Books Are Always a Good Fit for Holiday Gift-Giving
With the joy of the holiday season comes the stress of trying to find memorable gifts for friends and family.
For many, the solution may be found at The Country Bookshop on Broad Street in downtown Southern Pines.
"We love it when people come in to the shop and don't know where to begin," says Bonnie Johnson, manager of the 56-year-old independent bookstore. "We never just point to a table piled with bestsellers by 'the usual suspects.' The staff at The Country Bookshop takes it as a personal challenge to help every customer find the perfect book for each person on their shopping list.
"'Shop locally' is a philosophy we live by," Johnson adds, "so we always recommend new books by North Carolina authors. This year the selection and variety have never been better."
"One of the best books I've read all year is 'Olive Kitteridge' ($14) by Elizabeth Strout," says staffer Patty Underwood.
Strout, who is on the faculty of the MFA program at Queens University in Charlotte, won this year's Pulitzer Prize for her novel in short stories about the unforgettable retired math teacher living in a small town in Maine.
Ron Rash's "Serena" ($14.99), the Gothic tale of greed, corruption and revenge set against the backdrop of the 1930s Appalachian wilderness, won this year's Southern Independent Booksellers Award.
Todd Johnson, who grew up in Sanford, wrote his moving debut novel, "The Sweet By and By" ($24.99), a "Steel Magnolias" meets "Fried Green Tomatoes" story of five Southern women living together in a retirement community.
Former Salisbury attorney and Edgar Award-winning author John Hart returns with his third novel, "The Last Child" ($24.95), the story of a young boy's hunt for his missing sister and the dark truths he uncovers in his North Carolina hometown.
Charles Todd, the mother-son team who write the award-winning World War I series featuring Inspector Rutledge ("A Matter of Justice" $14.99), introduced a new mystery series, also set in World War I, featuring Bess Crawford, a resourceful British army nurse, in "A Duty to the Dead" ($24.99).
Award-winning Hillsborough author Jill McCorkle, who teaches writing at N.C. State, offers "Going Away Shoes" ($19.95), her first short story collection in eight years.
"Long Story Short: Flash Fiction by Sixty-Five of North Carolina's Finest Writers" ($16) is a unique collection of short-short stories -- none longer than 1,800 words -- by Russell Banks, Doris Betts, Sarah Dessen, Robert Morgan and Lee Smith, among dozens of others.
Novels by other favorite North Carolina authors include Margaret Maron's latest Judge Deborah Knott novel, "Sand Sharks" ($24.99); "Miss Julia Delivers the Goods" ($24.95) and "Miss Julia Paints the Town" ($15) by Ann B. Ross; "The Bible Salesman" ($13.99) by Clyde Edgerton; "The Four Corners of the Sky" by Michael Malone ($24.99); "206 Bones" ($26.99), a Temperance Brennan mystery by Kathy Reichs; "The Last Song" ($24.99) by Nicholas Sparks; "Ancestors and Other Stories" by Fred Chappell ($27.99); and "A Blue and Gray Christmas" ($19.99), a Ladies of Covington novel by Joan Medlicott.
Novels with a North Carolina setting include "Velva Jean Learns to Drive" ($15) by Jennifer Niven, set in Appalachia in the years before World War II, featuring a young North Carolina girl determined to sing at the Grand Old Opry; and "The Unseen" ($24.95) by Alexandra Sokoloff, a novel of suspense based on the Rhine parapsychology experiments at Duke University.
Sokoloff used the old James Boyd home, now Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities in Southern Pines, as the fictional setting.
New nonfiction books by North Carolina authors offer just as much variety as the fiction category.
The top-selling book of 2009 at The Country Bookshop is "A Son of the Game" ($24.95) by Southern Pines' favorite son Jim Dodson. It's the story of his journey as he rediscovers the joy and contentment he initially found in the game of golf.
"You Can't Drink All Day If You Don't Start in the Morning: Surviving the South with Sweet-Tea Flavored Vodka, Chicken Salad and Jesus" ($24.99) by Wilmington's Celia Rivenbark, author of "Belle Weather: Mostly Sunny with a Chance of Scattered Hissy Fits" ($13.99), another collection of her laugh-out-loud essays.
Duke University's Dan Ariely, a regular contributor to NPR's "Marketplace," blends common experiences and clever experiments with groundbreaking analysis in "Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions" ($27.99).
"Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life"($14), by world-renowned researcher and UNC professor Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, offers lab-tested tools necessary to create a healthier, more vibrant, and flourishing life.
Peter Reinhart, owner of Pie Town restaurant in Charlotte, returns with his seventh cookbook, "Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day" ($30).
Foy Allen Edeman crisscrossed the entire state over six years to collect the more than 220 dessert recipes in "Sweet Carolina: Favorite Desserts and Candies from the Old North State" ($25).
Basketball fans who "bleed blue" will enjoy "One Fantastic Ride: The Inside Story of Carolina Basketball 2009 Championship Season" ($29.95) by Adam Lucas; "Hard Work: My Life On and Off the Court" ($24.95) by Roy Williams; and "Light Blue Reign: How a City Slicker, a Quiet Kansan, and a Mountain Man Built One of the Greatest College Basketball's Longest-Lasting Dynasty" ($26.99) by Art Chansky.
For music lovers, local guitarist Danny Infantino and his wife, flutist June Infantino, offer their new CD, "Table for Two."
For the perfect books for the special children in your life, Angie Tally, manager of the Children's Section at The Country Bookshop, offers these suggestions:
"Otis" ($17.99) by Loren Long is a beautiful picture book in the vein of "The Little Engine That Could." (Ages 4-8.)
Pop-up master Matthew Reinhart renders "The Three Little Pigs," "The Wise Old Owl," "The Cat and the Fiddle" and other classic Mother Goose nursery rhymes in cut paper in "A Pop Up Book of Nursery Rhymes" ($26.99). (Ages 4 and up.)
"Truckery Rhymes" ($17.99) by John Sceiszka is a modernized collection of nursery rhymes perfect for that "rough and tumble" boy in your life. (Ages 3-8.)
"Julie Andrews Collection of Poems, Songs and Lullabies" ($24.99 with CD) features nearly 150 selections of poetry and verse chosen by Andrews and her daughter. This collection makes the perfect gift for new babies, as well as all young poetry lovers. (Ages 4-10.)
From Berkeley Breathed, the Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of "Bloom County," comes his first novel, "Flawed Dogs: The Shocking Raid in Westminster" ($16.99), the illustrated story of a group of unwanted dogs. For readers with an unusual sense of humor. (Ages 10-13. )
In "The Georges and the Jewels" ($16.99), her first novel for young readers, Jane Smiley introduces 12-year-old Abby who finds solace working with the horses on her father's farm until a new gelding, dubbed Onery George, leads her to seek the advice of a quiet horse trainer whose ideas are very different from her father's. The numerous detailed scenes of riding, jumping, showing and grooming make this the perfect gift for horse-crazy readers. (Ages 10-14.)
The Newbery-winning author of "Long Way from Chicago," Richard Peck, delivers another hilarious tale of the beloved Grandma Dowdell in his new book, "A Season of Gifts" ($16.99). (Ages 10-12.)
Readers who loved the Twilight series will absolutely not be able to put down "Shiver" ($17.99) by Maggie Stiefvater. This clever, beautifully crafted supernatural love story will appeal to readers 14 to adult.
For information, call The Country Bookshop at (910) 692-3211.
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