3 months ago

Sixteen must-read books by Alabama authors

With 2019 just around the corner, many of us are starting to map out our New Year’s resolutions, lists of goals and annual plans.

Reading more books seems to be a perennial goal for many people, but where to start? Well, if you’re an Alabamian, here are 16 books by Alabama authors — broken down into a handful of different categories, depending on what you’re looking for — that could get your year started off right.

Faith

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt

When David Platt wrote this New York Times Bestseller in 2014, he was pastor of Birmingham’s Church at Brook Hills.

From Multnomah: “In Radical, David Platt challenges you to consider with an open heart how we have manipulated the gospel to fit our cultural preferences. He shows what Jesus actually said about being his disciple — then invites you to believe and obey what you have heard. And he tells the dramatic story of what is happening as a ‘successful’ suburban church decides to get serious about the gospel according to Jesus.”

How to Be a Man: Pursuing Christ-Centered Masculinity by Rick Burgess 

From YM360: “Manhood is in crisis. In the majority of our churches, men make up the minority of regular attenders, and many of the men who show up on Sunday mornings are disconnected from the work and life of the church. How can men become who God wants them to be? And what does it even mean to be a man anyway? The truth is that it’s impossible to be a man without grounding your definition of manhood in the person of Christ… Using 8 core characteristics, this devotional experience will challenge men to exemplify these in their own lives as they passionately pursue a Christ-centered manhood.”

The Daniel Dilemma: How to Stand Firm and Love Well in a Culture of Compromise by Chris Hodges

From Thomas Nelson: “Christians today face a dilemma: in a world that seems to reject everything we believe, how do we walk closely with God without caving to pressure or alienating those we hope to reach? In this eye-opening new book, Chris Hodges, pastor of Alabama’s Church of the Highlands, provides a solution by examining the life of the prophet Daniel, who persevered in a corrupt culture that closely resembles our own—and emerged as an influential force in God’s redemptive plan.”

Classic Novels

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

From Grand Central: “The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Alabama town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.”

Forrest Gump by Winston Groom

From Vintage: “The modern classic that inspired the beloved movie starring Tom Hanks. Six foot six, 242 pounds, and possessed of a scant IQ of 70, Forrest Gump is the lovable, surprisingly savvy hero of this classic comic tale. His early life may seem inauspicious, but when the University of Alabama’s football team drafts Forrest and makes him a star, it sets him on an unbelievable path that will transform him from Vietnam hero to world-class Ping-Pong player, from wrestler to entrepreneur. With a voice all his own, Forrest is telling all in a madcap romp through three decades of American history.”

Sports

Called to Coach: Reflections on Life, Faith and Football by Bobby Bowden

From Howard Books: “In this New York Times bestseller, legendary coach (and Alabama native) Bobby Bowden gives readers an inside look at the path that led him to become one of college football’s most successful coaches.”

Game of My Life by Mark Murphy

From Sports Publishing: “Several prominent Auburn football players of the past share their fondest single-game experience and memories. Some of these games involve championships, while others seem ordinary save for extraordinary personal meaning. In each case, it is the player who singles out the game, the moment in time that to him is the most defining of his Auburn Tiger football career. Each player has his own unique story, but together they weave a tapestry of Auburn’s legendary history.”

The Storm and the Tide: Tragedy, Hope and Triumph in Tuscaloosa by Lars Anderson

From Sports Illustrated: “On April 27, 2011, a powerful tornado ripped through the heart of Tuscaloosa, Ala., leaving 53 dead and a path of unimaginable devastation. In the aftermath, Alabama coach Nick Saban and his football team went out into the community, sharing its grief and aiding in the recovery. Together they forged an unbreakable bond, and in a place where Saturdays are dedicated to Crimson Tide football, ‘Let’s play for Tuscaloosa’ became a rallying cry, an emotional touchstone that transcended the playing field.”

Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Road Trip into the Heart of Fan Mania by Warren St. John

What is it about sports that turns otherwise sane people into raving lunatics? Why does winning compel people to tear down goal posts, and losing, to drown themselves in bad keg beer? In short, why do fans care? In search of answers, Warren St. John seeks out the roving community of RVers who follow the Alabama Crimson Tide from game to game. Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer is not only a hilarious travel story, but a cultural anthropology of fans that goes a long way toward demystifying the universal urge to take sides and to win.

Hometown Heroes

Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam, legendary NASA engineer based at Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center

From Random House: “One of the most beloved bestsellers in recent years, Rocket Boys is a uniquely American memoir. A powerful, luminous story of coming of age at the end of the 1950s, it is the story of a mother’s love and a father’s fears, of growing up and getting out. With the grace of a natural storyteller, Homer Hickam looks back after a distinguished NASA career to tell his own true story of growing up in a dying coal town and of how, against the odds, he made his dreams of launching rockets into outer space come true.”

Send the Alabamians: World War I Fighters in the Rainbow Division by Nimrod Thompson Frazer

From the University of Alabama Press: “Send the Alabamians tells the remarkable story of a division of Alabama recruits whose service Douglas MacArthur observed had not ‘been surpassed in military history.’ The book borrows its title from a quip by American General Edward H. Plummer who commanded the young men during the inauspicious early days of their service. Impressed with their ferocity and esprit de corps but exasperated by their rambunctiousness, Plummer reportedly exclaimed: ‘In time of war, send me all the Alabamians you can get, but in time of peace, for Lord’s sake, send them to somebody else!'”

Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington

In one of the most famous autobiographies in American history, Booker T. Washington tells the remarkable story of his rise from a childhood of slavery to a life of extraordinary accomplishment. He earned a wide range of titles along the way, from author and educator to entrepreneur and presidential advisor.

Current Events

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson 

From Spiegel & Grau: “A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time,” Bryan Stevenson of Montgomery, Alabama’s Equal Justice Initiative. This No. 1 New York Times Bestseller will soon be a major motion picture starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx.

Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House by Cliff Sims

 From St. Martin’s Press: “The first honest insider’s account of the Trump administration, due out January 29. Sims stood with the President in the eye of the storm raging around him, and now he tells the story that no one else has written―because no one else could. The story of what it was really like in the West Wing as a member of the President’s team. The story of power and palace intrigue, backstabbing and bold victories, as well as painful moral compromises, occasionally with yourself. Team of Vipers tells the full story, as only a true insider could.”

How Do You Kill 11 Million People?: Why the Truth Matters More Than You Think by Andy Andrews

From Thomas Nelson: In this New York Times Bestseller, “Andy Andrews [shows] that good answers come only from asking the right questions. Through the powerful, provocative question, ‘How do you kill eleven million people?’―the number of people killed by the Nazi German regime between 1933 and 1945―he explores a number of other questions relevant to our lives today.

Career Advice

 Climbing the Hill by Amos Snead and Jaime Harrison

From Yellowhammer News’ Sean Ross: “For young people seeking careers in public service or politics, it is often the lessons learned outside of the classroom that make the difference between success and failure. Now, one Alabama native is providing a guide to help aspiring politicos find their way.” In Climbing the Hill, Alabama native Amos Snead has co-written a book chock full of advice and insight for anyone seeking a career in the political arena.

33 mins ago

Marsh bill to repeal Common Core approved by Senate committee

MONTGOMERY — Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh’s (R-Anniston) bill to eliminate Common Core in the state of Alabama was given a unanimous favorable recommendation by the Senate’s Education Policy Committee on Wednesday.

The bill, SB 119, is now set to be debated and considered on the Senate floor Thursday.

Marsh spoke about this bill during Yellowhammer Multimedia’s “News Shaper” event in Montgomery Tuesday evening after he filed the bill earlier that day.

