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Holiday Gift Guide Books

NONFICTION

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

By Isabel Wilkerson (Random House, 640 pages, $30)

Pulitzer Prize winner Wilkerson follows three families as she tells how 6 million blacks left the Jim Crow South to find better lives.

Seeing Further: The Story of Science, Discovery & the Genius of the Royal Society

Edited by Bill Bryson (William Morrow, 512 pages, $35)

Readers who love science - and good writing - will enjoy this essay collection celebrating the 350th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Society of London and its contributions to science.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

By Rebecca Skloot (Crown, 384 pages, $26)

In 1951, a poor black woman named Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer, but pieces of the tumor that killed her, taken without her knowledge, lived on, helping scientists make countless breakthroughs, including the beginnings of a polio cure. Amazon editors rate this amazing piece of reporting as their favorite book of the year.

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival

By John Vaillant (Knopf, 352 pages $26.95)

The true account of a collision between man and tiger in a remote Russian village in the late 1990s.

FICTION

In the Company of Others

By Jan Karon (Viking Adult, 416 pages, $27.95)

This second book in the Father Tim series takes Episcopal priest Timothy Kavanaugh and his wife across the Atlantic for a long-awaited vacation in Ireland.

Super Sad True Love Story

By Gary Shteyngart (Random House, 352 pages, $26)

Shteyngart's latest novel takes place in near-future New York, where middle-aged Lenny Abramov, a guy with a decent credit score but a low Male Hotness rating, is in love with young Eunice Park. "A rich commentary on the obsessions and catastrophes of the information age and a heartbreaker worthy of its title," says Publishers Weekly.

Room

By Emma Donoghue (Little, Brown, 336 pages, $24.99)

In many ways, Jack is a typical 5-year-old boy, except that he has spent his entire life in a small room with only his mother and a nighttime visitor known as Old Nick. The Washington Post calls the book "one of the most affecting and subtly profound novels of the year."

Burning Bright: Stories

By Ron Rash (Ecco, 224 pages, $22.99)

North Carolina's Ron Rash gives us meth addicts, poverty and grave robbers in these brilliant, unforgettable stories.

CAROLINAS INTEREST

Literary Trails of the North Carolina Piedmont

By Georgann Eubanks (UNC Press, 472 pages; $37.50 hardback, $19.95 paperback)

A bounty of literary history from North Carolina's 28 Piedmont counties, this is the second of three volumes commissioned by the N.C. Arts Council to document the state's literary heritage.

Luck: A Collection of Facts, Fiction, Incantations & Verse

By Avery Caswell and others (Lorimer Press, 149 pages, $24.95)

Davidson's Lorimer Press created this charming collection of poems, stories and miscellany centered on the theme of luck. Many North Carolina authors contributed.

The Coasts of Carolina: Seaside to Sound Country

By Bland Simpson and Scott Taylor (UNC Press, 140 pages, $30)

Longtime friends Simpson, a UNC Chapel Hill creative writing professor, and Taylor, a photographer, collaborated on this book. The (Raleigh) News & Observer calls it "a lovingly rendered portrait of a unique part of the state found in the barrier islands, seaside beaches and sound-side coastlines."

Topograph: New Writing from the Carolinas and the Landscape Beyond

Edited by Jeff Jackson (Novello Festival Press, 234 pages, $21.95)

Charlotte's Novello Festival Press partnered with CharlotteViewpoint to produce a collection of stories and poems that begin to define Southern literature in a new way. Includes contributions from many Carolinas authors.

COFFEE TABLE

The President's Photographer: Fifty Years Inside the Oval Office

By John Bredar (National Geographic, 256 pages, $35)

Photos and recollections from the nine professionals who have served as official White House photographers. Includes many intimate, candid images, especially of President Barack Obama and his family.

True Links: An Illustrated Guide to the Glories of the World's 246 Links Courses

By George Peper and Malcolm Campbell (Artisan, 320 pages, $40)

With more than 300 photographs and nine maps, the authors explore the 246 courses around the world they define as legitimate links golf.

Architect: The Work of the Pritzker Prize Laureates in Their Own Words

Edited by Ruth Peltason and Grace Ong-Yan (Black Dog & Leventhal, 376 pages, $40)

Thirty-three winners of the Pritzker, architecture's most prestigious international prize, discuss creativity, inspiration and legacy in this collection that features 700 photos, blueprints and sketches of their most memorable work.

Great Migrations

By K.M. Kostyal (National Geographic, 303 pages, $35)

National Geographic explores what drives animals to travel, how scientists track their movements and the latest scientific discoveries. Illustrated by National Geographic photographers, so you know the images are brilliant.

