Nonfiction Books of Note for December: “Conversations with Jimmy Carter” and George Singleton’s “Asides”

“Conversations with Jimmy Carter,” editor Tom Head

Conversations with Jimmy Carter, (University of Mississippi Press, 2023) is a collection of ten interviews that reaffirm what we already know about the man. He walks the walk, not just talks the talk. As he tells Bill Moyers in the first interview, “I feel like I have one life to live. I feel like God wants me to do the best I can with it. And that’s quite often my prayer. Let me live my life so that it will be meaningful.” He has done just that.

The now ninety-nine-year-old Carter has continued to contribute to society in the years following his presidency. In later interviews he discusses some of the projects he has tackled post-presidency, such as eradicating Guinea worms, immunizing children, building Habitat for Humanity housing, and teaching farmers to grow more food grain. Also, perhaps lesser known, are the ways the Carter Center has been able to contact government leaders that the U.S. government won’t work with. The Center held talks to try to solve world problems with leaders like Kim Il Sung of North Korea who are black-listed. This back-door diplomacy has the potential to yield positive results for peace.

His moral grounding comes across clearly in the interview with Moyers that was taped prior to his election: “The president ought to tell the truth always. I see no reason for the president to lie, and if any of my cabinet members ever lie, they’ll be gone the next day.” The contrast with some recent politicians is stark.

The interviews provide a strong overview of President Carter’s contributions, revealing his humble Christian faith and his enduring commitment to the poor, to peace, and to human rights.

Editor Tom Head writes about the history of ideas and the way they impact current events. He’s a scriptwriter for Wisecrack, author or coauthor of twenty-nine nonfiction books, and holds a Ph.D. in religion and society from Edith Cowan University. He has covered science news for Mysterious Universe and classical music for, and served as’s Guide to Civil Liberties for nine years (2006-2015). Tom is a native-born resident of Jackson, Mississippi, and an award-winning contributing columnist for the Jackson Free Press.

“Asides” by George Singleton

Asides: Occasional Essays on Dogs, Food, Restaurants, Bars, Hangovers, Jobs, Music, Family Trees, Robbery, Relationships, Being Brought Up Questionably, Et Cetera,” (Eastover Press, 2023) is an eclectic collection of personal essays guaranteed to lighten a reader’s day. They are a hoot to read on subjects as wide-ranging as getting his dogs to promise they won’t use his new gardens as a Porta-Potty and telling us about his not-so-famous relations.

He writes about his job driving a sanitation truck and its surprising upside: finding a “disgruntled employee’s stolen goods.”

Another surprise is his comparison of his disappointments as a writer with disappointments as a sanitation truck driver: “When there were zero nearly-stolen products hidden away, I felt deflated—the same feeling today when I get a rejection in the mail. The highs and lows of sanitation work, baby, are the same highs and lows of writing daily.”

Singleton’s humorous voice makes these essays fun to read, almost as if he is in the room with you telling stories.

George Singleton is a Southern author who has written eight collections of short stories, two novels, and an instructional book on writing fiction. He was born in Anaheim, California and raised in Greenwood, South Carolina.

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