He acknowledged that he has been a proponent of letting the state school board set education curriculum and standards policy in the past and even stopped an effort to repeal Common Core a few years ago. However, in Marsh’s view, Common Core has been given a chance now and it is time for the legislature to step in.

“It’s not working. I think we have to have some radical change with education policy in this state. And y’all know me, I’ve pushed a lot of things –  public charter schools, the Accountability Act. We’ve got to address this issue and it’s critical for this state,” Marsh said.

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He said eliminating Common Core would “clear the field” so the state could then move forward to better education outcomes.

Alabama would come up with its own high standards, premised on local control, under Marsh’s proposal.

He said his bill is cosponsored by all 27 of his Republican Senate colleagues and he expects SB 119 to pass the chamber and then receive similarly strong support in the House.

“I am committed to moving to a different standard that’s right for Alabama and moves us forward,” Marsh emphasized.

He also advised that there is a high level of politics involved in education decisions in the state but that sound policy must come first.

“[T]he education community, who I’ve asked to get this fixed, who have not addressed this, quite honestly I don’t think has put us in shape to move forward to address the problem at present. But I’m going to do all I can to see that it happens,” Marsh added.

Democrats on the Senate Education Policy Committee spoke in favor of keeping Common Core on Wednesday.

A career public school teacher from Lee County spoke in favor of eliminating Common Core at the hearing, while representatives from the state school superintendents association and the school boards association had concerns about the implementation of new standards.

Marsh said his bill will be amended before a vote by the full Senate to allow another national standard to be used if found to be best for Alabama, as the current language in his bill would ban any national standard from being adopted by the state school board.

Update, 11:35 a.m.:

State Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) released a statement in support of Marsh’s bill.

“I strongly support Senator Marsh’s bill,” Givhan said. “The Common Core standards just haven’t worked for Alabama’s students, and the proof is evident in the data. In 2017, Alabama’s 8th grade math scores ranked 49th among the 50 states, and math scores for 4th grade students were 45th in the nation, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Common Core’s curriculum standards and guidelines have been in place for nine years, and they have failed Alabama’s students. It’s clear we need to look at alternative educational methods, with an emphasis on returning as much control as possible back to the local school districts.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 hour ago

Marsh, McCutcheon talk lottery, ethics clarifications at Yellowhammer ‘News Shaper’ event

MONTGOMERY — Speaking Tuesday evening at Yellowhammer Multimedia’s first “News Shaper” event of 2019, Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) provided their insight on some of the hot-button topics expected to be debated during the legislature’s ongoing regular session.

Yellowhammer owner and editor Tim Howe, who moderated the discussion, outlined uncertainty in the state’s ethics laws brought on by recent court and ethics commission decisions. Howe then asked the two leaders how they think the legislature can provide certainty and codified clarification moving forward, especially when it comes to defining a “principal.”

“There is no doubt that there’s a lot of uncertainty in the ethics legislation,” Marsh said. “The [Alabama Code of Ethics Clarification and Reform Commission] was set up to look over this, but in addition to that, both the Senate and the House – in the Senate you have Greg Albritton and in the House [you have] Mike Jones – working throughout the entire break on how we address this.”

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“And remember,” Marsh continued, “it’s not about 140 legislators, there are 50,000 people in the state of Alabama affected by the ethics law. I’m going to make a plea to my colleagues, some of whom are in this room tonight: If it’s going to be fixed, we’ve got to fix it.”

He emphasized, “[I]t’s not going to get any easier. You’ve got to face the issues. You’ve got to address it and realize this is about much [more] than the legislature. So, I’m hopeful.

Marsh also noted that the uncertainty in the ethics law has “affected economic development.”

“There’s a section there where the economic developers are having problems keeping the [confidentiality] in the process of recruiting industries. We’ve got to address this,” he advised. “And I’m hopeful that we will address it this year.”

Marsh added, “I know that both Senator Albritton and Representative Jones have been in conversation with the attorney general and the ethics commission, as well. So we’re going down a path to try and get everybody on the same page. But we have got to -trust me, ladies and gentleman – we have best fix this. It’s got to be done.”

