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Book  Reviews

Kathy Campbell, Book Reviews Editor


Byerly, D.  W. (2013). The Last Billion Years: A Geologic History of Tennessee
Donnelly, Keith. (2014).  Three Deuces Down
Ferris, M. C. (2014).  The Edible South: The Power of Food and the Making of an American Region
Moose, D. (2014).   Southern Holidays: A Savor the South Cookbook
Ritchie, F., & Orr, D. (2014).  Wayfaring Strangers:  The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia
Russell, R. (2014).  The Ghost Will See You Now:  Haunted Hospitals of the South
Uffelman, M. D., Kanervo, E.,  Smith, P.,  & Eleanor Williams, E.  (Eds.) (2014). The Diary of Nannie Haskins Williams


Byerly, D.  W. (2013). The Last Billion Years: A Geologic History of Tennessee. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. 212 pages. ISBN: 9781572339743


Don W. Byerly, professor emeritus of geology at the University of Tennessee, has received many awards for his contributions to the causes of earth sciences and conservation.  His latest book, The Last Billion Years: A Geologic History of Tennessee, is an easy-to-understand manual about the geological history of Tennessee and the Earth whose audience is scholars of geology, as well as, school and college-aged students.

The Last Billion Years contains 16 chapters. The first four chapters cover basic geology, including the general geology of Tennessee, the five spheres of the Earth found in the "Earth Systems Science” model, various materials and processes of the Earth’s geology, and geologic time. Chapter five discusses past and present geologists who have made the study of geology what it is today and the remaining chapters deal with Tennessee geology specifically.

The book includes a table with the Chronological Outline of Tennessee Geology.  There are 176 illustrations, varying from diagrams of cross-section cutouts, photos, sketches, maps, and graphs. All illustrations and graphics are in black and white; it would be nice if they were in color since it is hard to observe details in a black and white image. Photographs seem dated, making the reader wonder if these photos resemble present conditions.

While I do not suggest elementary schools purchase the book, it should be considered by high school and academic libraries since the book is a non-threatening read. Scientific explanations are simple enough for the non-geologist to understand and important terms are bolded throughout the book. It should also be considered by public libraries that serve patrons with an interest in Tennessee’s geology.

Joanna Anderson
East Tennessee State University


Donnelly, Keith. (2014). Three Deuces Down. Montgomery, AL: New South Books. 272 pages. ISBN: 9781588383105

Three Deuces Down is the first book in the Donald Youngblood Mysteries series. Joseph Fleet’s daughter and son-in-law are missing along with nearly three million dollars, and Youngblood, a former Wall Street whiz turned private investigator, is hired to find them.  His investigation leads him to Connecticut, New York, Ireland, and Columbia.  It seems that the son-in-law, Ronald Fitzgerald Fairchild, is not who he claims to be and appears to be involved in unsavory business ventures to boot.  Is Fleet’s daughter guilty of stealing from her father? Are the Fairchilds alive?  Will Youngblood find them?  These questions are all answered in this fast-paced novel that will hold readers’ interest from start to finish.

Donnelly peoples his book with interesting characters. Donald Youngblood might live in the small town of Mountain Center, Tennessee, but he has many helpful friends throughout the country (his investment recommendations has made several of these people very rich).  His partner is a full-blooded Cherokee Indian with an artistic bent, while Youngblood’s mentor is a former TBI agent who, though confined to a wheelchair, still has a taste for investigating.  They are aided in their investigation by Joseph Fleet’s assistant, a capable man with many talents, a FBI agent friend from collage, and another old college friend of Columbian heritage whose family business interests are not all legitimate.  Over the course of the novel, Youngblood also falls in love with a female police officer whose deceased husband might have been involved with Ronnie Fairchild.

Keith Donnelly grew up in East Tennessee and currently spends part of the year in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  According to the author, his goal was to write "to write something that I would want to read myself.” (  And while it is obvious that the intended audience is male (the men are manly and the women attractive), Three Deuces Down will appeal to all readers with an interest in mysteries. Because of its setting in East Tennessee and its appeal to guys, Donnelly’s book can be heartily recommended for public libraries as well as academic libraries with popular reading collections.

