Good books for the folks you forgot

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You forgot somebody, didn’t you?

Somebody who is expecting a present from you? And now, remembering, you have no idea what to give, do you?

Here are some thoughts from my recent reading.

At the top of your list of books for your friends who are public policy or history nerds should be two North Carolina authors whose books recently made the list of The New York Times’s 100 Notable Books of 2017.

Charlotte native Graham Allison’s “Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?” puts the dangers in the U.S.-China dynamic relationship in understandable language. Duke Professor Timothy Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till” revisits the 1955 kidnapping and brutal killing of Till, a 14-year-old black youth from Chicago visiting relatives in Mississippi.

Other books for such serious readers include “Julius Chambers: A Life in the Legal Struggle for Civil Rights” by Richard A. Rosen and Joseph Mosnier. Their account of North Carolina’s leading civil rights attorney and hero persuaded me that a statue of Chambers belongs on the courthouse lawn of every North Carolina county.

Similarly, Kenneth Janken’s “The Wilmington Ten: Violence, Injustice, and the Rise of Black Politics in the 1970s” deals with unhealed wounds of racial turmoil.

If you think these books are too serious for holiday gifts, how about ones that deal with food?

For example, “Deep Run Roots” by TV star and Kinston chef, Vivian Howard, is a story-filled book of recipes and descriptions of great North Carolina foods. It is destined to be a classic.

In “Foster’s Market Favorites: 25th Anniversary,” another North Carolina food hero, Sarah Foster, shares recipes and tells how her Durham market came to be and came to thrive.

New Bookwatch guest host Randall Kenan’s “The Carolina Table: North Carolina Writers on Food” includes his and other North Carolina writers’ food memories and images.

“Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue” by John Shelton Reed, Dale Volberg Reed, and William McKinney, was recently re-issued in paperback and is a surefire successful present for anyone who loves North Carolina barbecue.

If there is anything more important to North Carolinians than food, it is basketball. Some recent books could be answers to your gift-giving needs.

Veteran sports journalist Art Chansky’s “Game Changers: Dean Smith, Charlie Scott, and the Era That Transformed a Southern College Town,” tells how a junior high school kid in Harlem became a North Carolina legend.

John Feinstein’s “The Legends Club: Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano, and an Epic College Basketball Rivalry” shows how college basketball became a part of our culture.

Scott Ellsworth’s “The Secret Game: A Wartime Story of Courage, Change, and Basketball’s Lost Triumph” uses a forbidden game between a team from North Carolina College for Negroes and an all-white team from Duke in 1944 to help us understand radical transformations of the sport and our culture.

If you think a book of fiction is the type of present you need, here are some recent favorites:

Wiley Cash’s “The Last Ballad,” based on the real story of Ella May Wiggins, who was killed while participating in a major strike at Loray Mills in Gastonia in 1929.

“Hide” by North Carolina native Matthew Griffin. It tells a moving story that pushes our understanding of gay lives and the challenges of aging.

“The Shadow Land,” by New York Times No.1 bestselling author Elizabeth Kostova, who sets her action-packed novel in Bulgaria and North Carolina.

Beloved writer Margaret Maron’s last, she says, novel, “Take Out,” a murder mystery in her Sigrid Harald series.

If you need even more ideas, visit your local bookseller or take a look at the books listed on the Bookwatch web page at

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