Book show host likes these books

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 11, 2009

I usually mix my suggestions about North Carolina books with information about the program that I have hosted for the past 10 years and am finishing up at the end of this season. Last month, as we wound up taping the last episodes for “North Carolina Bookwatch,” this season (my last), I forgot about you รณ and the Christmas books.
First, let me tell you about a young author who gained national attention and praise a few years ago. Marisha Pessl, who grew up in Asheville, had her first book, “Special Topics in Calamity Physics,” named by the New York Times as one of the five top books of fiction for 2006. I loved this combination murder mystery and coming of age novel.
One of North Carolina’s most distinguished historians, Wake Forest professor Paul Escott, challenges our widely shared view of President Abraham Lincoln as the Great Emancipator. The new book’s provocative title commands attention, ” ‘What Shall We Do with the Negro?’ Lincoln, White Racism, and Civil War America.” Escott writes about the prejudicial racial attitudes of his day and the degree to which Lincoln shared them as he discussed the question of how to deal with enslaved African Americans when they became free. (Dec. 20 on “Bookwatch.”)
At last there is a new book by one of North Carolina’s favorite authors. Jill McCorkle’s book of short stories features the bad choices and dead ends of her characters, who “tend to have ex-husbands and wives, estranged family members and relationships they’d rather forget.” But they seem to never lose hope. Readers will recognize their neighbors, their family, and themselves as McCorkle’s characters confront their life challenges. (Dec. 27)
Western Carolina University professor Ron Rash’s latest novel, “Serena,” established him as one of America’s leading authors. New York Times book reviewer Janet Maslin named “Serena” one of her 10 Favorite Books of 2008. It is a mammoth novel set in the lumber camps of the North Carolina mountains, full of compelling villains and unlikely heroes. It is a perfect read for the long winter evenings. (Jan. 3)
UNC Chapel Hill basketball coach Roy Williams’ ability to teach, inspire and motivate his teams is admired throughout our state, even by those who cheer for other teams. There are many North Carolinians who don’t care a whiff about sports who are proud of the favorable attention that has come to the state from that success. But what motivates Roy Williams, what inspires him, and who were his teachers?
He speaks to those questions in his book, “Hard Work: A Life on and Off the Court.” His story is a compelling one, one of poverty, broken family, and disappointments. It could be fiction. Think Charles Dickens and you will not be surprised that with hard work, hope, and the generous help of many wonderful teachers, coaches, spouse, and other angels, the hero finds happy success. Carolina basketball fans will love it. So will anybody else who loves a good story with a happy ending. (Jan. 10)
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D.G. Martin is the author of “Interstate Eateries,” a guide to family owned homecooking restaurants near North Carolina’s interstate highways