This website is accessible to all versions of every browser. However, you are seeing this message because your browser does not support basic Web standards, and does not properly display the site's design details. Please consider upgrading to a more modern browser. (Learn More).

You are here: home > opinion > one on one

Searching for good books to teach us about our state

By D. G. Martin
Posted Monday, July 11, 2005

e-mail E-mail this page   print Printer-friendly page

I am always looking for books to tell me more about North Carolina. Because my friends know I am looking, they are always asking me what I have found that is good.

They know one kind of book that I like most is the “World Almanac” type, with a lot of facts crammed into a small area. We need a North Carolina Almanac, and I like to report when I find a book about North Carolina that is “close.”

A new edition “The Old North State Fact Book” published by the state government’s Office of Archives and History contains much of the information that I would like to have in my ideal North Carolina almanac. There is a good brief history of early North Carolina, a list of the governors from the time of the “Lost Colony” all the way to Michael Francis Easley, and descriptions of things that the legislature has declared to be the “official North Carolina” something.

For instance there are descriptions and illustrations of the cardinal and the dogwood, which have been the state’s official bird and official flower for many years. I bet you knew that.

But do you know the state mammal (gray squirrel), the state tree (pine), or the state insect (honeybee)? Or our state’s official shell, reptile, rock, saltwater fish, precious stone, rock beverage, historical boat, dog, tartan, vegetable, berries (yes, there are two of them, probably the result of a legislative compromise), and wildflower?

We also have an official military academy (Oak Ridge Military Academy, which was, ironically, originally founded by Quakers). We have two official aviation museums, one in Wilmington (the North Carolina Museum of Aviation) and one in Asheboro (the North Carolina Aviation Museum). Confusing? It was almost certainly the result of another legislative compromise.

The book sets out the state motto (Esse Quam Videri—To be rather than to seem), the toast (Here’s to the land of the long leaf pine…), and the state song (Carolina, Carolina, heaven’s blessings attend her. While we live we will cherish, protect, and defend her….”

There is more, but, of course, not enough more for me. I am still looking for the comprehensive almanac. Until then, “The Old North State Fact Book” will stay close to my desk.

I also search for North Carolina history books. We need short ones that creatively give us the information we need to better understand the background and history of the place we live. One book coming out this summer, “The North Carolina Quiz Book” by Alan Hodge, offers that kind of help.

Hodge delivers information about our state by asking several hundred multiple-choice questions about North Carolina topics from food, to the military, to holiday occasions.

Here is a sample question: (You can check the answer at the end of the column.)

“In what year did the North Carolina Railroad Company complete the full 223-mile route that ran between Raleigh, Goldsboro, and Charlotte?

1856; B. 1899 or C. 1870.”

After you have read and tried to answer hundreds of such questions, you will be a better-informed North Carolinian, even if you don’t know the correct answers until you look them up in the back of Hodge’s book.

This brand new “Quiz Book” is a reminder of the continued availability of “The Ultimate North Carolina Quiz Book,” by Charlotte Observer reporter and editor, Lew Powell, published in 1999. Powell asks about 500 questions on North Carolina topics, divided in to these categories: Arts and Letters; Commerce and Science; Culture; Environs; Music and Entertainment; Sports and Recreation; and Wars, Elections, and Other Differences of Opinion.

Here are a couple of the kind of questions that Powell asks. (Answers at the end of this column.)

1. In a 1948 game at N.C. State, Yale's first baseman went 3-for-4 with a triple, double, three RBIs, two runs scored, a sacrifice and a stolen base. Who was he?

2. What city's board of aldermen voted in 1889 to trim the budget by eliminating "eighth-grade education in the graded schools at public expense"?

These two quiz books will not teach you all the North Carolina history that you can learn from William Powell’s classic “North Carolina Through Four Centuries.” But they will give you the chance to learn while you are having fun. Take one of them with you the next time your family is taking a long trip to see who knows the most about North Carolina. And when the trip is over, everybody in the family will know more about the place we live.

Answers: First question: A.1856. Next questions: 1. George Bush (the senior, of course). 2. Raleigh (Just remember, it was a long time ago)

“The Old North State Fact Book” is available from the state’s historical publications section. 919-733-7442.

“The North Carolina Quiz Book” will soon be available from Our State Magazine. 800-948-1409.

“The Ultimate North Carolina Quiz Book” and “North Carolina Through Four Centuries” are available in many bookstores or directly from UNC Press. 800-848-6224.


D.G. Martin is the host of UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch, which airs on Sundays at 5:00 p.m. This week’s (July ) guest is Randall Kenan, author of “Walking On Water.”

Upcoming NC Bookwatch programs, all at 5pm, Sundays on UNC-TV:

July 17 Randall Kenan Walking On Water
July 24 Ann B. Ross Miss Julia’s School of Beauty
July 31 Lawrence Earley Looking for Longleaf
August 7 Peter Perret A Well Tempered Mind
August 14 Timothy Tyson Blood Done Sign My Name
August 21 Moreton Neal Remembering Bill Neal
August 28 Quinn Dalton Bulletproof Girl
Sept 4 Henry Petroski Pushing the Limits
Sept 11 Bill Morris Saltwater Cowboys
Sept 18 Amy Tiemann Mojo Mom
Sept 25 Robert F. Irwin Robert F. Irwin 40 Years
Oct 2 Tommy Hays The Pleasure Was Mine
Oct 9 Mary Kay Andrews Hissy Fit
Oct 16 Jerry Shinn Loonis
Oct 23 Michael Parker If You Want Me to Stay
Oct 30 Lawrence Naumoff A Southern Tragedy
Nov 6 Martha Witt Broken As Things Are
Nov 13 Gerhard Weinberg Visions of Victory

e-mail E-mail this page
print Printer-friendly page

Related info:
NC Book Watch

Our State Magazine
Latest articles in One on One
North Carolina and the U.S. – Mexico border
Four good North Carolina books for the spring
North Carolina’s last liberal
"Most moderate" and Kay
New lessons from old wars
A non-lawyer on the Supreme Court?
Is it that bad?
Music, murder and more for your summer reading
The Republicans’ best choice for 2016
The South is a dilemma for both parties
Would a Shirley Temple help?
Saying thanks is not enough
North Carolina is 'Variety Literatureland'

Got Feedback?
Send a letter to the editor.

Sign up for the Chatham Chatlist. Find out what your friends and neighbors are saying about what's going on in Chatham County.

Promote your business at

Subscribe now: RSS news feed, plus FREE headlines for your site