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Books: Showing us as it once was, is, or could be

By D. G. Martin
Posted Sunday, July 20, 2014

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Chapel Hill, NC - Why do we read books?

For entertainment, of course, first and foremost. But the best books also challenge us emotionally and intellectually to see the world in a different way, as it really is, or as it once was, as it could be, or, perhaps, as it will become.

Here are some summer reading ideas of North Carolina books that could open your eyes to seeing our world differently and entertaining you at the same time.

First of all, “Crossroads of the Natural World: Exploring North Carolina with Tom Earnhardt” shows our state’s plant and animal life as it exists in a rich and diverse environment as it was, is, and will be.

Tom Earnhardt is a cheerleader for natural biodiversity in North Carolina's environment from the subtropical at Bald Head Island south of Wilmington to the sub-arctic conditions at Mount Mitchell and the other 6,000 feet-plus peaks in our state.

He emphasizes the interdependency of various plants and animals upon each other. “Diverse, abundant flora,” he says, “supports diverse, abundant fauna. Each plant and animal in the forest is part of a food web, with the success or failure of each species tied to one another.”

He will be the guest on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch at noon on Sunday, July 20 and Thursday, July 24, at 5 p.m. (with a preview on the UNC-MX cable channel on July 18 at 9 p.m.)

For a look at what might be, consider Alena Graedon’s first novel, “The Word Exchange,” which The New York Times’ reviewer, Liesl Schillinger, called “a nervy, nerdy dystopic thriller set in New York City in the very near future, the risk of ‘suddenly becoming stupid’ is not notional, it’s actual.”

Powerful iPhone-like devices are connected to their owners’ bodies and brains and are taking charge. A highly contagious, sometimes fatal virus called “word flu” has leapt from these devices to their users and affected their ability to speak, write and think.

Writing in the New Yorker, Peter Barker says that he “raced greedily to the last page, enjoying Graedon’s plot-weaving every step of the way.” (July 25, 27, 31)

Larry Earley, former editor of “Wildlife in North Carolina” magazine, gives us perhaps a last chance to see a part of North Carolina as it once was in “The Workboats of Core Sound: Stories and Photographs of a Changing World.” In this extraordinary collection of writing and photographs, Earley describes and shows us the working boats that watermen, mainly fishermen and shrimpers, have used for the past century in Core Sound. (Aug. 1, 3, 7)

Earlier this month SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) gave its 2014 award for the best book in the Young Adult category to “The Moon and More” by Sarah Dessen. Although aimed at teenagers, it is perfect reading for anyone vacationing on the coast. Set in a North Carolina resort town, it describes summer lives for today’s young people who live, work and play at the beach, and it reminded this older reader of summers as they once were.

Dessen’s lead character, Emaline, works for her family’s house rental business. During the season she loses both her long-time local boyfriend and her newfound summer love. There is heartbreak involved, but the reader and Emaline come to believe that it is all for the good. (Aug. 22, 24, 28)


D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. For more information or to view prior programs visit the webpage at

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Books: Showing us as it once was, is, or could be

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