Local Exerts' Opinions for Summer Reading

A few locals take the time to give us their insiders' short-lists on the topics they know best.

Todd Steed, musician, on Must-Read Music Books

  • The Real Frank Zappa Book (1989) by Frank Zappa
  • Goodbye, Little Rock And Roller (2003) by Marshall Chapman
  • The Cheese Chronicles (1997) by Tommy Womac
  • I Need More (1982) by Iggy Pop

Frank Zappa, to me, was the most intelligent and entertaining rock personality. His book reflects that and also says things about the music business and the human race that we, as a species, need to hear. Marshall Chapman¹s book feels like a good friend sitting down telling you really great stories for four hours. Same with The Cheese Chronicles by Tommy Womac. That one hit close to home several times, too. It¹s the classic indie band struggle. Iggy is insane yet somehow in control. I find that to be an appealing combo. They are all way true. I am fascinated by stuff that really happened that seems like fiction. That being said, Mark Twain is still my favorite writer. But there was much truth in what he wrote, too.

Todd A. Diacon, University of Tennessee Vice Provost for Academic Operations, Professor of History on History Books That Come Alive

I would recommend three books, all by UT history professors:

  • Democracy's Prisoner (Harvard University Press, 2008) by Ernest Freeberg
  • Firebrand of Liberty (Norton Press, 2008) by Stephen V. Ash
  • The Shipwreck that Saved Jamestown: The Sea Venture Castaways and the Fate of America (Henry Holt and Company, August, 2008) by Lorri Glover and Daniel Blake Smith

Freeberg's Prisoner is the study of Eugene Debs, the leader of the American Socialist Party who ran for president while imprisoned for violating speech controls during wartime. The book¹s lessons for the U.S. today are palpable.

Ash's Firebrand is the story of two black regiments during the Civil War. These units invaded northern Florida to establish a Union base in Jacksonville, and to free slaves on Florida plantations. Ash is famous nationally for his clear and interesting prose, which is on great display in this very readable book.

Finally, I would encourage your readers to be on the lookout for The Shipwreck that Saved Jamestown, which is coauthored by UT history professor Lorri Glover. This is a highly readable account of the mutiny and shipwreck of the ship Sea Venture, the survival of 150 colonists for a year on the island of Bermuda, and the role this played in the survival of the colony at Jamestown. It will be released in early August.

Charlotte Tolley, Director of the Market Square Farmers' Market, on Excellent Eco-Food Books

Food is inextricable from politics, culture, economics, and daily life, and I find the links between history, war, society, and modern culture extremely interesting. The role food plays in our everyday lives and the lives of every human is often overlooked in a country with a history of cheap, abundant food. In the non-fiction category, I recommend pretty much anything by Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver, Real Food (2006) by Nina Planck and Salt (2002), Cod (1997) and A Basque History of the World (1999) by Mark Kurlansky. They write non-fiction that isn¹t terribly academic, but still very educational, full of personal anecdotes. Barbara Kingsolver has become sort of a local food icon, and anyone in this region interested in local food should read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (2007). She also wrote one of my favorite works of fiction, The Poisonwood Bible (1998), that deals with farming, culture, and religion.

Another book I very much enjoyed that deals with some of the same issues is The Sparrow (1996) by Mary Doria Russell, although farming is only a small element. In required reading, I would include the essays of Wendell Berry and The Jungle (1906) by Upton Sinclair, plus Fast Food Nation (2002) by Eric Schlosser.

I'm currently reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food (2008) and Paul Hawkin's Growing a Business (1987). I'm enjoying both of them. This is the first I've read of Paul Hawkin, who started Erewhon, the largest distributor of natural foods. In Defense of Food had me at the cover, a head of lettuce with a band saying "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants." So far, he has not let me down.

I'm ready for some good fiction next, although I was just given On Good Land: The Autobiography of an Urban Farm (1998), so I guess that's next

on the list.