This years literary gift guide offers books to suit many readers lovers of sports and mysteries, history buffs, children looking for a good bedtime tale. Weve focused especially on homegrown talent, with more than a dozen books from writers and publishing houses with Carolinas connections.
Among them: Billy Lynns Long Halftime Walk ( Ecco, 320 pages, $25.99), by Chapel Hill native and UNC Chapel Hill graduate Ben Fountain. Fountains debut was recently named a National Book Award finalist. The Washington Post calls the book a masterful echo of Catch-22, with war in Iraq at the center.
Birds of Paradise: Revealing the Worlds Most Extraordinary Birds
By Tim Laman and Edwin Scholes (National Geographic Books, 228 pages, $50)
A renowned photographer and leading ornithologist share their research and stunning photos of all 39 species of these birds, which are found in the wilderness of Papua New Guinea.
The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012
Edited by Dave Eggers (Mariner Books, 432 pages, $14.95)
Eclectic describes this collection of fiction and nonfiction by authors both well-known (Louise Erdrich, Junot Diaz) and not so well-known. It also includes a haphazard stockpile of some pieces that dont fit anywhere else, such as the best tweets responding to the death of Osama Bin Laden.
The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965
By William Manchester and Paul Reid (Little, Brown, 1,232 pages, $40)
This is the final volume of historian William Manchesters best-selling Last Lion trilogy. Manchester died in 2004, but his friend Paul Reid, who lives in Tryon, about 90 miles west of Charlotte, completed it. Publishers Weekly says this long-delayed majestic account is worth the wait.
By E.T.A. Hoffman, illustrated by Maurice Sendak (Crown, 120 pages, $24.99)
This reissue of E.T.A. Hoffmans classic story was first published in 1984. Illustrator Maurice Sendak, who died this year, based his pictures on Hoffmans original 1816 short story, which he described as possessing weird, dark qualities that make it something of a masterpiece. Sendak, of course, brought his own brilliant, weird vision to the illustrations.
The Walnut Tree: A Holiday Tale
By Charles Todd (William Morrow, 256 pages, $16.99)
Mother-son team Caroline and Charles Todd write under the name Charles Todd. In recent years, theyve won critical acclaim for their mysteries, but this new tale is a romance, set in Europe during World War I. Caroline Todd lives in Delaware, son Charles in Charlotte.
Kindle Paperwhite e-reader
Many purists have scoffed at e-readers, only to give them a grudging shot and find themselves sold. Amazons latest generation gadget (its on Consumer Reports recommended list) has higher contrast than the previous generation Kindle, a built-in front light for reading in all lighting conditions, battery life of up to eight weeks, and a thin, light design. (Wireless model is $179.)
To Free a Family: The Journey of Mary Walker
By Sydney Nathans (Harvard University Press, 330 pages, $29.95)
In this page-turning history, retired Duke University historian Sydney Nathans tells the story of Mary Walker, a slave who escaped in 1848 from North Carolinas wealthiest slaveholding family, the Camerons of Raleigh.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
By Katherine Boo (Random House, 288 pages, $27)
Katherine Boo spent years observing and interviewing residents of a slum built in the shadows of Mumbais modern airport and hotels. Boos brilliant account, which just won the National Book Award for nonfiction, provides a sobering look at life spent as few Americans can imagine.
American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White, and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama
By Rachel L. Starns (Amistad, 400 pages, $27.99)
New York Times reporter Rachel Starns traces the saga of five generations of the first ladys family from slavery to the White House. USA Today calls the book a microcosm of this countrys story.
By Ron Rash (Ecco, 272 pages, $26.99)
Set in and around Mars Hill, the latest novel from Western Carolina Universitys Ron Rash explores a communitys prejudices through the story of a young woman who is ostracized and lonely until she hears the music of a flute-playing stranger near her farm.
By Gillian Flynn (Crown, 432 pages, $25)
On their fifth wedding anniversary, Nicks wife, Amy, disappears. Told from alternating points of view Nicks view, then Amys this bestseller offers a twisting plot worthy of Alfred Hitchcock, says People magazine.
A Land More Kind Than Home
By Wiley Cash (William Morrow, 320 pages, $24.99)
Wiley Cash, who grew up in Gastonia and graduated from UNC Asheville, tells a Southern gothic tale in this debut novel, complete with a black-hearted minister and snake-handling parishioners. The New York Times called it mesmerizing.
Ryan Adams: Losering: A Story of Whiskeytown
By David Menconi (University of Texas Press, 222 pages, $19.95)
Before he was an alternative-country/rock star, Ryan Adams, born in Jacksonville, N.C., played with the Raleigh-based Whiskeytown. David Menconi, music writer for the (Raleigh) News & Observer, spills the inside story of the singers rise.
