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Spooks Branch, a human history story

Spooks Branch was a singular place in settlers’ loreby Rob NeufeldImportant editorial note:This is a significant historical story that is also, in parts, personal and controversial.  It is about a few families who settled a particular cove and played out their heroic and complex legacies in ways that interacted with place and time.  You don't read this kind of story much because people don't like to expose themselves or stir up trouble, even a little.  This caution makes history classes boring…See More
Dawn Trowell Jones updated their profile
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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Rise of Asheville by Marilyn Ball

History of the "Asheville 1000" and the 1970s renaissance                       Let’s not miss the history of Asheville’s renaissance, Marilyn Ball’s new book, “The Rise of Asheville,” advocates.            She’d come here in 1977, making her one of the advance guard of “artists, entrepreneurs, and off-the-grid…See More
Nov 20
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Century-ago woman's apple cake recipe

Mmm, them apples in Beaverdam coveIn 1972, Helen Nelon wrote about the traditions of old-time Spooks Branch, off Beaverdam Road.  Here's what she said about her use of apples in a cake.(The full story of Spooks Branch will appear soon.)There were apples for delicious cider cooled in the spring "dreem" (drain), apples for frying for cold winter days, and for special days there were dried apple sauce fruit cakes.These cakes were made of very thin, sweet dough with dried apple sauce spread between…See More
Nov 18
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Nov 16
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Dignity is the key to Richard Russo's inspiration

So funny, and yet so exposing--Richard Russo's geniusSnakes on the lane            In Richard Russo's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Empire Falls, the protagonist, Miles recalls the time his father, driving, had accelerated into a box on a highway.  “What if that box had been full of rocks?” Miles asks.  Unfazed, Max quizzes his son about what he would do about the box.  Max says he'd stop and look in it,  “What if it was full of rattlesnakes? “ his father asks.            The verbal match…See More
Nov 14
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Nov 13
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Nov 12
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Humanize the history--especially with Civil War--writes acclaimed author

Writer illuminates tangled web of Civil Warby Rob Neufeld             David Madden has written a book, “The Tangled Web of the Civil War and Reconstruction,” that deserves special attention.            First, there’s Madden’s background.  In 1992, he founded the U.S. Civil War Center in New…See More
Nov 12
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Nov 11
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Nov 10
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Coming attraction--Singleton at Malaprop's & City Lights for Calloustown

George Singleton's latest collection of stories, Calloustown...features the folk who try to survive in a place that has little to offer besides a Finger Museum and a taxidermy petting zoo,It's funny, but also tragic and angry.  The review, "Love-hate humor cries in Calloustown," appears in the Asheville Citizen-Times, Sunday, 11/15/2015.  Singleton's at Malaprop’s Bookstore, 7 p.m., Wed., Nov. 18; and at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, 3 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 21.Here's an excerpt from the…See More
Nov 10
Lockie Hunter posted an event

Juniper Bends Quarterly Reading at DownTown Books & News

November 13, 2015 from 7pm to 8pm
Our very special Autumnal edition starts at 7PM and is sure to be a lively and vibrant set, with featured writers Randi Janelle, Tina FireWolf, Logan Parker, and Annabelle Crowe. Two of our readers have new books out, and as always there is wine flowing by donation. Hosts Lockie Hunter and Caroline Wilson look forward to seeing you there----remember, your wellbeing depends upon it.See More
Nov 9
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Love and Mercy ~ Up On Roan Mountain

My family lived and loved up on Roan Mountain and in the surrounding mountain areas, and this is their story. It's woven into a tapestry that weaves down through the years, before the days of the Civil War and up to present day. They were…
Nov 9
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

It's All Relative--50 WNC women write about family

Family life as perceived by 50 WNC authorsby Rob Neufeld             If you have biases against small press books or anthologies of local writers’ work, I recommend you lay them aside and take a look at “It’s All Relative” (Stone Ivy Press), 52 stories and poems by 50 WNC women authors writing about family.           …See More
Nov 6

The pointers suggest many good reads:

Holiday book buying list, The Read on WNC

New WNC Books

Also see Best Books 2012, of Part 2

Daily Beast Top 10 (Lucas Wittmann)

The Yellow Birds By Kevin Powers

From the breathtaking opening paragraphs, you know you are in for a novel of exquisite and careful writing about the most horrible things. After 11 years of war, we finally have a fiction that dodges Heller’s shadow and goes right to the heart, our hearts.

