What Barack Obama is Reading

The following comes from the September 10 Special Convention Issue of Time magazine:


“His laptop lies open, alone on the polished desk, across from a tray where an aide has placed the two novels he is reading at the moment, HOME by Toni Morrison and SALVAGE THE BONES by Jesmyn Ward. Both authors are award-winning women who focus on the same subject, the hardship and heroism of poor Americans…”


Jesmyn Ward is a Mississippi native, former Grisham Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi and 2011 National Book Award Winner. She visited us last year to sign copies of SALVAGE THE BONES. Available is the hardcover ($24) paperback ($15) Google eBook ($11.99) and signed first edition ($125). 

Toni Morrison's HOME is available in hardcover ($24) Google eBook ($11.99) and signed first edition ($100).

You Saw Them At Square Books First

Square Books has served as a springboard for a number of auspicious literary beginnings. Authors whose first bookstore signings were held here include John Grisham (A Time To Kill), Larry Brown (Facing the Music), Charles Frazier (Cold Mountain), and (in the U.S.) Australian Richard Flanagan (The Sound of One Hand Clapping) and Canadian Yann Martel (The Life of Pi). We have learned recently that the authors of two of the most highly anticipated first novels to be published this fall -- worthy of comparison to those writers mentioned already -- will do inaugural events here -- Lance Weller on September 4, and Kevin Powers, September 10.

Wilderness has received frequent early comparisons, coincidentally, to Charles Frazier's first novel. Set in Washington State thirty years after the Civil War's Battle of Wilderness, in which Abel Truman had fought, the aged veteran undertakes a final quest in which he rediscovers violence and brutality. Abel also finds a generous, kind spirit of humanity in this place, the account of which Annie Dillard said "the landscapes are huge" and "Abel's story...both simple and rich, the novel unforgettable."

In 2004 and 2005 Kevin Powers was a machine gunner in Mosul and Tal Afar, the combat setting of The Yellow Birds in chapters that alternate with the story's stateside events. This short novel is written with great intensity and artistry. Described by Colm Toibin as "compelling" and Ann Patchett as "inexplicably beautiful," Tom Wolfe has hailed The Yellow Birds as "The All Quiet on the Western Front of America's Arab Wars."

Please join us to help Oxford welcome two promising writers into the world of readers. RH

Square Books to host James Meredith

 Thursday, August 30

Opening with a riveting account of his 1966 assassination attempt 2 miles outside Hernando, Mississippi, James Meredith's new book, A Mission From God: A Memoir and Challenge for America, rarely loses its grip on the reader captured by the voice that admits, "I befuddle people," avering that "I refused to be forced into a special category where I am expected to behave in certain ways and hold certain beliefs." The author (with William Doyle) ranges across a spectrum of history and events, including his genealogical history (an especially fine portrayal of his mother and father), his military career, his spiritual connection to Japan, his encounters and friendships with Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, and others, the crisis surrounding his desegregation of Ole Miss (and encounter with the white woman who was in love with him), his career with Jesse Helms, all the while espousing his core beliefs about humanity, politics, and his principles of American citizenship. While the enigma of James Meredith ultimately remains, we know more of this man now than we ever have through the blunt honesty of this book, portrayed by the amazing and amiable character of James Meredith, as well as the utterly sensible and noble challenge that arrives at the end of the book. RH

(A Mission From God) Photo by Matt Heindl, Jackson Free Press

Journalist and professor Joe Atkins will interview James Meredith briefly and moderate a question and answer session at 5:30 Thursday, August 30, during Mr. Meredith's appearance  in conjunction with his book, A Mission From God.


Noel Polk


Noel Polk

Mississippi letters lost a champion when Noel Polk passed away at home after an illness. A longtime professor of English literature at the University of Southern Mississippi and later Mississippi State University, he was well-known here in Oxford mainly due to his perennial appearances at the Faulkner Conference, where he often spoke. A scholar of two of Mississippi’s greatest writers, William Faulkner and Eudora Welty, he was involved in the editing of some of Faulkner’s original texts and the Library of America editions of Faulkner. He published Children of the Dark House: Text and Context in Faulkner and Eudora Welty: A Bibliography of Her Work. A fine extract of his personal history, Outside the Southern Myth, may be found here on the site of the American Scholar

While Noel’s scholarship could be arcane – he really got down to the nitty gritty -- a personal encounter with Noel was always open, engaging, and very friendly. His contagious energy not only gave creation to the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters, he also kept a hand in sustaining the organization since he helped found it in 1978. It is no surprise to those who knew Noel that his generous enthusiasm for literature included a constant support for us here at Square Books.

Noel got his PhD at the University of South Carolina after completing his other degrees at Mississippi College, where he was a member of the MC literary brat pack that included Peggy Prenshaw, Evans Harrington, Barry Hannah, and many others. Mississippi’s powerhouse of literary greatness continues to cast its shadow over the world, and Noel worked in the boiler room. We will miss him, and extend our condolences to all his friends and family.  RH

The Dog Stars

"I could almost imagine that it was before, that Jasper and I were off somewhere on an extended sojourn and would come back one day soon, that all would come back to me, that we were not living in the wake of disaster. Had not lost everything but our lives. Same as yesterday standing in the garden. It caught me sometimes: that this was okay. Just this. That simple beauty was still bearable barely, and that if I lived moment to moment, garden to stove to the simple act of flying, I could have peace." 
What you are guaranteed to get from The Dog Stars: a hunting-fishing-nature-airplane-dog-survivalist drama. What you might not expect: being part of the rush of adventure from inside the head of Hig, the hunter-gatherer-pilot-survivalist. Hig's moment-by-moment thoughts are a necessary and constant guard in the devastated and altered land (the West) where he continues to find beauty and solace in the natural world even though people hunt and kill each other and there is only one friend and one dog to trust. Hig sets out in his 1950s Cessna aircraft to answer a vague transmission, because he wants to believe there will be a new beginning, or if not that, an end. The Dog Stars is unnerving, enthralling, moving. Peter Heller, an adventure writer/editor (Outdoors and National Geographic Adventure magazines) is in touch with more than trees and streams with this one. SLM