Thursday, April 3, 2014

Dave Barry's Greatest Hits, Diamond Dust, and The Southerner's Handbook

This is a report on a couple of books I finished this week.

Dave Barry's Greatest Hits - As I knew it would be, this is a hoot. It contains a collection of columns Barry wrote for the Miami Herald and was published in 1988. Barry offers his bizarro thoughts on a wide variety of topics from a review of his son's kindergarten play "The Cave Man" to pot shots taken at Reagan, Oliver North, television evangelists, and dinosaurs. He is a funny, funny man. 

Diamond Dust - Another mystery starring Bath's most famous murder investigator Peter Diamond. I love this series written by Peter Lovesey. In this, the seventh, someone very close to DS Diamond is murdered. As he is not allowed to be involved in the formal investigation - he is even considered a suspect - he has to conduct his own unofficial inquiry into the crime.

The Southerner's Handbook - A couple of years ago I was spending a quiet weekend at a fine old hotel, the Beaumont Inn, in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. On the bedside table were copies of a magazine I had never heard of - Garden & Gun. I thought it an odd juxtaposition of subjects but found the publication to contain some finely written articles on Southern living. 

This book is a collection of short essays on Living the Good Life put together by the editors of G&G. It is a delight and takes a look at the food and drink, style, sporting and adventure, homes and gardens, and arts and culture of the large area of the country that makes up The South. Here the genteel reader will learn how make Southern biscuits and gravy; how and when to wear seersucker; ways to collect mint Julep cups; how to get invited back as a house guest; the intricacies of college football rivalries; and, how to create a year round cutting garden. There is a laugh-out-loud ode to that iconic Southern libation, sweet tea (also known as hillbilly heroin!). 

But best of all are instructions on how to stock your home library.
Here is the list of five essential Southern books according to Richard Howorth, founder and owner of Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi.

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941) by James Agee and Walker Evans

The Moviegoer (1961) by Walker Percy (I wrote about this one here.)

The Complete Stories (1971) by Flannery O'Connor

All God's Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw (1974) by Theodore Rosengarten

Long, Last, Happy (2010) by Barry Hannah

Per chance, do any of these books grace your shelves?


  1. After your post on seeing Dave Barry, I checked Boogers Are My Beat out from the library, and have been reading it and laughing ever since. I love his writing, and I am a couple of books behind.

    I would be interested in The Southerner's Handbook--I stumbled on Garden & Gun a couple of years ago, and found that title to be a bit odd. The magazine itself was interesting, though. I do not have even one of those essential Southern books! (Is Florida considered "The South"?)

    1. But of course, Kathy, Florida is The South - although it seems to have been taken over by Those Darn Yankees, as my mother would say. Besides, "Southern" is a state of mind! It is all about hospitality, graciousness, and a hankerin' for some good barbecue! All qualities I am sure you possess.

      I only have a copy of The Moviegoer - on my Kindle no less which most likely doesn't count as part of a fine Southern home library. I will investigate the others although I have read some of Flannery O'Connor. I understand that Barry Hannah is quite amusing.

  2. Sadly, none of these grace my shelves, but . . . well, on my list they go.
    I am sure I've mentioned this before, but, I love Dave Barry and miss his columns in the Sunday magazine. Sigh.
    I first heard of Guns and Gardens Magazine on a magazine format talk show that about home decorating. Curious, I sought a copy of Guns and Gardens and was intrigued. The Southerner's Handbook sounds delightful, Belle. I will look for it in my wanderings, now.

    1. It is good to have a list, Penny! I so enjoyed Mr. Barry's Greatest Hits and will be reading more of him in the near future.

      "The Southerner's Handbook" is great fun and full of surprises. I admit I didn't read the bits about hunting dogs and hunting, but the other ones - and there are about 100 essays - offer a wonderful guide to being Southern! Maybe your library has a copy?