Kathy Campbell
East Tennessee State University


Ferris, M. C. (2014).  The Edible South: The Power of Food and the Making of an American Region. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. 480 pages. ISBN: 9781469617688 

In The Edible South: The Power of Food and the Making of an American Region, Marcie Cohen Ferris, Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, uses the observations and experiences of various individuals with regard to food as a means to explore the history of the South. An obvious theme in the book is the direct correlation between food quality, food quantity, and economic class. For example, it was very common for wealthy plantation owners to host elaborate dinner parties. Ferris’s text describes a West Indies gathering of several courses in which, "The dining table was laid with three rows of dishes, six dishes in a row in the high style manner of ‘courtly’ eating influenced by Continental manners” (p.15). 

The beginning of the book vividly describes the antebellum South in which servitude, management, wealth, and power are particularly characteristic. Relative to wealth, Pringle’s "Household Inventory Book” is used to explain the process of effectively maximizing human capital; for example, the precise ration of food for slave cooks ("11/2 quarts of whole rice, 1 pint of corn grist, 1 pint rice flour, a spoonful of lard”), as well as for the washing of household linen ("1 quart of rice every Monday for starch”) (p.27). 

Ferris refraining from casting ethnic groups as either victims or villains, describes the positive and negative contributions of each group.  The chronological order of the book allows readers to see how the dissolution of slavery created an independent entrepreneurial spirit. In the post-slavery period, the emergence of antebellum nostalgic elements, such as cookbooks, food products, mammie utensils, etc., were in a sense a coping mechanism.  Since they were reminiscent of the Old South, these coping mechanisms were most therapeutic for former slave owners, unyielding citizens, and plantation mistresses. 

The Edible South contains a wealth of material from primary source documents. Among the oral histories are recountings of the daily experiences of plantation guests, as well as those of African Americans.  The former accounts hold more validity than the latter since some of the former slaves feared retribution in the event that they were completely honest. 

The text illustrates how diet has evolved in the United States, and, specifically in the South. As educated Northerners discovered the benefits of healthy eating, they were able to offer dietary suggestions to other regions that cured fatal diseases.  The health of Southern African-American populations, who typically subsisted on the primary staples of meal, molasses, and meat, improved by incorporating these new suggestions into their diet. Ultimately, the changing attitude toward food along with the resulting change in diet helped to unify the country.

The Edible South would be a useful addition to any academic library.  The book would be of value to individuals majoring in history, hospitality, or cultural studies. The plethora of significant information in the book will potentially stimulate the reader’s appetite for additional information on individuals, events, and places referenced. This is a book whose value will likely increase with time.

Khalilah Y. Hayes
Montgomery City-County Public Library
Juliette Hampton Morgan Memorial Library


Moose, D. (2014).  Southern Holidays: A Savor the South Cookbook. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 113 pages. ISBN 9781469617893

As a hungry graduate student at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, reading the Wednesday food section of the Raleigh News & Observer was one of the most vicariously delicious highlights of my news week, so I was excited to discover Southern Holidays, the newest cookbook from Debbie Moose, the food editor at the N&O.

At just 113 pages, Southern Holidays does not claim to provide a comprehensive overview of Southern holiday feasts or foods, but this engrossing cookbook does offer a highly personal introduction to some of the history and cultural background that make Southern holiday feasts unique.  Both standard calendar holidays (Hanukkah, Christmas, and Easter) are included, along with idiosyncratic local holidays celebrated throughout the South, especially in the author’s native North Carolina.  One of the book’s greatest strengths is its inclusion of a number of lesser-known Southern holidays, such as Old Christmas, celebrated on January 6 by stubborn residents of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. 

As Moose argues in the introduction, "[i]f you look at the South through its food, you’ll realize the region has always been more diverse than people think, especially today” (Moose 1).  Moose uses recipes and culinary history to represent a number of different cultural and ethnic groups who have made their mark on the South, including Jewish, Greek, Sicilian, and Vietnamese immigrants.

