On this the last day of the year I conclude my year in Louisiana books, spotlighting some of the literary highlights of 2017. Please remember it’s only the highlights. It’d be impossible to include all the great news that happened this year. I’d love to hear what books you loved this past 2017. Please post your favorites on the Louisiana Book News Facebook page.
I’m a huge fan of Kimberly Willis Holt and her young reader books, but her latest, “Blooming at the Texas Sunrise Motel,” became my favorite. It concerns 13-year-old Stevie who loses her parents in a car accident and is forced to move in with her grumpy grandfather, Winston, who owns a run-down motel in Esther, Texas.
Atheneum Young Readers published several of William Joyce’s children’s books this year, under the label of “The World of William Joyce.” There was “Bentley & Egg,” “A Day with Wilbur Robinson” (Joyce produced the film adaption known as “Meet the Robinsons”) and “Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo,” among others.
Just in time for Hurricane Season was the young adult novel “Into the Hurricane” by Neil Connelly, an author who weathered five hurricanes while living in Lake Charles and uses that experience for this action-packed story where two teens finds themselves riding out a fierce storm off the Cameron Parish coast.
Evangeline Riley is quite happy living at the bottom of the world in a small fishing village known as Bayou Perdu in Plaquemines Parish until Hurricane Katrina arrives in Joanne O’Sullivan’s young adult tale “Between Two Skies.”
C.E. Richard has published “Land’s End: Field Notes from the End of the World,” a collection of essays about Louisiana’s coastal erosion with photos by Frank McMains.
“Ain’t There No More: Louisiana’s Disappearing Coastal Plain” by Carl A. Brasseaux and Donald W. Davis spotlights the neglect of our coastline and the result of man-made flood control measures in aiding to the erosion of Louisiana’s coast.
Another University of Mississippi Press book detailing the Mississippi River and efforts to reign in this beast is James F. Barnett Jr.’s “Beyond Control: The Mississippi River’s New Channel to the Gulf of Mexico.” Barnett insists that even with the US Army Corps of Engineers Control Complex at Old River, which keeps the Mississippi from emerging through its historic channel and heading down the Atchafalaya Basin, the river will one day change course.
Lucy Buffett, who owns Lulu’s in Gulf Shores and Destin, tackled the Louisiana dish with “Gumbo Love: Recipes for Gulf Coast Cooking.”
Megan Braden-Perry takes readers on a delightful tour of snowball heaven with “Crescent City Snow: The Ultimate Guide to New Orleans Snowball Stands,” published by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press.
Dixie Poché of Lafayette published a sweet culinary history book with recipes titled “Louisiana Sweets: King Cakes, Bread Pudding & Sweet Dough Pie.”
Melinda Winans discovered 250 recipes of her father-in-law and published them in “The Fonville Winans Cookbook: Recipes and Photographs from a Louisiana Artist,” published by LSU Press.
2017 Book News
A Sisters in Crime chapter began in New Orleans this year, a national organization that promotes the advancement, recognition and professional development of women crime writers. The group meets at the East Bank Regional Library in Metairie.
The annual Dave Robicheaux's Hometown Literary Festival has been renamed the Books Along the Teche Literary Festival: Celebrating New Iberia, Dave Robicheaux's Hometown.
Maple Street Book Shop of New Orleans closed Aug 26 after 53 years in business.
The Conundrum, the latest independent bookstore to open in Louisiana, is now going into the publishing business. The St. Francisville bookstore has created Feliciana Publishing Partners.
The Festival of Words literary festival in Grand Coteau celebrated 10 years this November with featured authors Darrell Bourque, Allison Joseph and Patricia Smith.
The 20th anniversary of Words and Music, a Literary Feast in New Orleans, sponsored annually by the Faulkner Society, was celebrated this month.
“Freedom in Congo Square,” a picture book set in New Orleans that’s illustrated by R. Gregory Christie and written by Carole Boston Weatherford, took a Caldecott Honor Book award and a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book award.
Author, illustrator and pioneer in the digital and animation industry William Joyce was honored as the 2017 Humanist of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.
T. Geronimo Johnson of New Orleans won the inaugural Simpson Family Literary Prize, which awards $50,000 to “an author of fiction in the middle of a burgeoning career.” Johnson is the author of “Welcome to Braggsville,” longlisted for the 2015 National Book Award, the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and winner of the 2015 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence.
Steve Rabalais’ book, “General Fox Conner: Pershing’s Chief of Operations and Eisenhower’s Mentor,” won the Army Historical Foundation’s Distinguished Writing Award in the field of biography for books published in 2016.
Louisiana author, songwriter and musician Johnette Downing was awarded the 18th annual Louisiana Writer Award at the Louisiana Book Festival in October.
Jack Bedell, professor of the Humanities at Southeastern Louisiana University, was chosen as the next Louisiana poet laureate.
Jesmyn Ward, associate professor of creative writing at Tulane, received the 2017 National Book Award for “Sing, Unburied, Sing.” Ward is a past National Book Award winner for “Salvage the Bones,” a novel about a family facing a hurricane on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
The Historic New Orleans Collection and the Louisiana Historical Association awarded Rashauna Johnson’s “Slavery’s Metropolis: Unfree Labor in New Orleans during the Age of Revolutions” the winner of the 2016 Kemper and Leila Williams Prize in Louisiana History.
Jack E. Davis won the 2017 Kirkus Prize for “The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea,” an environmental history of the Gulf of Mexico that considers the ravages of nature and man.
New Orleans writer Ladee Hubbard’s novel, “The Talented Ribkins,” was named winner of the 2017 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence.
Photographer Philip Gould and cultural anthropologist Maida Owens won the 2016 and 2017 James Williams Rivers Award for Louisiana Studies.