Christmas, book by book

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 16, 2011

SALISBURY — It’s a week before Christmas and you still haven’t found that special thing for your book club friend, or your 10-year-old or your favorite cook.
Personally, I can think of nothing better than wandering into an independently-owned book store, with its individual tastes and local flavor and people who don’t just work at the store, they live and breathe books.
Last week I stepped into Literary Bookpost and looked at the staff picks and new fiction and was thrilled to see Umberto Eco’s new book, “The Prague Cemetery.” Eco’s writing, his plots and characters are far from ordinary, his books always surprising. Can’t wait to dive in.
I clapped my hands when I saw the new P.D. James book, “Death Comes to Pemberley,” and treated myself. Dame James has made the bestseller list already, her devoted fans snapping up this book, her first since 2008’s “The Private Patient.”
This is not an Adam Dalgleish mystery — but one that uses Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” characters.
There were so many other choices, I was momentarily overwhelmed.
So here are suggestions from the staff at Literary Bookpost.
For coffee table books:
• “The Louvre: All the Paintings,” by Erich Lessing and Vincent Pomarede. All 3,022 paintings in color.
• Photographer Annie Lebovitz’s “Pilgrimage,” a book of places and things the iconic photographer likes, starting with Emily Dickinson’s house.
For non-fiction:
• “Lions of the West,” by Robert Morgan, reviewed here on Oct. 23.
• “America Aflame” by David Goldfield, interviewed for his appearance here on April 17.
• “Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War,” by Tony Horwitz, climbing the bestseller lists.
For cookbooks, local books are hot, but there are a couple others with tastes from other cultures:
• “Well Shut My Mouth! The Sweet Potatoes Restaurant Cookbook,” by Stephanie L. Tyson. The popular restaurant in downtown Winston-Salem reveals some of its down-home specialties, including Sweet Potato Biscuits.
• Pat Branning’s “Shrimp, Collard and Grits,” in the commemorative edition, part cookbook, part coffee table book.
• Hot new discovery, “Mourad’s New Moroccan,” by Mourad Lahlou.
• The best from the best — “Essential Pepin,” by Jacques Pepin, friend to Julia Child and master of knife techniques and healthy, delicious recipes.
Local interest:
• “Touring the Western North Carolina Backroads,” by Carolyn Sakowski, from John F. Blair, Publisher, in Winston-Salem. The store has already sold about 40 of her books.
• “Touring North Carolina’s Civil War Sites,” by Clint Johnson, second edition, also from Blair.
• “The Wettest & Wickedest Town,” by Karen C. Lilly-Bowyer, tales from Salisbury’s younger, wilder days.
There’s plenty to chose from when it comes to fiction, including new books by favorite authors.
• Alice Hoffman’s “The Dovekeepers,” a story of women in the first century involved in Jewish resistance at the seige of Masada.
• “11/22/63,” a weighty Stephen King tome (849 pages), about a teacher who goes back in time to stop the John F. Kennedy assassination.
• “1Q84,” by Haruki Murakami, another whopper at 925 pages, sort of science fiction, getting mixed reviews.
• “The Art of Fielding,” by Chad Harbach — so much more than a baseball story.
• “The Night Circus,” seen as the go-to book of the season, by Erin Morgenstern. Her first novel has been described as enchanting and captivating.
• Salisbury has met author Chris Bohjalian at Catawba College’s Brady Author’s Symposium and at the bookstore for an intimate talk and signing. His new book, “Night Strangers,” takes a spooky turn.
• “Night Woods,” is a change for Charles Frazier of “Cold Mountain” fame. It’s a contemporary story of triumph over evil.
• “Zone 1,” by Colson Whitehead, a book with zombies.
• Deal Safrit says one of his favorites is “Blind Your Ponies,” by Stanley Gordon West, now in paperback. An inspiring story of a run-down town coming back together.
• And don’t forget John Hart’s four books, or the funny stories of Celia Rivenbark.
The store has signed copies of many books available, as well, and handmade pens and pencils by John Zerger.
For children:
• “Bumble-Ardy,” by Maurice Sendak, a beautiful picture book based on a piece on “Sesame Street.”
• The “Llama, Llama” series, with the most recent, “Llama Llama Red Pajama,” good to read aloud, and has plush figures to go with it.
• “Bye for Now,” by Concord author Kathleen Churchyard, good for girls 8-12.
• “Wonderstruck,” by Brian Selznick, for ages 10-14. Well-written and captivating.
• The Pittacus Lore series, for ages 12 and up, science fiction and superheroes.
• “Moby Dick in Pictures,” the graphic novel by Matt Kish. “Moby Dick” like you’ve never imagined before. Fascinating images.
• “The Apothecary” by Maile Meloy, for ages 10-14. A story of a mysterious apothecary, spies and potions.