Twelve days of Christmas: 12 great books with Alabama connections for holiday gift-giving

Twelve days of Christmas: 12 great books with Alabama connections for holiday gift-giving
It's not easy to pick 12 books out of the thousands written by Alabama-connected authors, but Jake Reiss' selections combine classics with more recent titles, fiction and nonfiction, covering a wide range of subjects. (Brittany Faush / Alabama NewsCenter)

For Alabama readers, the holidays are a great season to snuggle up with a good book. They are also the ideal time to give a book. But here’s the dilemma: If you’re seeking a great book with Alabama connections, the choices are overwhelming – and growing by the day.

To help sort through the options, Alabama NewsCenter asked Jake Reiss, longtime owner of The Alabama Booksmith in Homewood, to give us 12 recommendations. Why 12? Well, 13 sounded like too many, and 12 ties in nicely with that classic gift-giving-themed Christmas song, “The 12 Days of Christmas.”

Here are Jake’s picks, in (mostly) his own words:

Trying to select only 12 Alabama writers out of thousands, from every part of the state, with wonderful books for readers of all ages and tastes is an impossible task! So, when we submit the list below, we also offer a challenge to go to your local bookstore and find another hundred for each of these dozen and make this an Alabama Readers’ Christmas.

The Alabama Booksmith’s Jake Reiss in praise of Alabama writers from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Possibly the most beloved living Alabama author is Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Bragg. His first book, “All Over but the Shoutin’,” has become a classic in explaining to the world the roots of hard-working folks in this part of the country. What a great gift for proud Alabamians.

Lucy Buffett is becoming as well-known as her musically inclined brother Jimmy, now that her second cookbook has hit the best-seller lists. “Gumbo Love: Recipes for Gulf Coast Cooking, Entertaining, and Savoring the Good Life” will delight masters in the kitchen and can help novices become instant chefs.

Children of all ages have screamed at being scared by Kathryn Tucker Windham’s “13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey” for generations. Although she is no longer around, her spirit (and spirits) will continue to haunt us for eons.

The country’s greatest musicians and singers know about the musical mecca nestled in the northwest corner of our state, and Blake Ells‘ “The Muscle Shoals Legacy of FAME” tells the inside story that will thrill music lovers.

“Boy’s Life” by Robert McCammon is required reading in three out of every four high schools in the country. It’s a coming-of-age story of a boy in a small town in Alabama.

This busy time of year calls for short stories, and one of the best collections anywhere is “Eveningland” by Michael Knight.

Sports fans who love Bama football – or hate it – will enjoy learning the secrets behind Nick Saban’s process in Phil Savage’s “4th and Goal Every Day: Alabama’s Relentless Pursuit of Perfection.”

Young readers around the world know and love John Green. His new book, “Turtles All the Way Down,” follows two teenagers as they investigate a fugitive billionaire.

Even younger readers will enjoy “Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit” by Academy Award-winning actor and Montgomery native Octavia Spencer.

The biggest-grossing movie of its time was “Forrest Gump,” based on the book by Winston Groom. As is usually the case, the book is better than the movie.

Fannie Flagg’s most recent book, “The Whole Town’s Talking,” is light, fun and poignant at the same time. She allows founders of a small town to express their thoughts long after they’ve gone.

Regardless of limitations, no list of Alabama writers is complete without mentioning the mother of them all, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. This classic is reread by many in this state year after year. It is a favorite for all ages.

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