STEPHEN SMITH: Last-Minute Gift Ideas for Readers
This is the last Sunday before Christmas, and here are a few quick gift suggestions from books reviewed here during 2008.
David Sedaris has long been the darling of the National Public Radio set, and his latest foray into print, "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" (Little, Brown, 336 pages, $25.95), is not likely to disappoint his fan base. They've loved him since they picked up his first book or listened to his early readings on NPR -- indeed, it's difficult to read Sedaris without writing a check, if only to silence the NPR money scroungers during their weekly fund-raising extravaganza -- and his many admirers will no doubt continue to lavish their affection upon him, regardless of how far he strays from his original formula, which, in the case of his new collection, isn't far.
"Woof!: Writers on Dogs" edited by Lee Montgomery (Viking, 242 pages, $24.95) is a necessary gift for the dog lover in your family. There are plenty of copies at The Country Bookshop. Grab a couple.
For the guitar hero in your house you can pick up a copy of Hubert Pleijsier's "Washburn Prewar Instrument Styles: Guitars, Mandolins, Banjos, and Ukuleles 1883-1940" (Centerstream Publishing, 255 pages, $45). I intended to read this reference book for my own edification, but as I read, it became apparent that the history of Lyon and Healy, the Chicago-based music company that produced Washburn guitars and the majority of American stringed instruments in the early part of the 20th century, was also a social, technological, and economic history of the United States during the period in which the company prospered and eventually failed. It's worth a read.
Patrick Huber's "Linthead Stomp: The Creation of Country Music in the Piedmont South" (University of North Carolina Press, 440 pages, $30) is a thoroughly-researched, beautifully written history that traces the roots of country music from the cotton mills and small industrial cities of the Piedmont in the years before World War II to the recent disintegration of the Southern textile culture.
Scott McClellan's political tell-all "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception" (Public Affairs, 323 pages, $27.95) hit the news media like a supernova. Here was a longtime Bush loyalist, a privileged and trusted member of the inner circle and a former presidential press secretary, and he confirms once and for all that the Bushies had distorted the truth in order to convince the Congress and most of the American people to go to war with Iraq. Buy a copy for a Bush lover.
What attracted me to Irene Spencer's autobiography, "Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife" (Center Street, 400 pages, $24.99) was the brouhaha concerning the Yearning for Zion Ranch where Texas authorities raided the polygamous community after Child Protective Services received hoax calls placed by someone impersonating abused juveniles. CPS took custody of over 400 children, placing many of them in foster care. Spencer's story is enthralling -- and alarming.
Roy Gutman's "How We Missed the Story" (United States Institute of Peace, 321 pages, $26) is a fascinating unraveling of the cause-and-effect relationships that led to the 9/11 attacks that have so profoundly transformed the world in which we live. Gutman is a former senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace and currently serves as a foreign editor for McClatchy newspapers. His reporting on ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovia won him the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in 1993, so he's an experienced and cautious journalist.
"The Best of Roy Parker Jr.: Reliving Fayetteville's Storied Military History" (Pediment Books, 288 pages, $24.95) is surely the definitive source for the military history of Fayetteville and the surrounding area, including, to a limited extent, Southern Pines, Aberdeen, and Pinehurst. Military history buffs of any ilk will find no better source for local history of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korea and Vietnam Wars, and modern military history.
Our old friend Shelby Stephenson published a new volume this fall --"Family Matters: Homage to July, The Slave Girl" (Bellday Books, 58 pages, $14). The new book is Shelby's best.
Anyone who knows Sally Buckner -- that would be every writer and poetry lover living in this state -- will want to read her second collection of poetry, "Collateral Damage" (Main Street Rag, 41 pages, $8). It's a knockout.
Whew! Have a great holiday.
Contact Stephen Smith at email@example.com.
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