The True Image: Gravestone Art and the Culture of Scotch Irish Settlers in the Pennsylvania and Carolina Backcountry
By Daniel Patterson (UNC Press, 496 pages, $49.95)
For years, Daniel Patterson, a retired UNC Chapel Hill English professor, searched cemeteries in Mecklenburg and neighboring counties, looking for gravestones cut by Scotch Irish stonecutters before and after the Revolution. With text and 200 photographs, he documents their work, especially that of Charlottes Bingham family of stonecutters.
Literary Dogs & Their South Carolina Writers
Edited by John Lane and Betsy Wakefield Teter (Hub City Press, 140 pages, $19.95)
Twenty-five authors with S.C. ties introduce you to their most memorable dogs in this collection, a smart gift for lovers of books and pups. Youll meet Josephine Humphreys poodle, Ron Rashs mutt and Mary Alice Monroes Bernese mountain dog.
Strom Thurmonds America
By Joseph Crespino (Hill and Wang, 416 pages, $30)
Emory University historian Joseph Crespinos new biography of South Carolinas best-known segregationist argues that the late senator played a key role in the ascent of modern conservatism. Crespino reveals a flawed, egotistical, unapologetic, headstrong man whose views helped give birth to the contemporary Right, Publishers Weekly says.
Coffee Table/Photo Books
Vogue: The Editors Eye
Edited by Eve MacSweeney (Abrams, 416 pages, $75)
This collection includes chapters on eight Vogue fashion editors, with gorgeous photos and in-depth interviews about their collaborations with photographers and models.
Eyewitness to World War II: Unforgettable Stories and Photographs from Historys Greatest Conflict
By Neil Kagan and Stephen G. Hyslop (National Geographic, 352 pages, $40)
Hundreds of photos and images combine with soldiers letters, diary excerpts and world leaders writings to weave a history of the war from multiple perspectives.
The Life & Love of Cats
By Lewis Blackwell (Abrams, 216 pages, $50)
More than 100 memorable photographs accompany a global tour of one the worlds most popular animals. Youll find wild cats in Africa, show cats, rare breeds and lovable kittens.
Woody Durham: A Tar Heel Voice
By Woody Durham with Adam Lucas (John F. Blair, 272 pages, $26.95)
Durham recounts his 40-year-career as the play-by-play radio voice for UNC Chapel Hill basketball and football games in this autobiography. Durham retired in 2011.
By Joe Posnanski (Simon & Schuster, 416 pages, $28)
In his biography of the late Penn State football coach, Charlottes own Joe Posnanski used his unprecedented access to the man to explain how he went from one of Americas most beloved sports icons to one of its most controversial.
Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever
By Jack McCallum (Ballantine, 384 pages, $28)
Sports Illustrated writer Jack McCallum tells the story of the 1992 U.S. Olympic mens basketball team.
Losing My Sister
By Judy Goldman (John F. Blair, 270 pages, $21.95)
In her first memoir, Charlotte poet and novelist Judy Goldman excavates her familys hidden dynamics as she explores her intense, loving and sometimes difficult relationship with her late sister.
Midstream: An Unfinished Memoir
By Reynolds Price (Scribner, 192 pages, $25)
Reynolds Price, a Duke University professor who became one of the Souths great authors, contemplates a short period of his life, from his late 20s to early 30s, in this final memoir. Price died in 2011.
The Grand Tour: Around the World With the Queen of Mystery
Edited by Mathew Prichard (Harper, 384 pages, $29.99)
In this treat for mystery lovers: Agatha Christies grandson, Mathew Prichard, has collected and edited her letters home from a trip around the British Empire with her husband, Archie. Its a memoir-travelogue, with lots of photos and reproductions of letters and postcards.
America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Werent
By Stephen Colbert (Grand Central, 240 pages, $28.99)
Stephen Colbert, the man who makes misguided egotism hilarious, explains all the ways that our nation is Americeptional.
I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats
By Francesco Marciuiano (Chronicle, 112 pages, $12.95)
Quirky poems by Sally Forth comic strip author Fracesco Marciuiano will delight cat lovers (and maybe cat haters, too.) The title poem includes the line Shes gone out for the day and / left her laptop on the counter / I could pee on that.
Live by Night
By Dennis Lehane (William Morrow, 416 pages, $27.99)
The best-selling author of Mystic River and Shutter Island sets his newest novel in Boston during Prohibition. Joe Coughlin, son of a police captain, moves up the ladder of organized crime in this epic thriller thats both love story and revenge saga.
The Beautiful Mystery
By Louise Penny (Minotaur, 384 pages, $25.99)
In the latest Chief Inspector Gamache novel, a murder takes place deep in Quebecs wilderness, in a monastery where the cloistered monks are renowned for their chanting. The victim? The monasterys choir director.