SPORTS

What It Means to Be a Tar Heel: Roy Williams and North Carolina's Greatest Players

By Scott Fowler (Triumph Books, 250 pages, $24.95)

Charlotte Observer sports columnist Fowler recounts UNC's storied basketball history through the eyes of 42 former players. Plenty of photos and anecdotes will delight Tar Heel fans.

NC State Basketball: 100 Years of Innovation

By Tim Peeler (UNC Press, 262 pages, $30)

Wolfpack fans will take similar delight in this celebration of a century of basketball. Photos by Roger Winstead, along with historical photos, illustrate the stories that have shaped N.C. State basketball.

The Bullpen Gospels: Major League Dreams of a Minor League Veteran

By Dirk Hayhurst (Citadel Press, 340 pages, $14.95)

Critics have lauded this memoir by Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Hayhurst as moving, hilarious and true. "Bull Durham meets Ball Four," says ESPN's Ron Neyer.

Sports Illustrated: The Covers

Sports Illustrated; 208 pages, $29.95

These covers, shot by some of the world's best photographers over more than 50 years, provide an entertaining chronicle of sporting culture and great sports moments.

BIOGRAPHIES, MEMOIRS

Cleopatra: A Life

By Stacy Schiff (Little, Brown, 384 pages, $29.99)

Reviewers praised Pulitzer-winner Schiff for stellar research that presents the flesh-and-blood woman who changed the ancient world. An "excellent, myth-busting biography," says Publishers Weekly.

Decoded

By Jay-Z (Spiegel & Grau, 336 pages, $35)

Rapper Jay-Z uses his lyrics to help tell the story of his life. Amazon calls this book many things at once: An eloquent memoir, an intensely personal homage to hip-hop, a glimpse at the deep meaning behind many rap lyrics, and a moving collection of essays on subjects as diverse as Hurricane Katrina and the decline of the music industry.

Colonel Roosevelt

By Edmund Morris (Random House, 784 pages, $35)

Morris won a Pulitzer Prize for "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" and followed it with the acclaimed "Theodore Rex." Now a concluding volume recounts the final decade in the life of one of history's greatest Americans.

Just Kids

By Patti Smith (Ecco, 304pages, $27)

Singer-songwriter Smith transports us to New York in the 1960s as she meets a young artist, Robert Mapplethorpe. This National Book Award-winning memoir of their life-changing friendship "helps to explain the chaos and the creativity so embedded in that earlier time and in Mapplethorpe's life and work," Publishers Weekly says.

HUMOR

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary

By David Sedaris (Little, Brown, 176 pages, $21.99)

Sedaris departs from his memoirish humor essays with an animal story collection that includes a sycophantic baboon and a cuckolded Irish Setter. At times dark, it's also hilarious.

Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People

By Amy Sedaris (Grand Central, 304 pages, $27.99)

There must be a special humor gene in the Sedaris family, as David Sedaris' sister proves with this faux how-to guide filled with guffaw-producing photos, including shots of critters made from nuts, clothespin crucifixes and pre- and post-crafting stretching exercises.

40: A Doonesbury Retrospective

By G.B. Trudeau (Andrews McMeel, 696 pages, $100)

The perfect gift for any Doonesbury lover, this anthology celebrates 40 years of this ground-breaking comic strip. Included are 1,800 strips, 18 essays Trudeau has penned about his characters, and a four-page fold-out that maps character relationships.

Sh*t My Dad Says

By Justin Halpern (It Books, 176 pages, $15.99)

It started as a Twitter feed, then became a New York Times best-seller and now a CBS sitcom. The title is pretty self-explanatory.

MYSTERIES AND THRILLERS

Blackout

All Clear

By Connie Willis (Spectra. 491 pages and 656 pages, $26 each)

Time travelers are trapped in the Blitz in Connie Willis' two-part tour de force. The story spans two books, published six months apart, so you could get away with one paperback and one hardback if cost is a factor.

Full Dark, No Stars

By Stephen King (Scribner, 384 pages, $27.99)

The master of horror gives us a new story collection focusing less on creepy-crawlies and more on the evil that men do with no supernatural assistance whatsoever.

Miss Dimple Disappears

By Mignon Ballard (Minotaur, 272 pages, $24.99)

South Carolina's Mignon Ballard starts a new "cozy" series with the tale of a first-grade teacher mysteriously abducted during the early years of World War II.