Howe then asked Marsh to articulate why certainty in the ethics law for economic development professionals is important not just for them, but for the entire state and each of its residents.

“[I]t’s important for the state, because we’re competing with all of the other states,” Marsh said.

He used the example of a piece of legislation passed out of committee that very day largely dealing with Polaris vehicles built in north Alabama and explained that the site selection process requires confidentiality, with most economic development recruitment projects being given code names.

“Because we’re competing against other states. And if we’re not able to keep that degree of secrecy at that stage of the game, we’re at a disadvantage to our neighbors,” Marsh explained.

He concluded, “So this is something that we have got to address. But I’m going to say this: that’s [only] a piece of it. And there’s going to be an attempt by the business community and economic developers to pass the piece. But I think it’s [incumbent] upon us to pass the big picture, solve all the problems, because you want as many people with you, supporting you, to make the changes. Every time you carve off a little piece, you lose some support. So, as I said, I want to help everybody, but I’m committed to the big picture.”

Lottery

Howe later asked the speaker if the time has come for a lottery proposal to pass the legislature and reach a referendum of the people.

“I think so,” McCutcheon responded. “I think it’s been coming for several years. I know that the districts, House districts, that are [bordering other states], most of those districts have seen a significant shift over the last seven or eight years because they see Alabamians driving across the state line to buy lottery tickets.”

He continued, “And people are starting to talk about it, and they’re starting to make it part of their discussion around the dinner table. … At the end of the day, there’s a good push from the people.”

McCutcheon did emphasize what he viewed as key to a successful lottery discussion.

“If we’re going to put this to a vote of the people, and I think it has a good chance of passing, we need to make sure that people understand what they’re voting on,” he outlined. “That’s very, very important. We don’t want to cloud the issue with the definition of a ‘lottery’ and try to sneak something in the back door. Let’s make sure the people understand in their minds what a lottery is and we define it in such a way that they know what they’re voting on.”

“Then, I think the next big debate will be, ‘Where’s the money [lottery revenue] going to go?’ And that will be something that we’ll have to contend with,” McCutcheon concluded.

This came the same day that Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville) filed a lottery proposal that was soon after called not “clean” by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, who said McClendon’s legislation would legalize slot machines in a select few places in the state.

Watch the entire discussion:

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

After 133 launches, Alabama built rockets boast 100% mission success

Thank you to the United Launch Alliance team and the entire workforce surrounding another successful launch.  Alabama’s Decatur based facility brings the utmost precision, passion and purpose to one of the most technically complex, critical American needs: affordable, reliable access to space.

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2 hours ago

Bipartisan bill to regulate vaping set for House committee hearing

MONTGOMERY — Alabama is currently one of only three states to not regulate vaping, but that could soon change.

HB 41, sponsored by Republican Rep. Shane Stringer and Democrat Rep. Barbara Drummond, both of Mobile County, is on the House Judiciary Committee’s agenda for Wednesday afternoon.

The bill would regulate the sale, use and advertisement of vaping – or “alternative nicotine products” – in the state.

In an interview with Yellowhammer News, both Drummond and Stringer emphasized that their bill is intended to protect the health and wellbeing of Alabama minors.

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“The motivation is simple,” Drummond emphasized. “We are trying to safeguard the teens in the state of Alabama.”

She outlined, “Vape shops, as it stands right now, are not regulated at all… And the bill came about because our drug education council locally brought it to our attention, but [Stringer and I] have both seen ourselves, as well as throughout the whole state, the rise of vape shops. They’re popping up everywhere in the state of Alabama.”

While it is too early to tell what vaping is directly doing to users’ health, Stringer and Drummond emphasized there is an objective gateway effect from vaping use and to smoking traditional cigarettes.

“Right now, there is no data that says what is the [direct] effect that these products are having on our young people. What we are seeing, and this is a national trend, is that you’re seeing smoking not going down, but increasing, among young people,” Drummond explained.

