Category Archives: Books

Books by Carla Jean Whitley and press related to such books

Where can you buy ‘Birmingham Beer’?

ABC 33/40 – Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

One of the questions I’m asked most frequently is where my books are sold. (This is a good problem to have. In fact, I’d say it’s not a problem at all.) There are plenty of options, including your local bookstore (even if you’re not in Birmingham, your favorite shop can order it for you), the national chains (same story) and the usual online retailers.

But in the Birmingham area, there are several additional places you can pick up copies of “Birmingham Beer”:

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Here I go again on my own

Whitesnake might not be exactly the best soundtrack for this moment, but I’ve got that refrain running through my head just the same. Today is one year and two days since the publication of my first book–and four days shy the publication of my second.

This moment snuck up on me. How, I’m not sure. I began research for “Birmingham Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in the Magic City” days after I submitted the manuscript for “Muscle Shoals Sound Studio: How the Swampers Changed American Music.” And to be honest, it’s not a path I would recommend! Perhaps that’s not something I should admit in such a public forum; I think it’s been a worthwhile experience. But it means the past couple of years have been a whirlwind.

Earlier this week I received my first media request for this new book, and realized it was past time to update my media kit and add a “Birmingham Beer” page to my website. Two days later, and I’ve already seen three media appearances.

I’m lucky, I know. Yes, I work hard, but I don’t think hard work alone results in these opportunities. My first book fell into my lap, and the second came along while I was in the midst of writing the first. When people ask what’s next, I get to respond “taking a break!” I never could have dreamed that taking a break from writing books would be a treat.

So here I go again. I say it’s on my own, and in some ways that’s accurate. Writing is a solitary endeavor, and I’m the only person sure to show up at every one of my book signings. But I couldn’t do it without the people who lived the story of Birmingham beer. This community has been eager to share its story with me, and I had a ridiculous amount of fun writing it. This–and so many other things!–also wouldn’t be feasible without my community of friends and family. That was the best part of my first book, and I’m excited to celebrate with these people once again.

5things beer

I spent much of the past year researching and writing the history of Birmingham beer. Time and again, people have said to me, “That must be a pretty short book. Birmingham didn’t have beer until, what, 2008?”

And there’s some logic to their inquiry. Of Alabama’s current breweries, the oldest is Good People, which sold its first beer on July 4, 2008. But—as the owners and staff would be quick to mention themselves—they are standing on the shoulders of so many who went before them. —Read more “Five things you probably didn’t know about Birmingham beer” at

The Homewood StarLocal author Carla Jean Whitley will launch her newest book, Birmingham Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in the Magic City, at Alabama Booksmith on July 27.

The book is a part of The History Press’ American Palate series and explores the history of breweries in the Birmingham area, from 15 years after the city’s founding to some of its newest craft breweries. –Read more “Birmingham Beer history book to launch at Alabama Booksmith” at


Carla Jean is one of the first people I approached about being on Birmingham Shines because I know how much she loves Birmingham.

We decided to time her appearance on the show to coincide with the release of her new book,Birmingham Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in the Magic City, which will be available for purchase starting July 27, 2015. –Read more “Carla Jean Whitley: On writing, on Birmingham” and listen to the podcast at

See all press here.

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Filed under Autobiography, Birmingham Beer, Books

Not only is ‘Birmingham Beer’ available for preorder …

No, that's not an actual copy ... but it's a pretty darn good replica, don't you think? Alabama Booksmith owner Jake Reiss called me into the shop for a sneak peek after he printed the hardcover jacket and wrapped it around a similarly sized book. I'll admit, I loved seeing my photo and bio on the back inside flap.

No, that’s not an actual copy … but it’s a pretty darn good replica, don’t you think? Alabama Booksmith owner Jake Reiss called me into the shop for a sneak peek after he printed the hardcover jacket and wrapped it around a similarly sized book. I’ll admit, I loved seeing my photo and bio on the back inside flap.

