Books All Georgians Should Read

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Archive for June, 2010

Thinking Football

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

His book is a few months old — it was published toward the end of last year — but I just around to reading Atlantan Tony Barnhart’s biography of UGA’s legendary football broasdcaster, Larry Munson, From Herschel to a Hobnail Boot. Yes, I know it’s summer, the Braves are hot, and it’s time for fireworks and barbecue, right? Well, as Tony might put it, it’s never too early — or too late — for talking about the Dawgs and SEC football.

Tony was at the Center for the Book the other night, doing a lively and very informed talk about college football and Munson. Larry was 43 when he became the Bulldog broadcaster; who knew what he did before then? Turns out he had a pretty amazing life. Born in Minnesota, he played for a week in the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra backing Frank Sinatra; he got his first broadcasting job from another legend, Curt Gowdy; and he was one of the original announcers for the Braves when they moved to Atlanta from Milwaukee.

He was hired by UGA in 1966, and by the 1970s was becoming one of America’s best-known and most easily identifiable broadcasters. Tony’s book details what happened to Georgia and Larry during the 70s, 80’s 90’s and up until Larry’s retirement in 2008. It’s great stuff. But the best is the CD that comes with the book that includes Larry’s “top 10” live game calls including “Run, Lindsay, Run” in 1980 against Florida and the unforgettable call of the “hobnail boot” in the 2001 Tennessee game. Larry was never a flawless announcer, but he was the one whose images stayed longest in your mind.

Tony’s book is delightful reading in any season, and for football fans, it will bring back a lot of memories (not all of them good ones if you’re not a UGA fan). You’ll love listening to that CD, too.

Summer Reading

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

 Looking for some good summer reading? Take a look at our new list of “25 Books All Georgians Should Read” at this website. You’ll find some wonderfully entertaining and challenging books there, all by Georgia authors. Whether you’re into fiction, nonfiction or are crazy about poetry, you can’t help but make some good choices from that list.

But if you’re uncertain — or maybe there’s an author you want to know more about — you’ll find that information here as well. Click on the author’s name underneath the book title on the list, and you’ll discover a concise biography of the author with some details about his or her work and why a specific book was chosen for inclusion on the list.

We think it’s another way to make this site increasingly useful to readers everywhere. We’d like to be a “one-stop” literary shop for you where you’ll be able to find out quickly all sorts of helpful information, from which authors are coming to town to who’s getting a big award. And please stay tuned if you’re a fan of books for young readers: we’ve got our inaugural list of “25 Books All Young Georgians Should Read” coming out in late August. It will be a big deal for writers and readers, and we promise that’s not the only surprise on the way. Happy reading!

Celebrating the beginning

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Once again we’re getting ready to celebrate the AJC Decatur Book Festival. The lineup for the fifth annual Labor Day weekend festival was announced a few days ago, topped off by the appearance of National Book Award winner Jonathan Franzen as the keynote speaker. There will be hundreds of authors and lots of special events to mark the fifth anniversary; it’s going to be fun, and we hope you’re planning to be here for it.

Did you know the Center for the Book played a big part in the creation of the festival? The story of its birth has gotten a tad confused a bit over the years, but here’s what really happened, to the best of our knowledge.

It was five people, almost operating independently, who had a hand in it: Alice Murray, Tom Bell, Daren Wang, Mark Fitten and yours truly. Each had been giving the  notion of a book festival in the city some thought; Atlanta had had several sort-of festivals before 2004, but they were either poorly planned or under-funded and largely unsuccessful. Each of the five had some ideas, but the prospects surfaced really when they began getting together to talk. Everyone agreed: Atlanta deserved something better. It wasn’t quite like a scene out of an Andy Hardy movie, but it was the five of us wondering aloud why Atlanta couldn’t match or top what was going on in smaller locations.

From there,  lightning happened. Alice had important newspaper (i.e., sponsor) connections; Daren, Tom and Marc had literary credentials; and Bill Starr and the Center for the Book had begun paving the way with successful programming that was already bringing big-name authors to the area on a regular basis. With everyone having solid Decatur connections and the no-holds-barred enthusiasm of Decatur officials for hosting the new festival, there was no way of stopping us. Conjecture encountered reality. In 2006, the first AJC Decatur  Book Festival took place; skeptics and would-be competitors quickly discovered the event was for real. Five years later, it is about as real and as much as fixture on the literary landscape as could be imagined — or hoped.

That makes everyone proud. But in the end, of course, it’s all about you. If we put on a party and no one comes, there won’t be any reason for future parties. So we hope you’ll join us September 3-5 for one of America’s best book festivals. You’ll find complete information at

Laughing with the sheriff

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

Now that it’s summer — yes, I know it isn’t here officially, but have you stepped outside into the humidity lately? — we’re all looking for some good summer reading. I confess that my usual seasonal treasures tend to be long, complicated, serious histories or biographies; more on that at a later date. I came across something a lot lighter and a lot more fun the other day, so I wanted to pass along a recommendation.

The author is a mystery writer named Craig Johnson, a name I didn’t know until he visited the Georgia Center for the Book last week. We didn’t get a big crowd out that evening, but that’s everyone’s loss, because Craig absolutely blew everyone away with his stylish humor and his terrific tales. Honestly, the guy could be a stand-up comedian so good is his material and his timing!  And, as it turns out, his books are no less entertaining.

He’s written six of them since 2004 (“The Cold Dish”), and the latest is”Junkyard Dogs.” Mystery fans ought to love them, but really there’s a lot here for those of us who just pick up an occasional mystery. The centerpiece of each of the books is Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire, an aging, over-the-hill, anti-hero man who probably should be sitting inside on a rocking chair somewhere rather than hurtling through Plains’ blizzards in his truck solving nasty crimes. what makes Walt a bit different from most mystery -solvers is his sense of humor, an attribute that clearly comes directly from his creator. These books have a wry, occasionally black humor about them that both delights and sharpens my view of them. They do involve some pretty terrible things, but honestly, there are some genuine laughs here, and that makes the stories even more real, to my way of reading.

Craig has a fascinating and somewhat improbable background. He went from birth in West Virginia to a Ph.D. in playwriting at Temple University to tiny Ucross, Wyoming (population: 25), where he and wife Judy now live on a 280-acre ranch. Just how all that leads to a successful, prize-winning mystery series mystifies me. But please take my word for it — it does! His books would make great additions to your beach bag or mountain wraps, and if you don’t like them, just send me the receipt you got for buying them and I’ll be sure to send it right back to you. Have a fun summer, readers!