The Avid Reader
Jessie Koonce’s mother emphasized reading, writing and penmanship. These lessons Jessie took to heart and passed on to her own children. A fan of books filled with photography of foreign places and faces, this exuberant board member of the Friends of the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library also fills her shelves with classics, popular fiction, biographies and auto-biographies, but makes sure to leave a little room for a few of husband Melchie’s gardening tomes.
1. The Way Forward Is With a Broken Heart by Alice Walker — I picked up this book purely because of its author. It is a collection of touching autobiographical short stories about people who experience heartbreak in many forms, but learn from it and overcome it, finding the strength to keep going.
2. A Killing in This Town by Olympia Vernon — I was excited to talk with and get a signed copy from this author — one of my favorites — when she attended the 2012 Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium at Mississippi University for Women. Vernon tells the story of a white boy in rural Mississippi and his pending initiation into the Ku Klux Klan at the age of 13, and a black preacher whose fate is tied to that of the boy’s through a seemingly inevitable act of violence.
3. The Alex Cross series by James Patterson — I have read every Alex Cross book. Here’s this guy, older, settled, and yet, he’s always getting himself into trouble. There’s nothing he loves more than his family, but he really enjoys solving complex crimes. The plot is driven by both his personal life and professional life, which often intertwine with the villain making their crimes personal to Cross.
4. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis — This book tells the story of a woman in the ’20s who at the age of 15 moves from Atlanta to Philadelphia to make a better life for herself, but ends up in a disappointing marriage. She loses two children to sickness, but goes on to have nine more who she raises to be strong and self-reliant in the face of difficult times.
5. Tenderhearted: A Comb-Bending Collection of Hair Stories edited by Juliette Harris and Pamela Johnson — I have always hated doing my hair. A woman’s hair effects every part of her life, and I felt an instant connection with these stories. It includes a tribute to Madam C. J. Walker, the woman who took the pressing comb invented in France and improved it by widening the teeth, customizing it for straightening African-American hair, and the tale of how Billie Holiday came to wear that famous white gardenia in her hair.