… it’s available in hardback!

Alabama Booksmith will offer an exclusive, limited-edition hardcover book when “Birmingham Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in the Magic City” debuts this summer. The hardback will be $27.99, and is available for preorder now.

If paperback’s your preference, opportunities abound. That edition will be widely available, including preorders from Church Street Coffee and Books and Little Professor Book Center, both here in Birmingham. The paperback edition is $21.99, and both editions are set for release July 27.

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The cover of ‘Birmingham Beer,’ revealed

First, the big stuff:

Birmingham Beer

And now, the rest of the story.

Here’s something you may not know about book covers, unless you’ve written one: Unless he or she is self publishing, the author may not have much say in a book’s appearance.

And in most ways, that’s been my experience. My publisher asks authors to submit potential cover photos when sending interior photos. But from there, it’s in the design team’s hands. When the cover for “Muscle Shoals Sound Studio: How the Swampers Changed American Music” arrived, I was over the moon. The publisher ultimately acquired rights to the photo, and so the cover was a very pleasant surprise to me.

“Birmingham Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in the Magic City” is another story. Because The History Press has published a number of beer books, the team wanted my cover to reflect the others in the series. I knew the finished product would include a skyline and a pint glass.

The skyline is the exciting part (besides seeing my name in print–let’s be honest, that doesn’t get old). When my editor requested Birmingham skyline shots, I turned to my friend Rachel Callahan.

Last year Rachel launched, a site from which she sells photos and photo products, mostly of Birmingham sunsets. All of her proceeds benefit The Wellhouse, an organization that fights sex trafficking in the Birmingham area. (You can read more of Rachel’s story in this Birmingham magazine article.)

The design team and I went back and forth a bit on fonts and which photo they would use, and I’m thrilled that one of Rachel’s images, “Autumn Comes to Birmingham,” graces the cover of “Birmingham Beer.” It depicts my favorite season (football!) in my favorite city (obviously)–and it’s also available for you to purchase from

There’s plenty more “Birmingham Beer” news on the way, and I can’t wait to share the city’s fascinating brewing history with you.

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“Balancing Act: Yoga Essays” is now available for purchase

IMG_6503Writing has always been my passion, and in yoga I’ve found a perfect counterbalance. It takes me out of the rat race of my mind and the to-do lists that so often dictate my days. Yoga also addresses many of the physical issues common among those of us who spend hours each day hunched over a computer. I suspect my yoga practice will continue to influence my career for decades to come.

It’s natural, then, that I’ve documented my yoga journey through the written word. Those columns are now available as an ebook, “Balancing Act: Yoga Essays.” This short collection traces my journey from yoga newbie to yoga teacher. It’s available for virtually all ebook platforms for $2.99 through, and will soon roll out to other retailers as well.

I’m excited to share this with you. The journey has only just begun.

FAQs (or what I imagine would be FAQs if I didn’t go ahead and answer them)

Q: How long is the book? 

A: It’s 9,060 words, or 54 pages on my Kobo Mini. Your ereader will likely be different.

Q: Will it work on my Kindle?

A: Yes, there’s an option for that (download the mobi version of the file). The book will not be available through Amazon, but it is totally Kindle compatible.

Q: Why did you decide to publish an ebook?

A: Well, why not? The publishing industry is rapidly changing–I’m sure that’s not news to you–and this project allowed me to familiarize myself with another aspect of the industry.

Q: Did you pay Smashwords to do this? Was it hard? Did it take a long time?

A: No, Smashwords’ deal is they get a percentage of all sales. (The division is favored heavily toward the author, in case you wondered.) Since I had already written each of these essays, all I had to do was format the document per Smashwords’ stipulations and design a cover. That took about three hours, all told.

Q: So wait a second–this is stuff that has already been published as blog entries. Can’t I read these essays free on your website?

A: Of course you can. They’re not going anywhere. This is merely another option if you prefer ebooks or to read these as a collection, rather than interspersed through a great many other entries here.

