It's back-to-school time. Schedules are changing and so is the weather. Some people welcome the change of seasons, while others cling to the last fall weekends to finish one more book in the hammock, and book clubs may be searching for new titles to discuss. Whatever your reading interests may be, here is brief list of titles to consider.
"Nashville Chrome," by Rick Bass (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Rick Bass' new novel is based on the true life story of three siblings from Arkansas, the Browns - Maxine, Bonnie and Jim Ed. The trio pioneered the 1950s sound from which the novel takes its title. The narrator is the group's oldest sibling, Maxine, who is now half-blind and living in obscurity in Memphis.
We revisit her childhood in the woods, live through brother Jim Ed's and father Floyd's bloody struggles in the wood mill, witness sister Bonnie's love affair with a young Elvis, and experience Maxine's pursuit of applause now that she is ailing and alone.
The trio's perfect pitch was honed by a childhood spent listening for the elusive pulse and tone of an impeccably tempered blade at their parent's Arkansas sawmill. Bass describes the Arkansas backwoods with the best of his nature writing skills. He also may revive searches and downloads for the Browns' hits: "I Heard the Bluebirds Sing," "The Three Bells," "The Old Lamplighter" and "Scarlet Ribbons."
"Thin Kimono," by Michael Earl Craig (Wave Books)
Michael Earl Craig lives in Livingston, where he is a certified journeyman farrier and shoes horses for a living. He is also the author of three collections of poetry, including the newest, "Thin Kimono." This collection continues his style of brilliant and generously uncanny poems, reflecting - while utterly slanting - the idiosyncrasies of daily existence in the oft-incomprehensible world.
James Tate has this to say about Craig's poetry: "I like being in the world of Craig's poems. Anything can happen, and probably will, and it will affect me in small or large ways that I couldn't have imagined. The precision of their imagery keeps me reeling with delight."
"Montana Moments: History on the Go," by Ellen Baumler (Montana Historical Society)
Historian Ellen Baumler began compiling these quick vignettes as 90-second radio scripts, which aired from 2005 to 2006. Sometimes bizarre, sometimes hilarious and always illuminating, the eclectic and educational topics range from axolotls, archaeology and epitaphs to tourism and time zones.
Here's an excerpt from, "Montana Moments: History on the Go," entitled "Montana State Song:"
"In 1910, comedy star and composer Joseph E. Howard performed in Butte. The community warmly welcomed him, and after the performance, Mrs. E. Creighton Largey hosted a reception. Mrs. Largey joked that Howard had slighted Montana by including a song about Illinois in his production. Howard said that there were no songs about Montana. ‘So why don't you write one?' she asked. Taking up the challenge, Howard partnered with the only writer present, Charles Cohan, city editor of the Butte Miner. Half an hour later, they finished the composition. Before the evening's end, everyone had joined in singing the catchy refrain. ‘Montana' debuted the next day in Helena. The crowd demanded that Howard repeat it twelve times. Governor Edwin L. Norris was in the audience, and later proposed ‘Montana' as the state song. The writers agreed, suggesting the proceeds go to charity. The Montana Children's Home (now Shodair Hospital) became the beneficiary. Even today, Shodair distributes the sheet music. The song's creators never received a penny for the song, yet it has benefited Montana children and delighted us all."
"Growing a Garden City," by Jeremy N. Smith (Skyhorse Publishing)
The subtitle says it all, "How Farmers, First Graders, Counselors, Troubled Teens, Foodies, A Homeless Shelter Chef, Single Mothers, and More are Transforming Themselves and Their Neighborhoods Through the Intersection of Local Agriculture and Community - and How You Can, Too."
Written by Jeremy N. Smith, with photographs by local journalists Chad Harder and Sepp Jannotta and a foreword by Bill McKibben, this publication spotlights Missoula's Garden City Harvest.
Josh Slotnick, an aspiring teacher; Greg Price, a military veteran; Gita Saedi Kiely, a new homemaker and future mother; and Hannah Ellison, a 16-year-old drug addict were brought together by one local food organization in Missoula. Each of their stories grew and became Garden City Harvest. The organization's needs, challenges and changes are recorded so that other communities can share the success of our community-based sustainable agriculture system. What better way to celebrate the harvest season!
"Stealing the Wind," by Beth Hodder (Grizzly Ridge)
Several years ago, young readers were introduced to Jessie Scott in "The Ghosts of Schafer Meadows" by Beth Hodder. Jessie's father had accepted a job at the Schafer Meadows Ranger Station in Montana's Great Bear Wilderness and she had to leave her best friends in New Mexico for a life without TV, cell phones, the Internet or even electricity.
The sequel, "Stealing the Wind," finds that Jessie and her dog Oriole have adapted to their new home and new friends Will and Allie. But a mystery unfolds as people come and go in the Great Bear Wilderness. Four backpackers, a lone horseman, and a lost single backpacker are surrounded with suspicion as the three friends hunt for whoever is poaching wildlife in the wilderness. Author Beth Hodder tells a good tale, as well as educates readers of all ages in aspects of wilderness appreciation and wildlife law enforcement.
Here is a quick list for book groups looking for new paperbacks that may generate discussion:
• "The Crying Tree," by Naseem Rakha, is a novel about the death penalty and family secrets.
• "Where Men Win Glory," by Jon Krakauer, is the story of former NFL star Pat Tillman and his friendly-fire death in Afghanistan.
• "Baking Cakes in Kigali," by Gaile Parkin, is a fun yet truthful look at present day East Africa.
• "Hunger Games," by Suzanne Collins, is a young adult novel that gives plenty for all ages to think about and discuss.