Reading Matters

Books keep pouring in from publishers

Robert Morgan
Robert Morgan Syracuse University

All these new books pouring in each week from publishers North and South: My joy and my bane. As your book columnist, my job is to share with you those volumes I think you’ll enjoy. And that’s fun. Yet sometimes settling in with a new release is like taking a delicious picnic deep into the woods to savor. Oops. Before you’ve bitten into that first ham biscuit, you look up to see a line of picnic baskets marching toward you, each one packed to the brim.

Right now, I am enjoying Hillsborough novelist Lee Smith’s first memoir, “Dimestore: A Writer’s Life,” due in March. But as far as I can see – Oh, no! – more books are beckoning.

There’s Hendersonville native Robert Morgan (“Gap Creek”) with an April novel, “Chasing the North Star,” the story of runaway slave Jonah Williams, born on a South Carolina plantation, who, with no shoes and no map, heads north, hiding during the day and running at night.

There’s Lindsay Starck of Chapel Hill with a debut novel, “Noah’s Wife,” available now, about a minister’s wife in a rainy coastal town who tries to win over the townspeople to her husband’s congregation. And there’s Charlotte’s Kim Wright with her fourth novel, due in May, “Last Ride to Graceland,” about a blues musician who discovers a priceless piece of rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia in a shed in back of her family’s coastal South Carolina house.

Another May release is from Charlotte’s Joy Callaway. Her debut novel is “The Fifth Avenue Artists Society,” set in 1891 in the Bronx, about four artistic sisters who live in genteel poverty. When one sister is jilted, her life takes a surprising turn. Out this month is a new novel from Greenville, S.C.’s Ashley Warlick, who teaches in the MFA program at Queens University at Charlotte. “The Arrangement” is the imagined story of what happened between celebrated food writer M.F.K. Fisher, her first husband Al, and her lover Tim Parrish.

For even meatier fare, two outstanding Biblical scholars have new books: Bart Ehrman, who teaches at UNC Chapel Hill, and John Shelby Spong (with Charlotte roots), retired Episcopal Bishop of Newark, N.J. Ehrman’s “Jesus before the Gospels,” explores how the earliest Christians remembered, changed and invented their stories of Jesus. And Spong’s “Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Story,” uncovers centuries of misunderstanding created by Gentile ignorance of things Jewish. How fascinating it would be to read the two books together and to hear the authors lecture in tandem.