The Twenty-Year Death
By Ariel S. Winter (Hard Case Crime, 700 pages, $25.99)
Reviewers loved this debut effort. Its three interrelated novels in one, each written in the style of a detective fiction legend George Simenon, Jim Thompson and Raymond Chandler.
Who Could That Be at This Hour?
By Lemony Snicket (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 272 pages, $15.99)
This is the first of Snickets new four-volume All the Wrong Questions series, and it starts like this: There was a town, there was a girl, and there was theft. I was living in the town, I was hired to investigate the theft, and I thought the girl had nothing to do with it. I was almost thirteen and I was wrong.
Red Knit Cap Girl
By Naoko Stoop (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 40 pages, $15.99)
The New York Times Book Review has ranked Naoko Stoops story of a little girl who wants to meet the moon as its No. 1 Best Illustrated Book of the year.
Santa Is Coming to the Carolinas
By Steve Smallman, illustrated by Robert Dunn and Katherine Kirkland (Sourcebooks, 32 pages, $9.99)
Its Christmas Eve, and Santa is spotting all sorts of landmarks as he flies over the Carolinas. Among them: the Gaffney Peach, Charlottes Hearst Tower and Bank of America building, and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
Middle-grade readers and young adult
The White Glove War
By Katie Crouch, with Grady Hendrix (Poppy, 320 pages, $17.99)
The second in a series, this young-adult novel centers on a high-society debutante group in Savannah known as the Magnolia League. Katie Crouch grew up in Charleston, where she attended cotillion but did not become a debutante.
The Other Normals
By Ned Vizzini (Balzer & Bray, 387 pages, $17.99)
Many young-adult readers know Ned Vizzini from his best-selling Its Kind of a Funny Story. In this new novel, life changes for a nerdy kid named Perry Eckert when his parents ship him off to summer camp to improve his social skills.
Justin Bieber: Just Getting Started
By Justin Bieber (HarperCollins, 240 pages, $21.99)
Hes only 18, but global superstar Justin Bieber has already produced two international best-sellers. In this photo-filled volume, Bieber describes his music, travels and life.
By Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel (Artisan Books, 400 pages, $50)
The Wall Street Journal called this cookbook the knockout new pastry testament. Filled with recipes for scones and muffins, madeleines, brioche, doughnuts and breads, it includes photos and explanations to help home cooks master fancy techniques.
Fire in My Belly: Real Cooking
By Kevin Gillespie with David Joachim (Andrews McMeel, 356 pages, $40)
In his debut collection, Top Chef winner Kevin Gillespie, executive chef of Atlantas Woodfire Grill, pushes the boundaries of classic Southern fare with some inspired reinventions. Think charred okra with tomato-coconut chutney.
By Kathleen Purvis (UNC Press, 108 pages, $18)
This is the first of two volumes in the Savor the South series, cookbooks that celebrate Southern ingredients.
Charlotte Observer food editor Kathleen Purvis offers a host of recipes, from appetizers to desserts, for that quintessentially Southern nut. The pralines recipe is one of our favorites.
By Debbie Moose (UNC Press, 96 pages, $18)
This is the second Savor the South cookbook. Veteran cookbook author Debbie Moose of Raleigh demonstrates buttermilks versatility with recipes ranging from chilled soup to fried chicken.
Boys & Girls
Alabama Shakes (ATO, $9.34)
This Georgia quartet broke out in 2012 thanks to an endorsement from Drive-By Truckers, which also led to accusations that theyre a hype job. But Brittany Howards volcanic voice is not to be denied on these 11 soulful rockers.
The Sound of the Life of the Mind
Ben Folds Five (ImaVeePee Records/Sony Music, $8.99)
Reunion album finds the peerless North Carolina piano-pop trio picking up right where they left off 13 years ago. And while they may not be so young anymore, theyre still plenty loud and snotty not to mention catchy, very catchy, especially on Hold That Thought.
Bowerbirds (Dead Oceans, $14.94)
Raleigh folk groups third album is far lusher and more sophisticated than their first two records, but without losing any of the evocative power that made them so arresting to begin with. The Clearing is as heavy as it is pretty, coursing with a sense of Zen acceptance on 11 songs that grapple with mortality. Its calm, but calamitous.
Falling Off the Sky
The dBs (Bar/None, $9.99)
Its been 30 years since the original foursome of this Winston-Salem band made an album, but the years have been kind. Co-leaders Peter Holsapple and Chris Stameys power-pop sense remains as sharp as ever.
