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Four good North Carolina books for the spring

By D. G. Martin
Posted Friday, March 20, 2015

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Chapel Hill, NC - If you are looking for an interesting book for springtime reading, I have four suggestions: A cookbook that will be fun to read. A book of stories from one of North Carolina’s rising stars. The story of a ’57 Chevy and its complicated, troubled and fascinating 13th owner who took it to Moyock in Currituck County for restoration. An award-winning story of a mother who writes letters to the son she gave up the day he was born.

Here are some details.

Even if you are a big fan of cooking and new recipes, can you imagine reading every one of the 46,000 recipes that Southern Living magazine has ever published? It is what Chapel Hill’s Sherri Castle did to select the best of those recipes for her latest book, “The Southern Living Community Cookbook: Celebrating Food & Fellowship in the American South.” The new book is modeled on the popular cookbook books published by church and community groups across the South.

According to “Southern Living’s” publishing arm, Oxmoor House, “Sheri has pulled together the best recipes from those highly prized and beloved community cookbooks and gathered them together in one book. Because Southern food and food stories are bound together, this book reflects people, regardless of where they come from, who claim Southern food as their own, whether for a lifetime or a mealtime. People feel deep affection for their local community cookbooks, especially those well-worn volumes that serve as a timestamp of a particular place and time.”

For her book, “Bobcat and Other Stories,” UNC Wilmington writing professor Rebecca Lee captured glowing reviews and recognition across the country, like that from a New York Times reviewer who wrote that her stories “demonstrate Lee’s prodigious talent for creating not just great lines but intricately structured, impressively plotted worlds.”

Her richly defined characters are high-achieving, complicated college students, professors, young professionals and other very smart people who wrestle with the consequences of disloyalty and selfishness. They remind us of people we know who have carelessly and tragically traded in good lives for something less.

“Auto Biography: A Classic Car, an Outlaw Motorhead, and 57 Years of the American Dream,” by former Virginian-Pilot writer Earl Swift follows a ’57 Chevy station wagon through 13 different owners.

This car’s 13th owner. North Carolina native Tommy Arney, has become famous, or infamous, in Norfolk, Va., as the confrontational owner of strip clubs and promoter of edgy real estate deals.

Swift’s account of Arney’s struggles and those of the 12 previous owners of the station wagon, come together to give us a ground-level history of our region during the car’s lifetime.

A single pregnant woman lives in North Carolina. Her boyfriend lives across the country and thinks she had an abortion. After she has had the child and put him up for adoption, does she tell her now former boyfriend, and, if so, how and when? These questions underpin Raleigh attorney Kim Church’s debut novel “Byrd.” In January, Church won the second annual Crook's Corner Book Prize for best debut novel set in the American South.

Randall Kenan, judge for this year’s prize, said, “At its root, ‘Byrd’ is about heartbreak, loss, and being lonely. The triumph here is that Kim Church's remarkable skill turns these dark human realities into the stuff of praise song, and plain song, and blues song. It made me shout and holler. What a truly lyrical achievement in prose.”


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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Four good North Carolina books for the spring

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