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Sally Johnson posted an event

Book Launch: John E. Batchelor to Sign and Celebrate Newest Cookbook CHEFS OF THE COAST at Scuppernong Books

June 2, 2015 from 7pm to 9pm
Help John F. Blair, Publisher, and food critic/restaurant reviewer John E. Batchelor celebrate the launch of his newest book, CHEFS OF THE COAST. There will be light refreshments and an opportunity to have your book signed by the author. The event, which starts at 7:00 PM, will be at Scuppernong Books.  For more information about CHEFS OF THE COAST please visit…See More
16 hours ago
eston e. roberts posted a blog post

Metamorphosos: A Proposed Path to Independent Living

Eston Roberts announces publication of Metamorphosos: A Proposed Path to Independent Living--a re-definition and application of metaphor.See More
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Rob Neufeld posted discussions
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Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Steve Inskeep on Andrew Jackson and Cherokees--May 31 and June 1, 2015

Steve Inskeep, NPR Journalist, To Talk about Jacksonland at Cherokee Museumfrom press releaseSteve Inskeep will be speaking at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian about his new book, JACKSONLAND: President Andrew Jackson, Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab.  The event begins at 2 pm Sunday May 31 at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian at 589 Tsali Boulevard in Cherokee, North Carolina. The event is open to the public free of charge.   The author will talk, discuss, and sign books,…See More
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City Lights Bookstore updated an event
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Contemplative Photography Companion for the Journey Home at City Lights Bookstore

June 6, 2015 from 3pm to 4:30pm
Asheville author Tina FireWolf will visit City Lights Bookstore on Saturday, June 6th at 3 p.m. to present her book, Beneath the Chatter.  Tina FireWolf will ignite your fire! Join her to hear how a 3 ft. tall corn plant was the sign to go on an adventure to write her book! She will share her personal story and tales from her book that illuminate  life lessons and help ignite us into Everyday Enlightenment. You will leave with a light heart and wider eyes to the world around you. Beneath the…See More
Saturday
Jenny Bowen replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Battle of Asheville, Apr. 6, 1865
"The 4-5 prisoners taken at the tanyard were colored union soldiers under Gen. Davis Tillson.  They were drum-court-martialed for assaulting an old man and woman and raping a young white woman who was the niece of the couple down near Flat…"
May 21
City Lights Bookstore posted events
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Sue Diehl updated an event
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Montreat College Friends of the Library Annual Luncheon at Montreat College Gaither Fellowship Hall

June 13, 2015 from 12pm to 2pm
"When Real People Become Real Characters" presented by Novelist Mark de Castrique at the Montreat College Friends of the Library Annual Luncheon on June 13, 2015.Book signing follows the presentation.  Public is invited.  Reservations are required.See More
May 19
Megan C. Adams posted an event
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2015 Author Luncheon at Mars Hill University

May 28, 2015 from 11am to 2pm
Mary Alice Monroe, New York Times best-selling author, will be the keynote speaker at the Friends of Madison County Library’s 10th Annual Author Luncheon where she will share her newest release, The Summer’s End. The luncheon will be held at Pittman Dining Hall on the campus of Mars Hill University on Thursday, May 28 beginning at 11 am. Tickets are $35 each, and proceeds will benefit programs and services for both children and adults at Madison County Public libraries. The cost of a ticket…See More
May 19
Julia Nunnally Duncan posted an event

Julia Nunnally Duncan Book Signing at The Orchard at Altapass

May 23, 2015 from 12pm to 3pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will sign her books at The Orchard at Altapass Bookstore on Saturday, May 23 from noon until 3 p.m.See More
May 19
Sue Diehl posted an event
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Montreat College Friends of the Library Annual Luncheon at Montreat College Gaither Fellowship hall

June 20, 2015 from 12pm to 2pm
"When Real People Become Real Characters" presented by Novelist Mark de Castrique at the Montreat College Friends of the Library Annual Luncheon on June 13, 2015.Book signing follows the presentation.  Public is invited.  Reservations are required.See More
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Few things please as much as the right book

by Rob Neufeld

 

            For a sawbuck or two, you can get something priceless to put in a chum’s gift bag.

            Most likely, unless a bespectacled bird has whispered in your ear, you’ll have to invest a good deal of thought into your choosing, and then sample an array of intriguing titles in a Bombay of book shelves and e-lists.

            I present the following front table of recommendations on the chance that a few may click for you.  Did I read them all?  No.  I did some; and the others I vetted by consulting other reviewers and examining the books in hand.

            My main bias is style.  I reject the tendentious and glib, and favor simplicity backed by authority, feeling, and narrative strength—whether the book is a romance or a study.  My longer list can be viewed on the website, “The Read on WNC.”

 

Nemesis by Philip Roth (Houghton Mifflin hardcover, Oct. 2010; Vintage paperback, Oct. 2011, 304 pages, $15)

Roth has just announced that this book, his 31st, is his last.  It is a straightforward character story—involving a camp counselor, his fiancée, and a close-knit community.  And it’s also an expert evocation of a time with which people in this region are familiar: 1944, the polio epidemic.

