Thursday, November 12, 2015

Check out these books if you've got a taste for Southern literature, history

If you’ve got a book lover with a taste for history on your Christmas gift list, you might want to consider buying them a copy of two relatively new books, “South Toward Home: Travels in Southern Literature” by Margaret Eby and “Besieged: Mobile 1865” by Russell W. Blount Jr.

Released on Sept. 8, “South Toward Home” details Eby’s travels to literary sites across four Southeastern states, including Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana. In Jackson, Miss., Eby visits Eudora Welty’s gardens and Richard Wright’s school house before heading to Oxford to see William Faulkner’s liquor cabinet. On the other side of Oxford, Eby stops off at a fishing hole that’s a favorite of writers Barry Hannah and Larry Brown.

In Milledgeville, Ga., Eby makes a special trip to see the peacocks at Andalusia, the famous plantation where Flannery O’Connor wrote her best known stories. While in Georgia, Eby also makes a trip to Hurricane Creek in Bacon County, Ga., a location that had a huge impact on writer Harry Crews.

One of the book’s most entertaining chapters is about Eby’s trip to New Orleans where she seeks out a meal from one of the hot dog stands made famous by John Kennedy Toole’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “A Confederacy of Dunces.”

Local readers will probably enjoy the portion of the book in which Eby describes her trip to Monroeville to visit the Old Monroe County Courthouse. Eby devotes an entire chapter (34 pages) to this trip, where she scratches a number of Harper Lee and Truman Capote-related items off her literary bucket list.

I also think that local history buffs will get a big kick out of Blount’s book, “Besieged.” Released on Sept. 9, this 167-page book describes the Civil War Siege of Mobile, which was one of the Confederacy’s most important ports.

This book is full of interesting, hard to find information and it’s also chock full of old photos and detailed maps. Individuals interested in reading about the events leading up to the siege, the ensuing campaign and the aftermath of the city’s surrender will not be disappointed by this book.

One of the more interesting chapters of the book talks about the explosion of the U.S. Receiving Magazine in Mobile on May 25, 1865. This “terrible calamity” claimed the lives of over 300 people but was overshadowed by other events at the end of the war.

Blount is especially suited to tell the story of the Siege of Mobile. A resident of Mobile with a history degree from the University of South Alabama, Blount is a Civil War enthusiast of the first rank and is heavily involved with the Historic Mobile Preservation Society and the Civil War Preservation Trust. He’s also the author of two other Civil War books, “The Battles of New Hope Church” and “Clash at Kennesaw: June and July 1864.”

In the end, I highly recommend both of these books. “South Toward Home” retails for $25.95, and “Besieged” sells for $26.95. Both are available in major bookstores and online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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