Stringer, a career law enforcement officer with stints as chief of multiple local police departments, said educators from every corner of Mobile County have voiced their concerns with the lack of state oversight on vape products and retailers “saying this is an epidemic and a problem what we need to address.”

“The products haven’t been out long enough to know the problems we could face in five, ten, 15 years from now,” he said. “It’s pretty similar to when smoking came out. There was basically no risk at that time, according to everyone. Now, look at all the data that we have to go with smoking… this is a new product we’re learning every day about.”

Stringer said statistics they were shown from the drug education council show an approximately 34 percent increase in children under 19-years-old that tried smoking after vaping.

“In Alabama, we don’t want to wake up one day and see the effects, negative effects on our kids,” Drummond added. “Right now, we’re trying to be responsible legislators to make sure that we look out for the welfare of our children.”

The two lawmakers also stressed that not only do vape shop operators have no restrictions on them, but the state has no way to even keep track of them currently.

Their bill would make it illegal to sell or give vape products to anyone under 19-years-old. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board would regulate retail sales of the products, just as they do tobacco products. Retailers would have to obtain an annual permit, which includes an application fee of $300. Retailers would also have to comply with relevant FDA regulations and post signage warning of the dangers of nicotine usage.

Using vape products in certain places, including schools and child care facilities, would be prohibited.

‘This is something that is nonpartisan, it’s not anything that is about Republican or Democrat. This is something about our young people,” Drummond said. “Because if you look at the amount of nicotine that is showing up in these products, when they first hit the market, the nicotine levels were very low – like five percent. Now, it’s gone up to about ten percent. They’ve got other chemicals in there, like formaldehyde. What is the effect of that upon the brains of our kids? So, this is more of a public wellbeing bill for us.”

Stringer advised that he foresees widespread support in the legislature for the bill.

“Everyone agrees that there has to be some checks and balances [oversight] in place,” he concluded.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

House Majority Leader Ledbetter predicts Alabama to ‘move to number one’ nationally in automotive production after Port of Mobile expansion

Tuesday on Huntsville’s WVNN radio, House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) said he did not think it would be very long before Alabamians started to see tangible benefits of the Rebuild Alabama Act.

The legislation that was recently signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey after she called a special session will raise the gasoline tax six cents in September, then add an additional two cents in 2020 and 2021.

According to the DeKalb County Republican, road projects could start as early as the summer given the bill will allow for counties to bond half of the revenue the additional tax will generate that is distributed to the counties.

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“I really think it will be this summer,” Ledbetter said. “I think we’ll see it immediately, and the reason I say that is inside that bill there is a mechanism that the counties can use half of their money to bond with. So, I know there’s mine – I talked to the president of my county commission, and we’re looking at bonding half of that money. So if that happens, you’re going to see a lot of paving going down, and I think it will be significant, especially on those roads we can’t get buses across, or you know, the transportation has been limited due to the fact of the road conditions.”

Ledbetter also predicted one of the aspects of the law, which is to expand the Port of Mobile, will generate a positive impact statewide, especially with regards to the automotive industry.

“I don’t think there is any question about that,” he said. “The thing I think we’ll see – Alabama rank third as far as automotive manufacturing in the country. I think we’ll move to number one. I really do. I think this is that big of a game changer. I think aerospace engineering, and some of those jobs going to the port, building airplanes and building the ships – we’re going to move up the ladder because we got availability in the port to bring the ships in and out, the post-Panamax ships we hadn’t seen.”

“You know, the sad part about it is we build all these automobiles in Alabama – a lot of those were being shipped out of Savannah because we can’t get them out of our port,” Ledbetter added. “I think once this happens, we’ll see the roll off-roll on where we’ll be carrying cars to Mobile from Huntsville, from Lincoln, from here in Montgomery to see them delivered, or shipped out from Mobile.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.