Some bookish ideas for Christmas

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 12, 2008

For bibliophiles, nothing looks better than a stack of packages of a certain size and shape under the Christmas tree.
Oooh, it looks like a book.
What better way to make it through the dullness of January than with a pile of good reading.
What to buy beyond the bestsellers? Here are some suggestions from Deal Safrit, owner of Literary Bookpost, and his friends and co-workers.
“The biggest one,” Safrit says, is “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.” It’s a great book; all five of us (in the store) loved it. It’s a great for book clubs” and it isn’t getting as much national publicity as some others, such as “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle,” by David Wroblewski, which is still selling well.
“I’m big on Ron Rash’s ‘Serena,’ ” Safrit says. “It is very good.” Rash, who teaches at Appalachian State University, sets his story in the North Carolina mountains during the Depression.
“Whiskey Rebels,” by David Liss, is another favorite. His novel is particularly timely ó set in an America on the verge of financial collapse.
The title alone is intriguing: “The Elegance of the Hedgehog.” Murial Barbery has written a European bestseller, a novel set in a fancy Paris apartment building. It stars a discontented 12-year-old girl, a cat and a grumpy concierge.
The bestselling religious tale “The Shack” continues to be popular. “Knit Two” by Kate Jacobs is hit chick-lit.
Other standard authors, including P.D. James, David Baldacci or Stephen King and make good gifts for their fans, Safrit says.
In nonfiction, it was a very presidential year.
Good selections include Jon Meacham’s “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House,” a “biographical portrait” of Jackson and those who surrounded him. Meacham is editor of Newsweek.
“Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin came out in 2006, is now available in paperback and is enjoying a revival ó Safrit says Barack Obama’s election has spurred fresh interest in this history of Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet.
James McPherson also writes about Lincoln, this time as commander-in-chief, in “Tried by War,” which has been praised as well-researched and evocative on the president’s role as commander of the armed forces.
Thomas Jefferson’s slave mistress is brought into the spotlight in “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,” by Annette Gordon-Reed. It has won the 2008 National Book Award for Nonfiction.
Other top sellers are Thomas Friedman’s “Hot, Flat, and Crowded”; Alice Schroeder’s “The Snowball: Warren Buffet and the Business of Life”; and “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell writes about what makes people successful ó it’s where you’re from.
Three decidedly Southern cookbooks have been selling well and will be popular gifts this Christmas:
– “Holy Smoke,” by John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg Reed, with Will McKinney, explores all the delicious things that make North Carolina barbecue the signature food of the Tarheel state. John Shelton Reed is a well-known professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a frequent author on the South.
– “Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook,” by Matt and Ted Lee, is a big, glossy cookbook that first came out in 2006 with luscious photos. The Lees have visited Salisbury for a book signing and prepared some of their dishes.
– “A Love Affair with Southern Cooking,” by Jean Anderson, is another big book, this one crammed with history, stories and personalities. Anderson has been here, too, and made fast friends with her ham loaf and Moravian gingerbread.
Other cookbooks Safrit says are doing well are Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics” and Paula Deen’s “My First Cookbook” for her youngest fans.
Coffee table books
“Historic Photos of North Carolina,” from Turner Publishing, is brand new and filled with black and white photos from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s.
Two that have been good sellers at Literary Bookpost are Tony Craig’s “Country Stores of North Carolina,” which has many local spots, and “Our Vanishing Americana,” a book of photos by Mike Lassiter. Also fairly new is “Coastal Waters: Images of North Carolina” photos by Scott Taylor, published by John F. Blair.
Local fare
“Boone,” Robert Morgan’s extensive biography of Daniel Boone, is doing well in paperback. Ed Norvell’s novels are still available, as is “A Game Called Salisbury.”
Dan Barefoot’s book, “Hark the Sound of Tarheel Voices: 220 Years of UNC History,” from Hinton James to Dean Smith, would make any UNC fan feel blue. “King of the Mountain: The Jerry Moore Story,” by former Salisburian Dick Brown should turn Mountaineer blood black and gold.
Daphne Safrit is the children’s book expert at the store, and her suggestions are usually right on. She likes:
– “The Nutcracker,” a pop-up book by Patricia Fry.
– “A Very Marley Christmas,” by John Grogan, “is very cute,” by the author of “Marley and Me.”
– “Tales of Beadle the Bard,” by J.K. Rowling. Need we say more?
– The new Scanimation book, “Swing,” is a new version of a flip book, creating a moving picture effect.
– New books in the -ology series are “Monsterology” and “Mythology,” full of pullouts, pictures, maps ó very interactive, good for 8 years old and up.
– For young adults, another easy mark, the “Twilight” series.
– “My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park,” is selling it to a lot of adults as well as the younger crowd.
– And finally, “Old Bear,” by Kevin Henkes, is mostly a picture book, following a bear through the seasons. The soft illustrations are heart-warming.
Let us know what you get ó or give ó for Christmas this year. E-mail me at and tell me what you liked and why.
And have a page-turning holiday.