Reflecting Moose’s experience in food writing and editing, recipe ingredients and directions are clearly explained with suggestions on how to obtain potentially hard-to-find ingredients.  Organized seasonally by holiday, many recipes include cooking notes to assist more inexperienced cooks.  Including a range of appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, desserts, and drink recipes, this book would appeal to both kitchen novices as well as more experienced cooks interested in expanding their culinary repertoire.  While a recipe title index is included at the end of the book, providing an ingredient index would have made the book even more user-friendly.  

Perhaps the book’s greatest weakness is its length.  Limited by series expectations for length (each volume in the Savor the South cookbook series only includes approximately 50 recipes), some Southern holiday food traditions, such as pig roasts in Florida’s Cuban community, are only mentioned in passing.  Readers interested in exploring Southern holiday feasts beyond the ones described in this book may be inspired to pursue their own further culinary investigations.

Other than few minor typos (the Gregorian calendar is described as a "Georgian” calendar), Southern Holidays provides an engaging introduction to Southern holiday foods, recommended primarily for public libraries, as well as for academic libraries with strong culinary history collections.  

Monica Twork
Cleveland State Community College

Ritchie, F., & Orr, D. (2014).  Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia.  Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. 361 pages.  ISBN: 9781469618227 (cloth);  ISBN 9781469618234 (ebook)

In this beautiful book, Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr have tracked the history of the ballads of Ireland and Scotland from their deepest roots to the songs of today's folksingers and musicians of Appalachia.  The traceable history of balladry has its beginnings in the Medieval period with the troubadours of Occitania (located in the southern part of France), who entertained the French Court.  The less educated and refined minstrels of the same period traveled all of Europe, spreading their songs, poetry, and more common ballads as they went.  From this beginning, Ritchie and Orr go on to follow and explain the evolution of the ballad through European history, relating the historical events and movements that affected the art form as they go along.  They discuss the changes in language and culture, as well, since many ballads maintain hints even today of the language of their original performers.  The authors move on to focus their attention on the British Isles and the influence of the British on the Gaelic countries to their north.  The relationship between the Scots and the Irish was very much influenced, and to a degree controlled, by the English aristocracy during and after the reign of King James I, who tried to implement a plantation scheme to replace the Irish with lowland Scots who were loyal to the crown.  Rather than forcing the Irish out of their homeland, this practice created a closer relationship between the two clan cultures, which was apparent in their language, culture, and especially their music

When economic, religious, and political conditions forced the Irish and Scottish to emigrate to America, they sought out land that was similar to their own homelands.  Prejudice in the colonies and cities of the New World further encouraged them to seek out new frontiers to settle.  Similarities between their own clan culture and the cultures of the Native Americans living in the Appalachian Mountain regions made trade and intermarriage easy for both groups.  Such close relations led to a mingling of music, as well, and the Appalachian music and balladry that we know today began to take shape.  Over time, the music has grown and changed, influenced by African-American musical traditions and modern American musical styles.

The result of decades of research, this book describes the history of the ballad tradition. Quotes from interviews with musicians from both sides of the Atlantic help to illuminate the thoughts and beliefs of those who learn, sing, share and keep the traditional songs alive.  Beautiful photographs of the regions discussed; images of the prominent people involved in ballad history; woodcuts; and quotes from various sources add to the beauty and authenticity of the book.  To add to the reader's enjoyment, a cd of music by multiple artists, including Dolly Parton and Pete Seeger, is included.

Wayfaring Strangers
would be an excellent addition to any collection of Scottish, Irish, and/or Appalachian history, as well as any collection of music history. There is an extensive index, as well as a contents that lists the sidebars and quotations, which makes this book excellent for research as well as a pleasure to read for personal enjoyment.

Luna Kelondra
Memphis Public Library


Russell, R. (2014). The Ghost Will See You Now: Haunted Hospitals of the South. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair. 233 pgs. ISBN: 9780895876317
Having already authored collections of stories about Southern ghost dogs, Southern ghost cats, and ghost stories of the Appalachian Mountains of East Tennessee and western North Carolina, Randy Russell has now turned his attention to the ghosts that haunt hospitals, buildings that were once used as hospitals, and in some cases, other locations where the sick or injured passed from this life into the next level of existence.  The number of operating hospitals, abandoned hospitals and asylums, battle sites, and wartime makeshift hospitals in the South provided Russell with a rich source of stories for his research.