Shirley Jackson: Novels and Stories

Edited by Joyce Carol Oates (Library of America, 832 pages, $35)

Includes "The Haunting of Hill House" and "We Have Always Lived in the Castle," plus lots of lesser-known stories by the queen of uneasy nights. -- Salem MacKnee

FOOD

The Essential New York Times Cookbook

By Amanda Hesser (W.W. Norton, 932 pages, $40)

Not to be confused with the still classic "New York Times Cookbook" written by the late Craig Claiborne. Hesser approached her task as a serious culinary scholar, digging through 150 years of archives to put together a composite of America's changing - and sometimes unchanging - foodways. It reads as well as it cooks.

Around My French Table

By Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin, 544 pages, $40)

Baking fans were probably already friends with Greenspan, from books like "Baking: From My Home to Yours." Here, she moves beyond dessert (although there's still plenty) and into her cooking life in France. It packs all the warmth and delight that Greenspan brings anytime she steps into a kitchen.

As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 416 pages, $26)

So much of Child's life has been plowed that I didn't expect to find much new here. I ended up enchanted: While Child was inventing herself as a cook in France, her friend Avis was in America, encouraging her and helping birth her classic book. Their correspondence goes beyond cooking and into life and politics.

The Pot and How To Use It: The Mystery and Romance of the Rice Cooker

By Roger Ebert (Andrews McMeel, 111 pages, $14.99)

This slim book about a man's love of his Zojirushi rice cooker becomes more when you know that movie critic Ebert lost his ability to eat when he lost his jaw to cancer. But he didn't lose his love of food and cooking, or his wry humor. A witty, sensible and somehow comforting treatise on cooking. -- Kathleen Purvis

CHILDREN

Three Little Kittens

By Jerry Pinkney (Dial, ages 0-3, $16.99)

The classic rhythms and rhymes of the traditional verses have pleased generations. Pinkney's detailed, colorful, cozy feline illustrations make this book cat-egorically collectable.

City Dog, Country Frog

By Mo Willems (Hyperion, ages 4-adult, $17.99)

Willems' seemingly simple tale of friendship between dog and frog will please young story lovers and parents, who may shed a tear at the metaphor of life's seasons. Both will be awed by Jon Muth's illustrations.

Beautiful Oops!

By Barney Saltzberg (Workman, ages 6-adult, $11.95)

What a great concept: Teaching children that it's OK to make mistakes. This interactive book celebrates the "oopses" in life, inspiring confidence and risk-taking.

This Book Made Me Do It: Cool Things to Make, Do and Explore

(DK Publishing, ages 7-11, 192 pages, $19.99)

Looking for something for the doer on your list? Here are 200 activities with clear, step-by-step directions that show you how to survive an avalanche, lift fingerprints, tie-dye a T-shirt, build an igloo or make a flashlight that runs on candy. -- Susie Wilde

MIDDLE READERS AND YOUNG ADULT

The Popularity Papers: Research for the Social Improvement and General Betterment of Lydia Goldblatt & Julie Graham-Chang

By Amy Ignatow (Amulet, 208 pages, ages 9-12, $15.95)

For girls who feel left out of the Wimpy Kids book phenomena, now there's a female parallel with graphics, humor and a subject sure to suck them in.

The Lost Hero

By Rick Riordan (Hyperion, 576 pages, ages 9-12, $18.99)

Percy Jackson fans will be thrilled by this first book in the new "Heroes of Olympus" spin-off series. The characters are new, but the books are still based on Greek myths and full of adventures.

Virals

By Kathy Reichs (Razorbill, 464 pages, ages 12 and up, $17.99)

Charlotte's Reichs, who gave us forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan in her bestselling "Bones" novels, introduces a new series for teens. After her mother's death, Victoria (Tory) Brennan, Temperance's niece, goes to live with her professor father on an island off Charleston. She unites with three new geek guy friends in nonstop discoveries - murder, hidden experimentation and a virus that changes them forever.

Sarah Dessen Deluxe Gift Set

By Sarah Dessen (Speak, 976 pages, ages 14 and up $29.99)

This set includes three paperback novels by Chapel Hill's Dessen - "Someone Like You," "Keeping the Moon" and "Lock and Key." It comes with a key pendant and is packed in a keepsake jewelry box.

Hunger Games Trilogy Boxed Set

By Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, ages 14 and up, $53.97)

With the recent release of "Mockingjay," the last book of the riveting dystopian series, the trio, which includes "The Hunger Games" and "Catching Fire," makes gripping reading, or re-reading. -- Susie Wilde

MUSIC

Arcade Fire: The Suburbs

(Merge, $9.99)

This is the first album in Durham-based Merge Records' history to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts, and its success is well-deserved. Soaring and grandiose in an effortless way, "The Suburbs" has an incredibly rich sound that reaches for the stars and will take you with it.

