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A year of good reading

December 31, 2018
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"The Sawbones Book: The Hilarious, Horrifying Road to Modern Medicine" premiered Oct. 9 on Amazon.com.

HUNTINGTON—As Mark Twain once stated, “his death had been greatly exaggerated,” and so it seems with the publishing industry where book sales and the number of books being published continue to climb.

In fact, Bowker, the official ISBN agency in the U.S., reported in October 2018, that since 2012, the number of ISBNs assigned for self-published titles has grown 156 percent. And in 2017, that number went over the 1 million mark.

This past year, 2018 was the fifth straight year of print growth, and that fact was echoed locally as regional authors released many books - a wild and wonderful array of both fiction and non fiction works.

Here’s just a few of the notable books from regional authors published this past year.

‘The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins’

Clint McElroy and his three sons Justin, Travis and Griffin, made history this year with their graphic novel (based off a story arc in their hit podcast The Adventure Zone). The book hit No. 1 on the New York Times Best Sellers Book list in July. Clint and Justin, who live locally, became the first area residents to score a No. 1 book - and made history as their book was the first graphic novel to hit the No.1 spot for fiction. They are working on a second book, “The Adventure Zone: Murder On the Rockport Limited,” which will be published July 16, 2019. You can pre-order now at https://read.macmillan.com/the-adventure-zone/.

‘Sawbones’

The husband and wife podcast team, Justin McElroy and Dr. Sydnee Smirl McElroy, took some of the best nuggets from their history-filled comedy podcast, “Sawbones: A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine,” and turned it onto a best-selling book, “The Sawbones Book: The Hilarious, Horrifying Road to Modern Medicine” that came out Oct. 9. The Weldon-Owens-published book, also hit the NYT Best Sellers List for Science Books. It boils up the best of the five years of their hit podcast complete with illustrations by Syd’s sister, Teylor Smirl, a graduate of New York’s School of the Visual Arts whose work has been featured in comics such as “Amazing Forest” as well as her own series, “Flightless Birds.” The book, which pokes fun at everything from bizarre hangover cures to bloodletting, is available now at https://www.weldonowen.com/sawbonesbook.

‘The Reaches’

Well-known former radio morning show host, Sheila Redling has been enjoying a second creative career as an author (S.G. Redling) who continues to crank out page-burners in multi-genres from Sci-Fi and Action Adventure to Murder Mysteries.

In 2018, Redling, satiated fans of her new vampire-themed series about the highly-structured, modern Nahan society with “Reaches,” a followup to her 2015 first book in that series, “Ourselves.”

In “Reaches,” the main character Stell, accompanied by another natural born killer like herself, and a broken Storyteller, goes on a cross country roads trip as they dig into her family’s troubled past, peeling back the layers of her family’s history as well as discovering more the complex web of Nahan living in contemporary society.

Get the book at https://www.amazon.com/Reaches-Nahan-Book-2-ebook/dp/B07BLM6QM3

‘Hotter Than A Pepper Sprout’

In April, BMG published West Virginia Music Hall of Fame member Billy Edd Wheeler’s memoir, “Hotter Than a Pepper Sprout: A Hillbilly Poet’s Journey From Appalachia to

Yale to Writing Hits for Elvis, Johnny Cash & More.”

The book is a raw and emotional look at his tough upbringing in the coal camps of West Virginia, and his creative journey that led him to write and release 20 albums, 14 plays and musicals, nine books, and two collections of poetry.

For any creatives interested in Appalachia, it’s a must read to hear the behind-thescenes stories from one of the region’s Renaissance men - an award-winning songwriter, musician, author, playwright, poet, visual artist, and folk singer. Go online at amazon.com to get the book.

‘Street Meat’

One of the most poignant and prolific graphic artists to ever be based in Huntington, Jimbo Valentine is perhaps best known internationally for doing the art work and merch for Tyler Childers and other touring acts, and locally for his poster work for The V Club, and the gigantic murals on their patio.

In “Street Meat,” a new 304-page book of art, photography and poetry released in the fall of 2018, Valentine, takes inspiration from walking the streets and shooting photos not only in Huntington, but also Charleston, Morgantown, Fairmont, Chicago, Myrtle Beach and other spaces in between.

Valentine, who took two full years to put together “Street Meat,” in between his work for Brand Yourself, valiantly splays open with his art his journey as a human being “Good, bad, happy, sad, angry and even hope.” Go online at www.amalgamunlimited.com or stop by Brand Yourself to get a copy of the book.

‘The Sound of Holding Your Breath’

Just out in November on WVU Press, “The Sound of Holding Your Breath,” by Natalie Sypolt, is a significant work for any fan of contemporary Appalachian short story writers.

Fellow author, Wiley Cash says, “It is an important book by an important writer,” and Cash is right.

Sypolt, who serves as a literary editor for the Anthology of Appalachian Writers, on the selection committee for the prestigious Weatherford Award in Fiction, is us and gets us and spins fresh tales of contemporary Appalachian tragedy that stick to your mind’s tires like March mud.

Go online at www.wvupress.com for more info.

‘Waterfalls of Virginia and West Virginia’

With some of the rainiest years on record happening now, there could barely be a more timely outdoors book than Randall Sanger’s second edition of “Waterfalls of Virginia and West Virginia,” (Adventure Keen Publishing) is packed with info and photos of 174 falls in the Old Dominion and Mountain State.

Organized geographically and ranked by beauty, Sanger, who lives in Williamson, W.V., culls through the more 500 water falls in the two states, and documents the keepers not only with stunning photography but good trail notes from GPS coordinates and hiking difficulty to directions.

