letters are accompanied by 29 black-and-white photographs, most from the McNair family collection and many taken by their father. 

Alabama Baby: A Baby’s Book of Firsts from the Yellowhammer State, written and illustrated by Allison Dugas Behan, Pelican Publishing, $24.95 (family and relationships) Keep track of a baby’s essential Alabama firsts in this unique baby book. Capture his or her first experiences with food, including fried chicken and an Alabama-must-have – banana pudding! Colorful pages provide guided journaling of the baby’s first football game, visit to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and more. Includes baby shower sign-in pages. 

Rock Killough’s Front Porch Stories, by Rock Killough, God Manifest Publishing, $21.99 (short stories) Born and raised outside of Greenville, Alabama, Killough is an accomplished songwriter who’s written songs recorded by The Oak Ridge Boys and Randy Travis, among many others. After retiring to the porch of his country cabin near Guntersville, Killough began to reflect on life and music, and wrote down his musings; he would later publish them on social media, which earned him a following. One of his followers suggested he publish his stories, and the result is this book. 

The Southernization of America: A Story of Democracy in the Balance, by Frye Gaillard and Cynthia Tucker, NewSouth Books, $25.95 (history) The award-winning authors present a series of essays considering the role of the South in shaping America’s political and cultural landscape. They examine the morphing of the Southern strategy of Nixon and Reagan into the Republican Party of today. They also find hope in the South, that a legacy rooted in the civil rights years might ultimately lead the nation on the path to redemption. 

Lost Towns of Central Alabama, by Peggy Jackson Walls, Arcadia Publishing and the History Press, $21.99 (Alabama history) Settlers came to central Alabama in the early 1800s with big dreams. Miners panned the streams and combed the hillsides hoping to strike it rich. Demand for cotton led to the establishment of multiple mills and mill villages built for the workers. But when such booms went bust, they left ghost towns in their wake. The author walks the empty streets of these once lively towns to revive the stories of the people who built them and lived in them.


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