In one case, for example, the haunted location is now a bar in New Orleans that was originally a veterinary clinic for cats and birds.  Every week, one or two new pairs of floating eyes appear in the bar as the ghost of a man brings new ghost cats to join the others he’s brought every week since his accidental death in the 1930’s.  In another instance, a ghost haunts the highway rest stop in South Carolina where the medevac helicopter airlifting her to a hospital crashed, killing her, the pilot, a nurse and a paramedic who were on board with her.  Travelers on the highway at 5:30 in the morning often see a flash of light through the trees alongside the highway and mistake the woman’s ghost for a living hitchhiker, stopping to offer her a ride, only to see her vanish in another flash of light.

The Ghost Will See You Now: Haunted Hospitals of the South is divided into 13 sections, one for each state Russell covers in the book.  Each section relates 3-4 stories in detail and then gives short anecdotes about several other ghosts residing in that state.  For most locations the address is given, and when a museum or tourist site is the ghost’s home, contact information and/or the hours of operation are given, as well.  There is no index or bibliography for those wanting to research the stories further, but that is a small detraction from such a well-researched and written book.

I enjoyed this book, and I am looking forward to reading any forthcoming books by Randy Russell.

Luna Kelondra
Memphis Public Library


Uffelman, M. D., Kanervo, E., Smith, P. , & Eleanor Williams, E.  (Eds.) (2014). The Diary of Nannie Haskins Williams (6th ed.). Voices of the Civil War. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee. 371 pages. ISBN: 9781621900382

The Diary of Nannie Haskins Williams is a first-hand account of the life of a prominent antebellum woman living in the pre- and post-Confederate South. In tune with the Voices of the Civil War series, this is a unique and rare account of the journey of one woman. This journal is not only different in its account of a woman’s experiences during this war, but Nannie continued to reflect on her life experiences well after the Civil war—concluding her account in 1890. In this collection the reader will find over a quarter of a century of Nannie’s life, feelings and events that happened around her in Clarksville, a community located in middle Tennessee.

This book contains a few surprising facts for the reader. Among the first is that Nannie Haskins was an educated woman, which shows strongly in her letters as shown by the perceptive nature of her diary entries. Nannie received an education equal to that of her brothers (She attended the Clarksville Female Academy, one of the best girls’ schools in the South.). She documents the occupation of her home town of Clarksville by Union troops in 1862, relatively early in the War of the Rebellion, and goes into detail about local lawlessness along with domestic issues. A second surprising fact is that she was brought up in a society that prepared her for the roll of mistress in a slaveholding society. Of course, this could never happen after the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, so what was she to do? As the journal continues through the Reconstruction Period, readers learn how one antebellum woman managed to survive despite the changes to her personal expectations and those of her family. 

The book is also an exhaustive analysis of Nannie’s diary. The Introduction gives a complete overview of the events alluded to in the diary. It explains her family’s history and how they came to live in Clarksville, Tennessee, as well as the events that helped to shape Nannie’s perspectives on life. For example, Nannie would comment on the interesting young men she met at various parties with the hope of courtship, but the reality was that these same young men were fighting in the war and might never return. Despite these conditions, Nannie was allowed  the autonomy to choose her partner, and intelligence was high on her list of desirable characteristics in a spouse. 

The diary is broken down into chapters and includes a number of images, including a map of the area, a collection of family photos and photos of locations important to Nannie’s life. There are two Appendices: Military Installations Referred to in the Diary and Military Officers Referred to in the Diary. The unusually long Notes section attests to the extensive work of the editors to produce this publication and verify its information. This book concludes with a Bibliography and an Index. 

Academic libraries with a focus or interest in Civil War and Reconstruction materials, as well as those with a focus on women’s studies should consider purchasing this book for their collection. It would also be appropriate for public libraries with Civil War collections because the material would be of great interest to many audiences.

Paula L. Webb
University of South Alabama




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