His photography is stunning and inspirational, his short descriptions helpful and that makes a near perfect hiking book for anyone who in spite of the advice of TLC “does go chasing waterfalls.” Go online at www.randallsanger.com and http://adventurewithkeen.com/

‘Roadside Geology of West Virginia’

The Montana-based publishing company, Mountain Press, continued its Roadside Geology book series, with the Oct. 15 release of “Roadside Geology of West Virginia.” In this educational and entertaining new book, authors Joseph Lebold and Christopher Wilkinson lead readers along roads through the Mountain State, past road cuts exposing contorted rock layers, coral reefs and ancient red soils. Sidebars provide more details about iconic places such as the New River Gorge, Seneca Rocks and Dolly Sods, as well as unusual geologic features such as the riverless Teays Valley and the karst topography and caverns of the Big Levels.

Lebold has taught geology at WVU since 2009, while Wilkinson spent 37 years teaching writing and music history at WVU before retiring in 2013. The 312-page book also includes 180 color photographs by Maria af Rolen, a Swedish native who lives in Morgantown and earned her B.S. in geology from WVU in 2016. Go online at https://mountain-press.com/item_ detail.php?item_key=771 for more info.

Hiking West Virginia’ Just in time to check out the Mountain State’s amazing foliage, Globe Pequot Press/Falcon Guides released its third edition of “Hiking West Virginia: A Guide to the State’s Greatest Hiking Adventures” with author and veteran hiker Mary Reed. Reed, who last updated this series in June 2013, guides folks to 50 of the very best hiking trails in the state. Inside you’ll find detailed maps, mileby-mile trail descriptions, backpacking tips and informative details about landmarks and natural history. Reed, who lives in Athens, Ohio, and Boulder, Colorado, is also the author of “Hiking Ohio,” and “Best Easy Day Hikes in Fort Collins.” Go online at Amazon.com or https://tinyurl.com/HikingWV to get the book.

‘Historic West Virginia’

It had been since 2000, that the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History (WVDCH) put together its first “Historic West Virginia” book detailing important historic spots in West Virginia, which has more than 1,000 listings in the National Register of Historic Places.

In 2018, SHPO updated “Historic West Virginia,” with a 300 page soft-cover book includes brief individual descriptions of West Virginia’s historic resources listed in the National Register. It may not be everybody’s jam but if you are a WV history buff it’s a must-see as it features 17 areas of interest. These include Civil War in West Virginia, Farms and Barns, African American Resources, Coal Heritage, Railroads, Women’s History, New Deal Resources and National Historic Landmarks. Each is complete with a map showing where the resources can be found in West Virginia. “In the pages of this book, you will find that West Virginia’s historic resources stories are as diverse as its people,” said Randall Reid-Smith, WVDCH commissioner. “Every site, building and district helps tell a story and celebrate our history.” Check out the book at local libraries.

‘Blue Planet Memoirs’

Well known West Virginia poet Kirk Judd has helped make sure the work of his good friend and fellow poet Joseph Barrett is not forgotten.

Judd was the project editor on a December released book of Barrett’s poetry called “Blue Planet Memoirs,” just now published and released by Dos Madres Press of Loveland, Ohio. The work is a rich trove of poetry that Barrett completed before his accidental death in 1990. Internationally known for his poems and haikus, Barrett had previously published four volumes of poetry.

Judd has been reading poems from the book around the state this winter including stops in Huntington, Beckley, Wheeling, St. Albans, Phillipi, and Barrett’s hometown of Richwood. To order copies of the book or for more information contact Kirk Judd at 304-599-2496 or taobilly@yahoo.com.

‘Never Justice, Never Peace’

In 2018, Ginny Savage Ayers brought to life her late father’s incomplete book manuscript about Mother Jones’ lesser-known crusade in Kanawha County in the WVU Press book, “Never Justice, Never Peace.“It is the first booklength account of the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek Strike of 1912-13.

Her father was well known for his 1986 book, “Thunder in the Mountains: The West Virginia Mine War, 1920-21,” a popular history book that influenced such writers as John Sayles and Denise Giardinia.

Savage (who passed away in 2004) and Ayers offer a narrative history of the strike that weaves together threads about organizer Mother Jones, the United Mine Workers union, politicians, coal companies, and Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency guards with the experiences of everyday men and women. The result is a compelling and in-depth treatment that brings to light an unjustly neglected--and notably violent--chapter of labor history.

Go online at wvupress.com for more info.

‘Weedeater’

In 2015, Eastern Kentucky writer, Robert Gipe set the world on notice with his award-winning genre-blurring illustrated and coming-ofage novel, “Trampoline,” that strewn open all the contemporary problems and patchwork quilt of goodness that is buried in forgotten Appalachian mountain communities.

In 2018, he was back with an equally compelling illustrated novel, “Weedeater” (Ohio University Press) that picks up six years later with Canard County living through the last hurrah of the coal industry and the most turbulent and deadly phase of the community’s battle with opioid abuse.

Gipe returns to follow Gene, a lovelorn lawnman who bears witness to the misadventures of a family entangled in drugs, artmaking, and politics, a family beset by environmental and self-destruction. And now a young mother, Dawn Jewell, who is at the center of the family.

Filled with humor and grace, “Weedeater,” as described by Gipe, is a story about how we put our lives back together when we lose the things we thought we couldn’t bear losing, how we find new purpose in what we thought were scraps and trash caught in the weeds. Go online at https://www.ohioswallow.com/book/Weedeater.

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