November 18, 2013 12:00 PM

Johnny Cash: The Life

by Robert Hilburn |

REVIEWED BY KYLE SMITH

BIOGRAPHY

Johnny Cash’s mom knew her son would never make it as a singer: His voice was too high. Then one day she was doing the dishes when she heard a strange new sound from the yard: her boy. “My voice has gotten a little lower,” he said bashfully.

That’s just one of the many delicious anecdotes that help make this the perfect Cash biography, as simple, fast and lean as “Folsom Prison Blues.” Drawing on newly available material from Cash’s inner circle, music critic Hilburn chronicles the Man in Black’s rise from the harsh soil of Dyess, Ark., to the pinnacle of country music – and the addictions that nearly wrecked him. Yet Cash (who died at 71 in 2003) came back, with late masterworks like his American Recordings album and due recognition. Such a monumental figure deserves no less than this caring treatment of his sin-stained greatness.

Sycamore Row

by John Grisham |

REVIEWED BY RICHARD EISENBERG

NOVEL

After scribbling a will leaving most of his $24 million estate to his black housekeeper Lettie Lang, Seth Hubbard hangs himself. Can the will hold up in court with his estranged kids “circlin’ like buzzards”? Nearly 25 years after A Time to Kill, Grisham returns to Clanton, Miss., in this racially charged drama once again featuring lawyer Jake Brigance. As Brigance fights for Lang’s rights, the tension builds, culminating in a trial that’s the ultimate family feud.

Mrs. Poe

by Lynn Cullen |

REVIEWED BY LISA KAY GREISSINGER

NOVEL

This atmospheric novel reimagines Edgar Allen Poe’s real-life relationship with poet Frances Osgood, an abandoned wife supporting her family through her writings. More than a dark tale of the couple’s doomed love (Poe’s fragile wife didn’t make things easy), the book is also a vivid portrait of New York’s cultural life in the mid-1800s, when writers like Poe, who found fame with “The Raven” in 1845, were practically rock stars. Don’t miss it.

COMMENTS? WRITE TO KIM HUBBARD: bookseditor@peoplemag.com

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