Books for Christmas giving
By Deirdre Parker Smith
What to get your reading friends for Christmas?
Don’t necessarily judge a book by its cover, although some are very attractive these days.
Here are a few suggestions from Deal Safrit and Daphne Safrit at Literary Bookpost in downtown Salisbury.
For a sports book, I’d pick “The Hard Work: My Life on and Off the Court” by Roy Williams.
He recommends “The Help,” by Kathryn Stockett, which he describes as a “wonderful look at the South in the 1960s from a different perspective.”
I second the motion. “The Help” is a moving, thought-provoking novel full of realistic characters.
Barbara Kingsolver’s, “The Lacuna,” on several bestseller lists, was a hit with Dr. Sheila Brownlow, Safrit’s wife.
She reluctantly read Jeannette Wall’s “Half Broke Horses,” calling it a fantastic novel. Walls is known for the memoir of her strange childhood, “The Glass Castle.”
Deal also likes Jim Harrison’s new book, which is actually three novellas, “The Farmer’s Daughter.” Harrison is the author of “Legends of the Fall.”
Deal and I both like the short stories collections from Fred Chappell, “Ancestors and Others,” and Jill McCorkle, “Going Away Shoes.”
Literary Bookpost has signed copies of both books. Chappell’s stories are witty, clever and every genre you can imagine. McCorkle’s range from tragic to funny, full of insights about love.
Several cookbooks will sweeten your palate, including Foy Allen Edelman’s “Sweet Carolina: Favorite Desserts and Candies from the Old North State,” which contains recipes from Rowan County cooks.
Another local favorite, Deal says, is Patricia Branning’s “Shrimp, Collards and Grits: Recipes from the Creeks and Gardens of the South Carolina Lowcountry.” He has signed copies of those, as well.
“The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern” is the latest book from Matt and Ted Lee. Their first, “The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-be Southerners,” brought the brothers to the Bookpost a couple of years ago, complete with delicious samples of their recipes. Deal hopes to bring them back to town soon.
“Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue,” by John Shelton Reed, Dale Volberg Reed and William McKinney is taking off again this year after a 2008 publication.
“The Cake Mix Doctor Returns,” by Anne Byrn, is new. Her books always sell well, Deal says.
Some nonfiction for your consideration:
Greg Mortenson’s “Stones into Schools,” a sequel to “Three Cups of Tea,” is a continuing story of his attempts to set up schools for girls in Afghanistan.
If you’re looking for a history book, Deal recommends James Bradley’s “The Imperial Cruise,” about a 1905 diplomatic mission led by William Howard Taft.
Several birding books have been selling well, Deal says, including “Armchair Birder” by John Yow.
He also recommends the three volumes of the North Carolina Birding Trail, one for each region of the state.
Other local or North Carolina books:
Tim Barnwell’s book of stunning black-and-white portraits of artisans and musicians, “Hands in Harmony,” will make an impressive gift. Literary Bookpost has signed copies available.
“Life along the Inner Coast: A Naturalist’s Guide to the Sounds, Inlets, Rivers, and Intracoastal Waterway from Norfolk to Key West” by Robert Lipson would also make a good gift.
If for some reason you don’t yet have a copy, John Hart’s “The Last Child,” is still available, and Deal has signed copies.
Joe Satterfield’s “That Extravagant Decade,” drew a lot of interest when he did a book signing and is still available.
Also look for signed copies of Robert Hicks’ “A Separate Country.”
Most people missed meeting the charming Jennifer Niven, author of “Velva Jean Learns to Drive,” a coming of age story about a mountain girl who wants to sing at the Grand Old Opry. Signed copies are available.
Daniel Barefoot has been busy, with “Spirits Of ’76: Ghost Stories of the American Revolution” and “Hark the Sound of Tarheel Voices: 220 Years of UNC History.”
“And we’ve got paperbacks of many of the previous authors” who’ve signed books at the store, Deal says.
Odds and ends:
Penguin’s hardcover classics, Deal says, are nicely bound, cost about $20 and range from Bronte to Gaskill to Wilde.
“Rules for My Unborn Son: Let’s Get Some Things Straight Before I Get Old and Uncool,” by Walker Lamond, “is doing real well,” Deal says. “Somebody told us about it and we got some in and can’t hardly keep them on the shelves.”
Deal also recommends:
– “The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name,” by Toby Lester.”
– “Big Man: Real Life & Tall Tales,” by Clarence Clemons.
– “Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues,” by William Ferris.
– New offerings in the Star Wars series and Laurel Hamilton’s adult vampire books.
– A little book, “Hangar Sweepings, Reflections of an Airport Bum,” by Harold Mills, is self-published and a fun read most people won’t discover, Deal said.
Daphne Safrit, the local authority on children’s books, suggests some new entries in series and some picture books.
Picture books for very young children include “Otis” by Lauren Long, “like a little engine that could, but with a tractor.”
The high-energy Skippy Jon Jones has a new book, “Lost in Spice.”
The new Christmas pop-up is “Christmas is Coming,” by A.J. Wood. “It’s about a little mouse getting ready on Christmas Eve.”
Fancy Nancy has plenty of fans. Her latest is “Splendiferous Christmas”
“Waddle” is the latest offering in Scanimation.
A nonfiction book for older children that Daphne enjoyed is “McSweeneys Presents 109 Forgotten American Heroes …and Nine or So Villains” is really good, Daphne says. “Each page is devoted to a topic, from the man who developed ice cream cones, to the Pinkerton detective agency.”
– Rick Riordan’s lastest Percy Jackson installment is “Lightning Thief.”
– Mike Lupica’s “Million-Dollar Throw” is a football story.
– “Oceanology” is about Capt. Nemo and his voyages and part of the series that includes “Spyology.”
If you are a Winnie the Pooh fan, you can read “Return to the 100 Acre Wood,” by David Benedictus ó written with the approval of author A.A. Milne’s estate ó without feeling cheated.
And the most recent Diary of a Wimpy Kid is “Dog Days,” for ages 8 and up.
Daphne also has a few other books to recommend, such as:
– “The Child Thief” by Brom, an artist who does a dark retelling of Peter Pan for adults.
– Terry Goodkind’s “The Law of Nines,” a standalone thriller that non-science fiction readers have enjoyed.
– The graphic novel “Logicomix,” which is a sort of biography of the philosopher Bertrand Russell.
And finally, the New John Irving, “Last Night at Twisted River,” a great book, Daphne says. “He out-Irvinged Irving,” she says. “Everything the critics complain about he just did,” she says and then tied in stories from previous novels.
As for me, I think you should get “An Uncommon Reader,” a favorite with my book club, about the Queen of England discovering the joys of reading.
I’d also suggest “Olive Kitteridge,” now out in paperback, for its portraits of characters in a small town in Maine.
Wandering through shelves and shelves of books is always good holiday therapy.
Buy yourself a present.