Q: Can I get a coupon?

A: Actually, yes. Through Jan. 1, sign up for either of my enewsletters and you’ll receive a coupon code for 33 percent off the ebook. You can sign up for the books newsletter here, and the yoga newsletter here.

Q: Can I get a coupon for “Muscle Shoals Sound Studio: How the Swampers Changed American Music” instead?

A: I’m sorry, but no. That’s determined by my publisher and individual retailers.

Q: Well, is it at least available as an ebook?

A: Yes indeed! You can buy it from your ebook retailer of choice.

Q: Roll tide?

A: Roll tide. And go Seminoles.

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Upcoming events

The coming week will be a whirlwind, and one for which I’m grateful. I’ll be selling copies of “Muscle Shoals Sound Studio: How the Swampers Changed American Music” at a number of events around central and north Alabama, and I’m excited to have so many opportunities to do so.

Aug. 10, 10 p.m.-midnight: Join me and The Audiovore’s Lee Shook for a two-hour discussion of Muscle Shoals music. The show airs at 107.3 FM and can be streamed at

Aug. 12, 6 p.m.: Fultondale’s free Movies in the Park, featuring a screening of the documentary “Muscle Shoals” and a performance by the Kerry Gilbert Band. Thanks to Alabama Media Group’s Sara McCarty for this great event preview: “Fultondale’s free Movies in the Park series to feature special screening of of ‘Muscle Shoals’ music documentary”

Aug. 14, 6 p.m.: Muscle Shoals Chapter of Credit Unions (private event) I’m looking forward to speaking to this group, which I’m told includes a number of musicians.

Aug. 15, 6 p.m.: Birmingham Arts and Music Festival Muscle Shoals Tribute at Avondale Brewing Co. I’ll be selling books while listening to the music of Bad Brad and the Sipsey Slims with the Legends of Muscle Shoals, including David Hood, Kelvin Holley and Will McFarland

Aug. 16, 11 am.-2 p.m.: Coldwater Books in Tuscumbia. I hope to see friends from the Shoals area at this charming bookstore.

Aug. 19, 7 p.m.: I’m excited to sign copies at Church Street Coffee & Books–and this event will be fun for people who already have the book as well as those who don’t! Carrie Rollwagen will interview me about the book in between sets of live music (covering some of the area’s iconic songs, of course). The shop will also serve free whiskey sours. Thanks to Village Living for including the event in the paper’s August issue: “Signing for Muscle Shoals history book coming to Church Street this month.” 


Filed under Books, Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, Press

A reading to-do list

Lately my life is even more about reading and writing than usual–and let’s be honest, that’s a dream come true. Sometimes people ask why I do so much (full-time magazine editor, freelance writing and editing, teaching, yoga, etc.). But all of these activities tie back in to my greatest loves: reading and writing. Although yoga may not be an obvious connection, it helps me disconnect from the over-active to-do list part of my brain–which in turn leaves me feeling more creative and open to new ideas. It’s a beautiful cycle.

Thanks in part to a schedule made even busier by a number of upcoming book events, I’ve recently started a to-read list (in addition to all of my other lists–did I mention I’m type A?). I’ve got a number of reading and writing assignments due in the coming weeks, and this list has helped me keep my priorities in line. It may seem a bit silly and intense, but it’s working for me.

I wanted to read “The Mockingbird Next Door” by Marja Mills as soon as possible after its release, in large part because of the national conversation regarding whether or not it was written with Harper Lee’s knowledge. (For what it’s worth, I don’t think Mills could have written the book without consent from the Lee sisters.) But I had to finish “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown before yoga teacher training (barely made it), and reread “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” before my Harry Potter book club met (success).

It’s a different approach to the way I read, but it’s working. And I’m simultaneously being pointed toward other books that I own but have yet to read; for example, in Mills’ book, the Lee sisters talk to her about Paul Hemphill’s “The Ballad of Little River,” among other books that relay Alabama’s history. I love Hemphill’s “Leaving Birmingham,” and own but have yet to read several of his other works.

