I’m not a fan of the “Best Books of the Year” list because who could possibly read every book out there within a year’s time? I have a hard time just keeping up with books by Louisiana authors or ones written about our unique and interesting state. Instead, I’m going to give you the highlights of my book year in this column and in next week’s, and please remember it’s only the highlights. It’d be impossible to include all the great book news that happened in one year’s time. I’d love to hear what books you’ve enjoyed this past 2017. Please post your favorites on the Louisiana Book News Facebook page.
Wiley Cash, who received his Ph.D. from UL-Lafayette, now lives in North Carolina where he set his latest book, “The Last Ballad.” The novel concerns the real Ella May Wiggins, who worked the cotton mills of North Carolina and joined the union movement, gaining popularity for her ballads of equality. The Last Ballad” resonates with pain, love, the struggle of life and the gross injustices of the world.
Genaro Ky Ly Smith, a professor of creative writing at Louisiana Tech, sets his novel “The Land South of the Clouds” in the summer of 1979, a turning point for 10-year-old Long-Vanh, the novel’s narrator when his mother decides to leave Los Angeles and her American husband and return to Vietnam.
Award-winning author Arlie Russell Hochschild, a retired professor of sociology at U.C. Berkeley, a liberal California town, traveled to conservative Lake Charles in an attempt to bridge an “empathy wall” in “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right.”
Donna Brazile, a Louisiana native who worked as a political strategist and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, published “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that put Donald Trump in the White House.” The book details the aftermath of the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Convention, the resignation of party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the final months of the 2016 campaign.
Walter Isaacson published his latest biography, “Leonardo da Vinci.” Isaacson, a professor of history at Tulane, has been CEO of the Aspen Institute, chairman of CNN and editor of Time magazine. He is the author of “The Innovators,” “Steve Jobs,” “Einstein: His Life and Universe,” “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life” and “Kissinger: A Biography.” He is the coauthor of “The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made.”
Best-selling author Anne Rice of New Orleans and her son Christopher Rice have published “Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra,” a “tale of ancient feuds and modern passions.”
Other favorite novels
Three New Orleans generations make up Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s heart-wrenching novel, “A Kind of Freedom,” each suffering through desires, ambitions and brutal limitations.
Ronlyn Domingue, who received her master’s of fine arts in creative writing from LSU, has been tackling an impressive, innovative and intricate trilogy spanning a thousand years in a fairy-tale land in “The Keeper of Tales Trilogy.” It’s an amazing body of work — adventure, myth, legends and symbolism spun together in a tapestry of tales that’s colored with a fascinating use of language.
Pamela D. Arceneaux, senior librarian and rare books curator at the Historic New Orleans Collection, collected information from the rare “blue books,” directories of madams and prostitutes of the Storyville red light district of New Orleans, for “Guidebooks to Sin: The Blue Books of Storyville, New Orleans.”
Christopher G. Pena looks at the strange happenings of Dr. Etienne Deschamps, who worked as a dentist, but many times treated his patients with magnetic and hypnotic powers in New Orleans of the late 1800s. His book, “The Strange Case of Dr. Etienne Deschamps: Murder in the New Orleans French Quarter” examines indecent acts upon two sisters while under hypnosis, resulting in the death of one.
William Wade Watson published the diary of Elizabeth Lucille Cook, who lived in Tensas Parish at Cross Keys Plantation from the 1920s to her death in 1985. “High Water, High Cotton and High Times” provides a rare glimpse into rural Louisiana life leading up to World War II.
Marita Woywod Crandle offers several creepy stories, some with a skeptical slant, in “New Orleans Vampires: History and Legend.”
In author news
Farrah Rochon, a prolific romance author from St. Charles Parish, has a passion for Disney World and “Hamilton,” the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical. I’m forever jealous reading her social media posts for she’s off to enjoy both on a regular basis. This year, she brought her niece and nephew to New York in January to see “Hamilton” as their 2016 Christmas gift. (Talk about a nice aunt!) If that wasn’t enough, she went again in August, making it her fifth time seeing the immensely popular Broadway hit.