CD   Louisiana native country crooner Sammy Kershaw has just released his new album, Better Than I Used to Be. The album also features Larry Paxton, Kevin Grantt, Mark Beckett, Randy McCormick and Rob Hajacos, among others. Kershaw hits all the usual notes – women, drinking, trains, fighting, women, war, death and women – with ample amounts of steel guitar and mournful fiddlework.

CULINARY  Three men are on a mission – to figure out what effect a shifting climate has had on farmers and food. “Gastronauts” Kurt Michael Friese, Kraig Kraft and Gary Paul Nabham have composed Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail, a travelogue that is equal parts education and entertainment, with recipes “peppered” in throughout. The trio uses rare and endangered chiles as their exemplars, traveling through Mexico, the Rio Grande Valley, Florida and – of course – Cajun Country.

HISTORY  Leather Britches Smith lives in the legends of northern Louisiana. Keagan LeJeune, professor of English and Folklore at McNeese State University, drills down into the historical backdrop of the Sabine River area from which Smith emerged in Always for the Underdog: Leather Britches Smith and the Grabow War. Although the book stops short of proving Smith’s identity and biography, the period portrait – of an industrial boom, full of prospectors, explorers, outlaws and violence – is an insightful snapshot of Louisiana history.

NOVEL  With a storm building in the Gulf of Mexico, Esch Batiste and her three brothers hunker down with their friends, their dog China and her new litter of puppies and the specter of their drunken, hapless father. In Salvage the Bones, Jesmyn Ward deals with family, friendship, childbirth and death through the eyes of a young girl facing an unstoppable catastrophe. The characters slam together and burst apart with the same primal force as the building maelstrom.