Between writing my second book (due far too soon!) and powering through my ever-growing reading list, I’ve decided I need to take a two-week vacation: one week to piddle and read whatever I feel like reading, and a second to write, write, write. I’ve got the vacation days, but I’ve got to clear my calendar of events in order to make this dream come to life.

Recently acquired:

  1. The Art of Creative Nonfiction by Lee Gutkind
  2. Nick Saban vs. College Football by Christopher Walsh
  3. Season of Saturdays by Michael Weinreb
  4. Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle
  5. Songbook by Nick Hornby (one of my all-time favorite books in a snazzy new edition)
  6. Muscle Shoals Sound Studio by yours truly
  7. The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton
  8. The Brewmaster’s Table by Garrett Oliver
  9. The Oxford Companion to Beer edited by Garrett Oliver
  10. The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills
  11. Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
  12. Deadline Artists edited by John P. Avlon, Errol Louis and Jesse Angelo 

Recently read:

  1. The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills
  2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  3. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
  4. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
  5. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  6. The Public Library: A Photographic Essay by Robert Dawson
  7. The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

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It’s release day for “Muscle Shoals Sound Studio: How the Swampers Changed American Music”

It’s been more than a year since I decided to tackle this project, and yet it still doesn’t quite seem real. Tonight we’ll launch “Muscle Shoals Sound Studio: How the Swampers Changed American Music” with a book signing at Alabama Booksmith. In the meantime, take a peek at reviews of music recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound and stories about the studio on my Muscle Shoals Sound Studio Pinterest board. Hope to see you tonight!

Follow Carla Jean Whitley’s board Muscle Shoals Sound Studio on Pinterest.

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Five days till “Muscle Shoals Sound Studio: How the Swampers Changed American Music” debuts

20140716-214235-78155400.jpgThanks to Weld for Birmingham for including my Alabama Booksmith signing in this week’s calendar of events! It’ll be the debut of “Muscle Shoals Sound Studio: How the Swampers Changed American Music,” and I’m excited for that day to finally arrive.

You can find copies of Weld, a great weekly newspaper, in 400 locations all around Birmingham. (PS Weld’s editor, Nick Patterson, recently published a book of his own. Look for “Birmingham Foot Soldiers” wherever books are sold.)

CITY_SCENEThanks, also, to The Birmingham News’ City Scene for including my signing in last Friday’s paper. I’ll confess, seeing my name in print hasn’t gotten old, even after 10 years in this field and even after working at that very paper. The Birmingham News is published Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays and is widely distributed throughout the metro area.




Filed under Books, Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, Press

I must be traveling on now ’cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see

We’re one week from the debut of “Muscle Shoals Sound Studio: How the Swampers Changed American Music,” and I can hardly wait! I’m also excited to share the book’s most recent press coverage. Alec Harvey, the managing producer of entertainment, dining and travel at Alabama Media Group, asked me to share my favorite songs recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. It was a challenge, and I couldn’t stop at my original list of five (so you get a bonus song!). But here’s the fun thing: You can listen to these and other songs yourself via the Spotify playlist below. I’d like to know, what are your favorite examples of the Muscle Shoals sound?

Carla Jean Whitley knows a lot about Muscle Shoals.

For the past year or so, the managing editor of Birmingham magazine has been researching and writing her first book, “Muscle Shoals Sound Studio: How the Swampers Changed American Music.”

The book, a history of the famed recording studio in northwest Alabama, details the many superstars who have recorded there, the songs they sang, and, of course, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, a group of studio musicians better known as the Swampers. Read more “‘ Muscle Shoals Sound Studio’ author details her favorite songs recorded there” at

Today’s subject line comes from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird,” which was originally recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. Learn more about the studio 

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Filed under Audio, Books, Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, music, Press