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Notable Books

Four new memoirs by Christian Southerners

Fourteen-time Grammy winner Ricky Skaggs displayed a gift for music early in his life, leading to a Grand Ole Opry debut at age 7 and a place in Ralph Stanley’s band as a teen. Though Skaggs avoided common stumbling blocks like alcoholism, he did suffer hardship and temptation while playing the road, and his first marriage unraveled. Skaggs’ autobiography features famous musicians such as Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Keith Richards, and his father figure, Bill Monroe. His maturity as a Christian and a musician is clear in his return to the Christ-centered bluegrass of his childhood. While this narrows his fan base, he says, “God called us to be faithful, not famous.” 

A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet

“God designed each one of us for community … and I’m going to go out on a limb and say that cannot adequately meet that need.” Instead, author and blogger Sophie Hudson embraces her admittedly imperfect family and friends as the God-ordained community of her life. Hudson didn’t always treasure her heritage: In college, she questioned “everything she ever believed in” and too often embraced the trivial (like making a careful study of Faith Hill’s hairstyles). But by God’s grace, she found the humility to appreciate those closest to her, and using her natural writing ability, she now turns everyday small-town Mississippi life—like a trip to “the Outbacks” or attempts to style her 101-year-old grandmother’s hair—into stories humorous and heartwarming.

Si-cology 1

Just weeks after Duck Dynasty set new cable viewership records, Uncle Si’s autobiography attempts to bottle in book form the show’s off-kilter humor. Si’s personality seems edited here and his quirkiness muted, but his book does evoke belly laughs over scrapes from his younger days, as well as alcohol-influenced recollections from his time in Vietnam. Since Si’s wife and children are noticeably absent from the show, his transformation from wild man to faithful husband and father is intriguing. Some Christians may balk at the smack talk and tall tales, but his honesty about personal failings and his clear witness to the gospel are laudable “icing on the tip of the iceberg.”

Little Black Sheep

Ashley Cleveland, three-time Grammy and two-time Dove Award songwriter, grew up as the black sheep of her Tennessee family. While her older sister responded with grace to their parents’ shortcomings and eventual divorce, Cleveland became violent, addicted, and hopeless. One bright spot was a gift for songwriting, and she carved out a living and identity based on her talent—yet when that idol inevitably failed her, Cleveland had all but given up on life. It took an unplanned pregnancy to begin the healing process, and after many years of AA, counseling, and rededication to Christ, her memoir sings: “… nothin’ sounds so sweet / as the voice of the Shepherd to a little black sheep.” 


In A Dream So Big: Our Unlikely Journey to End the Tears of Hunger, Steve Peifer describes how his family planned to be missionaries for one year at a Kenyan prep school, but found the needs there so compelling that they couldn’t feel right about leaving. Peifer writes about building a program that feeds 20,000 African schoolchildren each day and provides computer classes that will help some to leave poverty. 

In The FastDiet (Atria Books, 2013) Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer argue that “intermittent fasting” combats high blood sugar and heart disease. For the spiritual benefits some derive from fasting, see the re-release of John Piper’s A Hunger for God (Crossway, 2013).