OPINION: Eschew local politics, a bevy of spring books arrives for summertime

As is the tradition of the next two weeks as area schools take the holiday known as spring break, I'll try my best, but not always succeeding, to lay aside the politics of Washington and Little Rock and write about the summer books to savor and read.

And there are some really good reads waiting on you for the summer. So let's get right into it.

Most of, if not all, of these titles can be found locally at Pearl's Books, 28 East Center Street in downtown Fayetteville.

Pearl's Books is indeed a local, regional bookstore of note.

Other outlets like the big-box stores like Barnes and Noble have or can get many of these. First, I beg of you avid readers, try your local, independent book stores first.

And shop online at the mega operations only as a last resort, please.

The University of Arkansas Press has indeed quite a fine lineup for summer reading. Recently, I took a full column (since it was a political book) to mention "From Blue to Red" by Dr. John C. Davis, director of the for Barbara and David Pryor Center in Fayetteville, for his short, succinct examination of the rise of the Grand Old Party to power in Arkansas.

Another quite powerful but rather unusual book from the UA Press is "Aguila: The Vision, Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Two-Spirit Shaman in the Ozark Mountains" by Maria Christina Moroles and Lauri Umansky, both Arkansas residents.

Don't let the "New Age" subtitle scare you away. It is really an amazing book.

UA culture professor and guru Bob Cochran has a recent block-buster release in "Haunted Man's Report: Reading Charles Portis" due out in April from the UA Press.

This book is a real eye-opener into the novels and other writing of the late Portis.

It is more than an examination of Portis' most famous work --"True Grit" -- or a simple glancing view at Portis's writing life. It is indeed a magical text as only Cochrane can place on the printed pages of this unique writer's life. The UA Press should be congratulated on this volume.

Two other UA Press Books featuring on regional topics of the Ozarks begins with "Men of No Reputation: Robert Boatright, the Buckfoot Gang and the Fleecing of Middle America" by Kimberly Harper. As an Arkansas State masters in history graduate and a well-regarded chronicler of the Missouri-Arkansas Ozarks, she weaves a well-documented trail of this con man and his schemes all over the region and his slippery exit from most of his scams.

The other bookend of this regional pair of books is "Broadcasting the Ozarks: Si Siman and Country Music at the Crossroads" by Kitty Ledbetter and Scott Foster Siman. This is quite an interesting and fast-paced read of the Springfield, Mo., area in the early 1930s and the infancy of broadcasting in the Ozarks.

This is the unfiltered history as country music fans will recall of that dynamite regional live show broadcast on television -- the Ozark Jubilee -- that ran from 1955 to 1960. The broadcast featured such live acts as Chet Atkins, Porter Wagoner, the Browns and Brenda Lee among the show's guests.

It also recalls the Springfield native songwriter Ronnie Self, who penned several hits for these and other stars of the Grand Ole Opry and Nashville record labels.

Siman, the focus of the book, was a broadcaster often lured to leave the Ozarks for bigger and brighter stages and stayed doing all the same from his Ozark home.

As always, I'll never forget to mention that many of these books stem from local history written down and first published by such groups as the Washington County Historical Society.

The "Flashback," the quarterly journal of the WCHS, is available for a $35 membership donation ($25 for senior citizens or students). More details can be found at washcohistorocalsociety.org or by calling 479-521-2970.

And not forgetting the Arkansas Historical Association and its quarterly the Arkansas Historical Quarterly is available for $20 per year's subscription. Not a member of the Arkansas Historical Association? At $20 per year, it's the best deal in history. Sign up at https://tinyurl.com/mryfvtkn

Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several Northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at [email protected].