By the Book: Read this before the family gathers

How can you elevate small talk to a meaty and meaningful conversation? Celeste Headlee, host of the Georgia Public Broadcasting show On Second Thought, explores that question in her book, We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter.

 

According to the book, one of the main deterrents to lively discourse is the cellphone. Just the mere presence of the gadget can put a pall on conversation. Biases can also get in the way of a great gabfest. Headlee gives hints on how to disagree without being disagreeable.

We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter is the perfect pre-Thanksgiving read to head off family squabbles and turn the holiday meal into a feast of ideas instead of a political fracas.

Headlee will visit the Doris Building next to the Book Tavern at noon Nov. 7 for a luncheon and conversation. Tickets are $36.99 and include the book and a light lunch from New Moon Café.

To purchase tickets, visit www.booktavern.com/product/celeste-headlee.

Great Southern reads for fall

Wiley Cash has become a favorite of Southern fiction lovers, and his third novel, The Last Ballad, cements his reputation as a weaver of gritty yet lyrical stories. Inspired by the events of an actual textile-mill strike in 1929, the novel tells the tale of Ella May Wiggins, who walks 2 miles to her night shift at a North Carolina mill and toils 72 hours a week for a $9 paycheck.

A union is quietly organizing, but if Ella May joins it could cost her everything. The Last Ballad is a powerful tribute to workers who risked their lives to win basic labor rights.

What happens when a saintly Southern belle decides to sample the seven deadly sins? That’s the amusing premise of the novel Bless Her Heart by Marietta author Sally Kilpatrick.

Posey Love finds out that her born-again husband has been leaving his Bible on another woman’s bedside table, and her once-perfect life as a pastor’s wife is now a memory. Posey decides to patch up her battered heart by giving up church for Lent and going a little wild.

She moves in with her hippie mom, flirts with a cute piano tuner and finds a little piece of redemption through breaking the rules. Bless Her Heart is a lively yet thoughtful romp about a woman finding the meaning of goodness while behaving badly.

Conroy’s Southern-lit legacy endures

The late Pat Conroy made it his mission to usher in new voices in Southern fiction.

Garden & Gun magazine has named his fiction imprint, Story River Books, one of the top best things about the South. Charleston author Nicole Seitz’s novel The Cage-maker is one of the imprint’s most recent releases. Cassandra King Conroy, Pat Conroy’s widow, wrote the foreword to The Cage-maker, a novel told in the form of letters, newspaper articles and journal entries.

The documents tell the story of Dr. René Le Monnier, a physician for an insane asylum living in New Orleans during the early 1900s who tries to dispel a dark family curse and whose story entwines with an artist who constructs exquisite birdcages. The Cage-maker is an engrossing Southern Gothic novel infused with rich historical details.

Can the dead walk the earth? Earl Marcus, a private investigator and the protagonist of the mystery novel, Heaven’s Crooked Finger, combs the mountains of North Georgia for his father, a maniacal religious cult leader, who appears to have risen from his grave.

Alabama author Hank Earley is getting raves for the novel, the first in a series, which Kirkus gave a starred review, saying, “You won’t put down this powerful and painful tale.” A must-read for readers who like eerie and atmospheric mysteries.

 

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