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

I like books that take risks on being topical (see above), and I was in awe of what Stanford English professor Adam Johnson is able to do in his funny, terrifying novel about an orphan’s picaresque life in North Korea (from fighting in tunnels to listening to Japanese broadcasts on a fishing boat to being remade as a heroic general). From one short visit Johnson creates a world where only fiction is true.

Dear Life By Alice Munro

She just gets better and better. Her leanest writing yet, so quiet and subtle you’ll miss lines that devastate her characters and then you. Her most autobiographical collection too, with a series of linked stories around a young girl finding her way in a rural, complicated world.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

As I said, I like topical. If Powers dodged Heller’s shadow, then Ben Fountain has taken it on his shoulders and can justifiably claim the mantle of the great satirist of the Iraq War. But he keeps his eyes firmly on the home front as the boys of Bravo Company, minted war heroes by YouTube, return to ogle cheerleaders, get patted on the back by millionaires, and entertain the crowd at a Dallas Cowboys halftime show.

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Should really be called “Power and How to Use It.” The most compelling study of political power since The Prince. OK, that’s hyperbole, but Mantel’s brilliant portrayal of the dark master of Henry VIII’s as he moves inexorably toward Anne Boleyn’s execution is profound. Pair this with Caro’s latest LBJ volume, and you’re on your way to world domination.

Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie

So Rushdie’s memoir has gotten a bit (a lot) of flak this year, like most years for the author, and some of it was deserved. To start, it’s too long by half, but that first half, say those initial 270 pages, give one of the most compelling accounts of a life on the run I’ve read, and a deeply important testament to one of the great political and moral questions of our time: Can a man or woman speak without facing death?

The Barbarous Years by Bernard Bailyn

I didn’t think they wrote history like this anymore, but here comes Bernard Bailyn, at the age of 90, to wow us with a work so elegant, assured, and masterful that you need to read no other book to understand America between 1600 and 1675. To put it simply, life was nasty, brutish, and short, as great civilizations (the Dutch, the Powhatens, the Iroquis, the Swedes) crashed and burned, and what was left was what became this country.

Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story by D.T. Max

I’m a little biased here, because I edited an excerpt from this book (and the author’s wife is a colleague), but the imposing writer of this generation, David Foster Wallace, was all legend until Max started peeling. What he reveals, at times devastating and wrenching, but always fascinating and judicious, is that heroic figures come from somewhere, and it doesn’t make them any less monumental to know where that is.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

So much has been written about this wondrous book that I have little to add, except that 10 months after reading it I still have no idea how she did it.

Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon

The biggest-hearted book of the year, and the book that every parent, wannabe parent, used-to-be parent should read. Solomon sets out to find out the love and tears and joy of what happens when your kids are deaf, autistic, prodigies, dwarves, and so on.


Slate Top Ten of 2012

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo.  New Yorker staff writer Boo “has many ways of illuminating the people she writes about,” Elaine Blair wrote in February. “The most important and obvious is that she listens closely and intelligently.” For this, her first book, which recently won the National Book Award, Boo spent over three years listening to the residents of a Mumbai slum.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain.  The young men of Bravo company visit Cowboys Stadium in this funny and wrenching novel, which is seeded “with finely honed insights that reflect the hypocrisy and jingoistic thinking that dominate discussions about the country's wars,” wrote Jacob Silverman in September. And Fountain’s writing is “head-shakingly good.”

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. The sequel to Wolf Hall (both books won the Booker Prize), this story of Thomas Cromwell, according to William Georgiades’ May review, chronicles “the careful, patient rage of the consummate professional in a world of highborn twits who never see him coming.” The worst you can say about Mantel, he adds, is that the book “makes you angry, because you want more.”

Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story by D.T. Max. New Yorker writer Max’s sympathetic biography of David Foster Wallace is “one of the saddest books I’ve ever read,” wrote Mark O’Connell in September. The book offers both illuminating discussions of Wallace’s editorial life and harrowing depictions of his depressive end. “I’m having trouble remembering when I was last so consumed by any piece of writing, fiction or non.”

