Appalachian Reads

Books & Bites Podcast, Ep. 76

JCPL librarians bring you book recommendations and discuss the bites and beverages to pair with them.

On this episode, we discuss books set in or about Appalachia, one of the prompts for Books & Bites Bingo. Collection Access Associate John David Hurley, who is from Mount Vernon, Kentucky, joins Michael, Carrie, and Jacqueline to share some favorite books about Appalachia.

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What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia book cover

John David recommends a Books & Bites favorite, Elizabeth Catte’s What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia. He says it’s a good primer on the history of Appalachia, and it responds to JD Vance’s book, Hillbilly Elegy.

John David also discusses Belonging: A Culture of Place by bell hooks, which explores identity and what it means to belong to Appalachia. Finally, he recommends All This Marvelous Potential: Robert Kennedy’s 1968 Tour of Appalachia by Matthew Algeo.

Blood Runs Coal book cover

Michael recommends Blood Runs Coal: The Yablonski Murder and the Battle for the United Mine Workers of America by Mark A. Bradley.

Taking place mostly in central Appalachia during the late 60’s and early 70’s, this book looks at Joseph “Jock” Yablonski and his campaign to clean up the corruption of the United Mine Workers of America. It’s also the true-crime story of his murder and the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators and conspirators.  

Pairing: A One-Eyed Jack, an Appalachian breakfast dish from Ronni Lundy’s Victuals: An Appalachian Journey with Recipes. 

Trampoline book cover

Carrie enjoyed Trampoline by Robert Gipe. It’s the coming-of-age story of 15 year-old Dawn Jewell, who lost her father in a mining accident when she was younger. Dawn joins her grandmother in fighting a coal company’s plans to strip mine Big Bear Mountain. Her life is chaotic, and she makes a lot of mistakes, but you’ll root for her along the way.

Carrie also recommends Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith, an epistolary novel set in southwest Virginia.

Pairing: A Slaw Dog, also from Ronni Lundy’s Victuals.

Jacqueline read The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes. Set in 1937, it’s a fictional account of the Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky. The main character is a young English woman named Alice Wright who moves to Kentucky with her new husband.

Unhappy with her situation, Alice sees a chance to do something meaningful when she learns about the President and Mrs. Roosevelt’s efforts to restore attention to literacy and learning with a mobile library program.

Pairing: A mint julep made with Mint Simple Syrup.

More Books Set in or About Appalachia