From the Ground Up
John Fullbright (Blue Dirt, $9.99)
This freakishly talented prodigy hails from Woody Guthries Oklahoma hometown, and hes about the best troubadour-type singer-songwriter roaming the land nowadays. From the Ground Up adds piano and some accents from Lyle Lovetts ballpark, with the greatest of ease. There might not be anything this kid cant do.
Grizzly Bear, (Warped, $7.99)
Youd never know that Grizzly Bear was from Brooklyn, based on the atmospherically pastoral tones of the groups music. Shields takes a spin through bucolic pastures, and the music is spacey enough to make you wonder if theyre from somewhere closer to Saturn.
I Like to Keep Myself in Pain
Kelly Hogan (Anti-, $10.53)
Best-known as Neko Cases backup singer, Hogan is an amazing vocalist who makes everything look easy, even when shes evoking the worst heartbreak imaginable. She really is jaw-droppingly good recommended if you like Adele.
Thankful N Thoughtful
Bettye LaVette (Anti-, $9.99)
Like Tina Turner, this soul goddess never does anything nice n easy. Thankful N Thoughtful, however, can manage. LaVettes latest finds her covering songs by Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Black Keys and even the Pogues, making them all her own.
A Church That Fits Our Needs
Lost in the Trees (Anti-, $9.99)
Getting lost in a forest can be the stuff of childhood nightmares, a state of mind this Chapel Hill orchestral-pop ensemble evokes with frightening realism. Pretty sounds plus unnerving vocals equal beautiful unease.
Patti Smith (Columbia, $9.99)
The punk priestess hasnt sounded this accessible in eons. Yes, she does have a very poetic interlude with Constantines Dream, a 10-minute fever-nightmare. But April Fool, Amerigo and the Amy Winehouse tribute This Is the Girl are all deliciously catchy.
Coffee Colored Eyes
Winslow Stillman (winslowstillman.com, $12.95)
Finding himself in Colombia with some time to kill, this Triangle jazzman fell in with the local jazz players. The result is this lovely collection of tropical-flavored jazz-pop, bright and sunny.
(Blu-ray, $20, 1 disc)
Director Billy Wilders 1950 film noir classic is a haunting parable on the dark side of Hollywood. Image and sound have been painstakingly restored, and there are generous extras.
Looney Tunes Platinum Collection Volume 2
(Blu-ray/DVD, $30/$20, 3 discs)
Few artifacts of pop culture entertainment stand the test of time like Looney Tunes. Volume 2 digs deep into the vaults for 50 more animated shorts from resident geniuses Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng and Mel Blanc, the man of 1,000 voices. Extras are mad fun for the obsessive animation fan.
The World Series: History of the Fall Classic
(DVD, $30, 4 discs)
Narrated by Bob Costas, it chronicles highlights from baseballs World Series, all the way back to its inception in 1903. You literally cant get this stuff anywhere else. This collection adds sports geek goodies like historic game programs and scorecards, plus extended interviews with familiar old-timers and unsung heroes.
Tarantino XX: 8-Film Collection
(Blu-ray, $70, 10 discs)
Writer-director Quentin Tarantino sparked an indie film renaissance in the 1990s with his one-two punch of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. This beautifully packaged eight-film collection adds six more films either directed or written by Tarantino, along with five hours of new bonus material, including deleted scenes.
The Carol Burnett Show: The Ultimate Collection
(DVD, $200, 22 discs)
They really and truly dont make em like this anymore: Carol Burnetts groundbreaking comedy-variety show ran 1967-1978. This mammoth box set collects 50 full episodes plus 20 hours of bonus material. (Abridged 6-DVD and 2-DVD sets are also available.)
Correspondent Glenn McDonald
The ZAGG InvisibleSHEILD
Wipe away your worries of scratching or smudging your Kindle Fire and many tablets. It defends your devices display against scratches and improves your grip without bulking it up.
Vera Bradley E-Reader Sleeve
$34; Vera Bradley at SouthPark
Who better to pump up the prints than Vera Bradley? With more than 20 colors and prints to choose from, the E-Reader Sleeve offers a convenient, L-shaped opening and a lightweight protective foam to keep your stories safe. Inside is a handy pocket.
LAP PRO universal lap stand for e-readers and tablets.
The beanbag-ish build begs to be snuggled with; the contouring capabilities of the Lap Pro allow you to prop it in that perfect position, whether lying down or legs crossed. Doubles as a tote.
FitFolio for e-readers
$20 and up; www.speckproducts.com
Made by the gadget gurus at Speck, FitFolio offers a variety of cases for readers. One of our favorites is for Kindle Keyboard, offering protection in a book-style folio. Cover is made of vegan leather and is lined with padded microsuede. Select from four colors. That model runs $29.95.
Correspondent Kiran Dodeja Smith