Mother of presidents, birthplace of the nation, land of the gentleman farmer.

That final distinction for Virginia receives attention in “The Gentleman’s Farm: Elegant Country House Living” (272 pages, Rizzoli, $55), a collaboration among authors Laurie Ossman and Debra A. McClane and photographer Walter Smalling Jr.

The book features 23 sites and is divided into three sections: Establishing an American Tradition, Reinventing and Refining Tradition and Sustaining the Tradition. Among the sites explored in the first section are Shirley Plantation in Charles City County, Mount Vernon in Fairfax County and Stratford Hall in Westmoreland County. The second part features Castle Hill in Albemarle County and North Wales in Fauquier County, and the final one includes Ayrshire Farm in Loudoun County and Mount Pleasant in Surry County.

Ossman is the director of museum affairs at the Preservation Society of Newport County in Rhode Island and a part-time resident of Alexandria; McClane is an architectural historian who lives in Richmond’s Westover Hills neighborhood; and Smalling is an architectural photographer who resides in the District of Columbia.


Katherine Clay Bassard, a professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University and the school’s senior vice provost for faculty affairs, has edited the autobiographical writings of Peter Randolph, a former slave from Prince George County who distinguished himself.

In “Sketches of Slave Life and From Slave Cabin to the Pulpit” (288 pages, West Virginia University Press, $24.99), Randolph tells his story. After being freed, he became a prominent abolitionist, pastor and community activist.

Randolph’s story is unique because he was freed and relocated from Virginia to Boston, along with his entire plantation cohort. A lawsuit launched by Randolph against his former master’s estate left legal documents that corroborate his autobiographies.



  • The Sunday before she died in 2015, Episcopal priest Jennifer R. Durant preached her final sermon — aided by a speech box — at Church of Our Saviour in Charlottesville. In a work completed by her widower, Mathew P. Durant, she tells her story in “Sparrow: A Journey of Grace and Miracles While Battling ALS” (144 pages, Morehouse Publishing, $16). She held a master of divinity degree in 2011 from Virginia Theological Seminary.
  • Richmonder Walter S. Griggs Jr., who often explores the area’s history, looks at tragic events, such as the 1811 theater fire and the 20th-century Spanish flu epidemic, in “Historic Disasters of Richmond” (128 pages, Arcadia Publishing, $21.99). He’s a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.
  • Verna Kale, visiting assistant professor in rhetoric at Hampden-Sydney College, re-examines the life of one of the most celebrated American authors of the 20th century in “Ernest Hemingway” (224 pages, Reaktion Books, $19). Kale, who lives in Midlothian, looks at Hemingway in his roles as writer, sportsman and celebrity.
  • Mystery writer Mary Burton returns to her “Morgans of Nashville” series with a fourth installment, “Vulnerable” (384 pages, Pinnacle, $9.99), which focuses on two teenage friends who went missing on a hiking trip near Tennessee’s capital city five years ago. A native of Richmond who still lives in the area, Burton is a graduate of Hollins University.
  • The Rev. John Shelby Spong, who served as rector of St. Paul’s Church in downtown Richmond from 1969 to 1976, has long been known as an advocate of progressive Christianity. In his 25th book, “Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy” (416 pages, HarperOne, $26.99), he posits that a literal reading of the Bible is so far removed from the original Jewish authors’ intent that it is heretical. He was bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, N.J., for almost a quarter of a century before his retirement in 2001. He lives in New Jersey.
  • Richmonder Alaric Cabiling focuses “Insanity by Increments” (136 pages, Alaric Cabiling Ltd., $15), a collection of short stories, on characters at their most vulnerable states, in subtle moments that alter each one’s destiny forever.
  • In “LBGT Hampton Roads” (96 pages, Arcadia Publishing, $22.99), Charles H. Ford and Jeffrey L. Littlejohn recount the peaks and valleys of the community’s history in the area. Ford is a professor and coordinator of history at Norfolk State University, and Littlejohn is an associate professor of history at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas.
  • A veteran of more than a decade in the time-share industry, Chesapeake resident Joseph Skiba offers advice on how not to suffer losses in “A Time-Share Salesman’s Secrets Divulged: What You Do Not Know About Time-Share Sales, But Should” (174 pages, Outskirts Press, $13.95), including a list of questions to ask a time-share representative during the presentation. Skiba is an Army veteran of the Vietnam War.
  • As the nation marks the centennial years of World War I, Charlottesville-area author William Walker looks at the bloody Meuse-Argonne Offensive in his first book, “Betrayal at Little Gibraltar: A German Fortress, a Treacherous American General, and the Battle to End World War I” (464 pages, Scribner, $28. on sale May 10). Walker writes that a senior American officer’s criminal disobedience during the battle resulted in many deaths and that his betrayal was covered up.
  • Bernard D. Beitman, a psychiatrist and a visiting professor at the University of Virginia, focuses on a phenomenon that all of us have experienced in “Connecting With Coincidence: The New Science for Using Synchronicity and Serendipity In Your Life” (312 pages, HCI, $15.95). He’s a former chairman of the department of psychiatry at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
  • Martha Brettschneider, a former international economist who lives in Vienna in Northern Virginia, recounts her cancer journey and other aspects of her life in “Blooming Into Mindfulness: How the Universe Used a Garden, Cancer, and Carpools to Teach Me That Calm Is the New Happy” (288 pages, Damselwings Press, $14.95).
  • Howard Parsons, who was born in Petersburg, grew up in Hopewell and now lives in Charlottesville, offers readers an adult fairy tale in “Urban Mermaid: Tails From Colony Island, Book One” (452 pages, Moonlight Garden Publications, $17.95). The story focuses on Penelope Tench, a mermaid who splits her time between land and sea.
  • In “Hallow This Ground” (208 pages, Indiana University Press, $17), Colin Rafferty focuses on monuments and memorials, such as those at Columbine High School in Colorado and Shiloh National Military Park in Tennessee. He teaches creative writing at the University of Mary Washington.
  • Richmonder LaKesa Cox is one of 20 writers who have contributed a story to “The Ex Chronicles” (300 pages, Brown Girls Books, $12). Cox’s story focuses on a woman who discovers the fortitude to let go after 40 years of marriage.

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— Jay Strafford

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