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. This thriller about a marriage gone toxic was the book that everyone you know took to the beach this summer—and this best-seller lives up to the hype. “This is not the kind of book that sits on your bedside table unread,”said Emily Bazelon in the September Audio Book Club. Instead, it’s a book that readers refuse to put down—and that wraps them up in its seductively corrupt worldview.

Journalism by Joe Sacco. This collection of comics journalism, which tells stories reported in Iraq, Chechnya, and other nasty places, makes a case that our best war correspondent might just be a cartoonist. “Sacco grants dignity to his subjects—the petty tyrant and the suffering victim alike—simply through the meticulousness with which he renders them,” Campbell Robertson wrote in July.

The Lifespan of a Fact by John D’Agata and Jim Fingal. In this “enraging, fascinating, singular book,” according to Dan Kois’ February review, a journalist and a fact-checker go to war about whether the falsehoods incorporated in a magazine story matter. The result is a Talmudic debate about storytelling, truth, and lies that spills off the page.

NW by Zadie Smith. This novel, set in and around a council estate in northwest London, is remarkably perceptive about female friendship, race, and class. But it’s also “an argument,” Hanna Rosin noted in the December Audio Book Club, “between two different ideas of what a novel should be”—part lyrical-realistic storytelling, part modernist deconstruction of the very idea of story. As a whole, it’s a masterful, emotional portrait of a city as seen through four of its residents, striving and failing to move beyond the neighborhood where they were born.

The Unreal and the Real by Ursula K. Le Guin. “There is no better spirit in all of American letters than that of Ursula Le Guin,” wrote Choire Sicha in November. This two-volume collection of her masterful short stories – one book of science fiction, the other of the mundane – “guns from the grim to the ecstatic, from the State to the Garden of Eden, with just one dragon between.”

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Strayed’s chronicle of her 1,100-mile trek along the Pacific Crest Trail is “by turns both devastating and glorious,” wrote Melanie Rehak in March. The memoir’s value isn’t in oh-so-wisely answering questions – it’s in asking “many, many new questions far more valuable than any platitudes about self-discovery.”

New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2012


National Book Awards



Louise Erdrich, The Round House (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers) - Interview >


Junot Díaz, This Is How You Lose Her (Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group USA, Inc.)
- Interview >

Dave Eggers, A Hologram for the King (McSweeney's Books) - Interview >

Ben Fountain, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers) 
- Interview >

Kevin Powers, The Yellow Birds (Little, Brown and Company) - Interview >


Stacey D’Erasmo, Dinaw Mengestu, Lorrie Moore, Janet Peery



Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (Random House)
- Interview >


Anne Applebaum, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945-1956 (Doubleday) 
- Interview >

Robert A. Caro, The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 4 (Knopf)

Domingo Martinez, The Boy Kings of Texas (Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press)
- Interview >

Anthony Shadid, House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)


Brad Gooch, Linda Gordon, Woody Holton, Susan Orlean, Judith Shulevitz



David Ferry, Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations (University of Chicago Press) - Interview >


Cynthia Huntington, Heavenly Bodies (Southern Illinois University Press) - Interview >

Tim Seibles, Fast Animal (Etruscan Press) - Interview >

Alan Shapiro, Night of the Republic (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Susan Wheeler, Meme (University of Iowa Press)


Laura Kasischke, Dana Levin, Maurice Manning, Patrick Rosal, Tracy K. Smith

Young People's lLiterature


William Alexander, Goblin Secrets 
(Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing)


Carrie Arcos, Out of Reach (Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing)

Patricia McCormick, Never Fall Down (Balzer+Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)

Eliot Schrefer, Endangered (Scholastic)

Steve Sheinkin, Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon
(Flash Point, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press)


Susan Cooper, Daniel Ehrenhaft, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Gary D. Schmidt, Marly Youmans

Washington Post

Behind The Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo
House of Stone, Anthony Shadid
Iron Curtain, Anne Applebaum
Marigold: The Lost Chance for Peace in Vietnam, James G. Hershberg
Why Nations Fail, Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson

Arcadia, Lauren Groff
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, Ben Fountain
Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel
Broken Harbor, Tana French
Canada, Richard Ford

(See more.)

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