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (Little, Brown hardcover, Sept. 2012, 240 pages, $24.99)

The Richmond, Virginia-raised author, who served as an Army machine-gunner in Iraq, provides an unsparing look at battle and home, including the protagonist’s inability to save a friend and his troubled attempts to piece vivid memories into a completed puzzle.  Having gotten an MFA in poetry after the war, Powers crafts descriptive sentences that are resonant but not overheavy.  “As I reflect on how I felt and behaved as a boy of twenty-one from my position of safety in a warm cabin above a clear stream in the Blue Ridge,” the returned-home narrator says, “I can only tell myself…We only pay attention to rare things, and death was not rare.”

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (Random House hardcover, Nov. 2010, 496 pages, $27)

The story of Lt. Louis Zamperini, child delinquent; redeemed Olympic runner; airplane crash survivor; and P.O.W.—as told by author of “Seabiscuit.”

 

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable (Viking hardcover, Apr. 2011; Penguin trade paper, Dec. 2011, 608 pages, $18).  Alex Haley’s standard, co-authored autobiography intrudes Haley’s conclusion and short-changes politics and Malcolm X’s many masks, Marable says.

 

Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories by Sherman Alexie (Grove Press hardcover, Oct. 2012, 480 pages, $27).

Alexie, author of “Reservation Blues,” makes “This American Life” sound like American blithe.

 

Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub (Riverhead hardcover, Sept. 2012, 320 pages, $26.95)

You want pop?  Straub, Peter’s daughter, pens an inside-the-industry novel about a girl who becomes a movie starlet and loses her identity.  Laura’s not deep—as her life dictates—but she is pure in a way, and the smooth prose reflects that.

 

Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet by Jennifer Homans (Random House hardcover, Nov. 2010; trade paper, Nov. 2011, 672 pages, $20)

Commercial tie-ins, which dominate the market, are not my thing; but enhancing popular experiences is, and that goes for going beyond the best reality shows, such as “So You Think You Can Dance.”  Homan’s history of ballet gets inside the mind and body of a dancer, seeking forms that transport character; and within a storytelling tradition.  She presents the “art of memory,” not just memorized but physically ingested.  The story begins in Renaissance France, with a wedding performance that accompanied “tournaments, a horse ballet, and fireworks.”

 

Smithsonian Fashion by Dorling Kindersley staff (DK large format hardcover, Oct. 2012, 480 pages, $50).

From ancient Egypt and Greece to Heidi Klum, the book boasts remarkable scope, detail, and illustration.

 

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman (Knopf hardcover, Oct. 2012, 336 pages, $35).  Perelman at first seems too cute and glib, but she delivers with prose and with recipes that make you want to rush to the skillet.  She tells stories, such as the time her mother beamed when Deb’s friend called Deb a pancake snob.  Her 10-ingredient pancakes from scratch involves covering the pools of batter with peach slices. “I hadn’t anticipated the marriage of peaches and sour cream to be so weepingly delicious,” she writes.  “The sugar in the peaches, it caramelizes in the butter and then melts into the pancake.”

 

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt (Norton hardcover, Sept. 2011; trade paper, Sept. 2012, 368 pages, $16.95)

A long-lost book changed the world, Greenblatt relates in a dramatic story, and ushered in the Renaissance.

 

Descent by Kathryn Stripling Byer (LSU Press, Nov. 2012, 68 pages, $17.95)

Cullowhee poet Byer’s newest is a landmark, as always.  This title appeared on my recent “New Books of the Region” list.  See more new WNC Books.

 

The Best American Science Writing 2012 edited by Michio Kaku (HarperCollins: Ecco trade paper, Sept. 2012, $14.99)

I’m a big fan of the HarperCollins and Houghton Mifflin series of best journalistic writing along several themes.

 

This Is What It Smells Like by Cathy Adams (New Libri Press e-book)

Former Montreat College teacher now living in China has published, for Kindle and Nook book readers, a story set in a fictional college town near Asheville.  The contemporary, irreverent drama involves a returning father, dysfunctional mother, family secret, and a narrator who has an exceptional sense of smell.  More and more local writers—including acclaimed author Charles Price with his new novel, “Sweetgrass: A Literary Western,” are turning to e-publishing in the wake of commercial publishing’s neglect of unpromoted quality.

 

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer (Tor Books hardcover, May 2012; trade paper, May 2012, 1,152 pages, $29.99)

112 stories, written 1908-2010—not vampires and werewolves—plus a “Foreweird” and “Afterweird” that give a thorough history of the anti-genre.

 

The Expats by Chris Pavone (Crown hardcover, March 2012, 336 pages, $26)

I keep searching for genre fiction with natural style.  Here’s one—a spy thriller, the heroine of which has a double-life as a mom.

 

The News from Spain: 7 Variations on a Love Story by Joan Wickersham (Knopf hardcover, Oct. 2012, 224 pages, $24.95)

This one’s not on anyone’s best of 2012 lists yet, as far as I can tell.  The stories—some fiction, some historical—examine relationships with close scrutiny and subtly.

Gold by Chris Cleave (Simon & Schuster hardcover, July 3, 2012, $27)

Little Bee author writes about ethical dilemmas of athletes Zoe and Kate going to compete in Olympics in London.

Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel (Doubleday hardcover, Aug. 7, 2012, $ 26)

Contemporary love story about an internet dating company worker who can't get a date.

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