Carolina Chocolate Drops: Genuine Negro Jig

(Nonesuch, $13.99)

Speaking of chart accomplishments, Chapel Hill's own Carolina Chocolate Drops cracked the Billboard 200 with this album of old-time music, steeped in deepest Appalachia. But it's also very much set in the present, emphasized by the cutting cover of Blu Cantrell's 2001 revenge fantasy "Hit 'Em Up."

Drive-By Truckers: The Big To-Do

(ATO, $10.68)

Eight albums in, you might think the Truckers would be running short on tales from the dark side. Not to worry. As long as there are never-do-wells out there never doing well, the Truckers will go right on setting their stories to state-of-the-art classic rock.

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: I Learned the Hard Way

(Daptone, $10.98)

Thanks to a friendly boost from Michael Buble (who enlisted Jones for cameos on his last album and even "Saturday Night Live"), her fourth album registered a solid mainstream breakthrough. "I Learned the Hard Way" is maximum rock-and-soul, funk style, and it's the next best thing to Jones' fiery live show.

John Legend & The Roots: Wake Up!

(Good/Columbia, $9.99)

Nuevo-soul man Legend teams up with rap-band provocateurs The Roots on this consciousness-raising exercise, which is a tribute to a sensibility rather than any single act. These 11 covers go back to the '60s and '70s, and they all concern awareness of larger issues. Which wouldn't matter if it didn't kick. Fortunately, it does.

Lost in the Trees: All Alone in an Empty House

(Anti-/Trekky, $14.48)

With Sufjan Stevens dabbling in more electronic realms nowadays, the field is wide open for someone else to put their stamp on orchestral pop music. Enter Chapel Hill's Lost in the Trees, whose big-league debut is a stellar set of evocative mood music. Perfect for the next time you're feeling cinematic, yet don't feel like watching a movie.

Mississippi Fred McDowell: Come and Found You Gone

(Devil Down, 19)

Selected from folklorist Bill Ferris' 1967 recordings of the late great bluesman, this is the first release on UNC Chapel Hill student Reed Turchi's new label. And it's quite a find all the way around: musically first-rate, historically important and craftily assembled. Order it from devildownrecords.com.

Rolling Stones: Exile on Main Street

(Universal, $21.59)

This is a killer two-disc reissue of the Stones' 1972 landmark album, augmented with 10 bonus tracks. And they're all killer, no filler.

Neil Young: Le Noise

(Reprise, 11.88)

Young has always gone back and forth between acoustic pensiveness and metallic freakouts, and he's been overdue to get back to his caveman ways. "Le Noise" fills that gap nicely. Stripped-down and raw, this sounds less recorded than captured, with plenty of Young's primal guitar stomp. Stomp along yourself.

DVDs

SpongeBob Squarepants: 10 Happiest Moments

(DVD; $14.99; 1 disc)

Genuinely fun for both kids and adults, the TV show has been going strong for more than a decade. This DVD compiles 10 classic episodes plus the series pilot - a good gift for kids or parents.

Baseball: The Tenth Inning

(DVD, $24.99; Blu-ray, $29.99; 2 discs)

For baseball nerds of particular intensity, "The Tenth Inning" is a must-see. Director Ken Burns' coda to his massive 1994 documentary documents changes in the game, from the disastrous players' strike of 1996 through the trauma of 9-11 and, of course, the steroids issue.

Peanuts Holiday Collection: Ultimate Collector's Edition

(DVD/Blu-ray combo pack, $67.99; 6 discs)

Kids will enjoy this one, too, but it's really for grown-ups who remember when Charlie Brown came on TV just a few times a year, and you scheduled your week around it. This set packages the classic Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas specials with three bonus episodes, retrospective docs and a Peanuts snow globe.

The World at War

(Blu-ray; $149.99; 9 discs)

This 1975 BBC series is generally considered to be the definitive long-form documentary on World War II. Narrated by Lawrence Olivier, the series incorporates footage from the official archives of 18 nations. While many documentaries explore aspects of the war, none can match this for pure ambition.

Monk: The Obsessively Complete Collection

(DVD, $249.98; 32 discs)

Tony Shalhoub's obsessive-compulsive detective is one of the elite comedic creations in the history of television. This ginormous boxed set collects all 125 episodes with hours of behind-the-scenes material and a 32-page Defective Detective Handbook. -- Glenn McDonald

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This affects comments on all stories.

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The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

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