Gift ideas for bookworms and music lovers

November 24, 2012 

  • More information DVDs/Blu-raySunset Boulevard (Blu-ray, $20, 1 disc) Director Billy Wilder’s 1950 film noir classic is a haunting parable on the dark side of Hollywood. Image and sound have been painstakingly restored, and there are generous extras. Looney Tunes Platinum Collection Volume 2 (Blu-ray/DVD, $30/$20, 3 discs) Few artifacts of pop culture entertainment stand the test of time like Looney Tunes. “Volume 2” digs deep into the vaults for 50 more animated shorts from resident geniuses Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng and Mel Blanc, the man of 1,000 voices. Extras are mad fun for the obsessive animation fan. The World Series: History of the Fall Classic (DVD, $30, 4 discs) Narrated by Bob Costas, it chronicles highlights from baseball’s World Series, all the way back to its inception in 1903. You literally can’t get this stuff anywhere else. This collection adds sports geek goodies like historic game programs and scorecards, plus extended interviews with familiar old-timers and unsung heroes. Tarantino XX: 8-Film Collection (Blu-ray, $70, 10 discs) Writer-director Quentin Tarantino sparked an indie film renaissance in the 1990s with his one-two punch of “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction.” This beautifully packaged eight-film collection adds six more films either directed or written by Tarantino, along with five hours of new bonus material, including deleted scenes. The Carol Burnett Show: The Ultimate Collection (DVD, $200, 22 discs)
  • More information Correspondent Glenn McDonald
  • More information E-stuff The ZAGG InvisibleSHEILD $ Wipe away your worries of scratching or smudging your Kindle Fire and many tablets. It defends your device’s display against scratches and improves your grip without bulking it up. Vera Bradley E-Reader Sleeve $34; Vera Bradley; Who better to pump up the prints than Vera Bradley? With more than 20 colors and prints to choose from, the E-Reader Sleeve offers a convenient, L-shaped opening and a lightweight protective foam to keep your stories safe. Inside is a handy pocket. LAP PRO universal lap stand for e-readers and tablets. $25. The beanbag-ish build begs to be snuggled with; the contouring capabilities of the Lap Pro allow you to prop it in that perfect position, whether lying down or legs crossed. Doubles as a tote. FitFolio for e-readers $20 and up;
  • More information Correspondent Kiran Dodeja Smith
  • More information They really and truly don’t make ’em like this anymore: Carol Burnett’s groundbreaking comedy-variety show ran 1967-1978. This mammoth box set collects 50 full episodes plus 20 hours of bonus material. (Abridged 6-DVD and 2-DVD sets are also available.)
  • More information Made by the gadget gurus at Speck, FitFolio offers a variety of cases for readers. One of our favorites is for Kindle Keyboard, offering protection in a book-style folio. Cover is made of “vegan” leather and is lined with padded microsuede. Select from four colors. That model runs $29.95.


To Free a Family: The Journey of Mary Walker

By Sydney Nathans (Harvard University Press, 330 pages, $29.95)

In this page-turning history, retired Duke University historian Sydney Nathans tells the story of Mary Walker, a slave who escaped in 1848 from North Carolina’s wealthiest slaveholding family, the Camerons of Raleigh.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

By Katherine Boo (Random House, 288 pages, $27)

Katherine Boo spent years observing and interviewing residents of a slum built in the shadows of Mumbai’s modern airport and hotels. Boo’s brilliant account, which just won the National Book Award for nonfiction, provides a sobering look at life spent as few Americans can imagine.

American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White, and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama

By Rachel L. Starns (Amistad, 400 pages, $27.99)

New York Times reporter Rachel Starns traces the saga of five generations of the first lady’s family from slavery to the White House. USA Today calls the book “a microcosm of this country’s story.”


The Cove

By Ron Rash (Ecco, 272 pages, $26.99)

Set in and around Mars Hill, the latest novel from Western Carolina University’s Ron Rash explores a community’s prejudices through the story of a young woman who is ostracized and lonely until she hears the music of a flute-playing stranger near her farm.

Gone Girl

By Gillian Flynn (Crown, 432 pages, $25)

On their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick’s wife, Amy, disappears. Told from alternating points of view – Nick’s view, then Amy’s – this bestseller offers “a twisting plot worthy of Alfred Hitchcock,” says People magazine.

A Land More Kind Than Home

By Wiley Cash (William Morrow, 320 pages, $24.99)

Wiley Cash, who grew up in Gastonia and graduated from UNC Asheville, tells a Southern gothic tale in this debut novel, complete with a black-hearted minister and snake-handling parishioners. The New York Times called it “mesmerizing.”

Carolinas Interest

Ryan Adams: Losering: A Story of Whiskeytown

By David Menconi (University of Texas Press, 222 pages, $19.95)

Before he was an alternative-country/rock star, Ryan Adams, born in Jacksonville, N.C., played with the Raleigh-based Whiskeytown. David Menconi, music writer for the (Raleigh) News & Observer, spills the inside story of the singer’s rise.

The True Image: Gravestone Art and the Culture of Scotch Irish Settlers in the Pennsylvania and Carolina Backcountry

By Daniel Patterson (UNC Press, 496 pages, $49.95)

For years, Daniel Patterson, a retired UNC Chapel Hill English professor, searched cemeteries in Mecklenburg and neighboring counties, looking for gravestones cut by Scotch Irish stonecutters before and after the Revolution. With text and 200 photographs, he documents their work, especially that of Charlotte’s Bingham family of stonecutters.

Literary Dogs & Their South Carolina Writers

Edited by John Lane and Betsy Wakefield Teter (Hub City Press, 140 pages, $19.95)

Twenty-five authors with S.C. ties introduce you to their most memorable dogs in this collection, a smart gift for lovers of books and pups. You’ll meet Josephine Humphrey’s poodle, Ron Rash’s mutt and Mary Alice Monroe’s Bernese mountain dog.

Strom Thurmond’s America

By Joseph Crespino (Hill and Wang, 416 pages, $30)

Emory University historian Joseph Crespino’s new biography of South Carolina’s best-known segregationist argues that the late senator played a key role in the ascent of modern conservatism. Crespino “reveals a flawed, egotistical, unapologetic, headstrong man whose views helped give birth to the contemporary Right,” Publishers Weekly says.

Coffee Table/Photo Books

Vogue: The Editor’s Eye

Edited by Eve MacSweeney (Abrams, 416 pages, $75)

This collection includes chapters on eight Vogue fashion editors, with gorgeous photos and in-depth interviews about their collaborations with photographers and models.

Eyewitness to World War II: Unforgettable Stories and Photographs from History’s Greatest Conflict

By Neil Kagan and Stephen G. Hyslop (National Geographic, 352 pages, $40)

Hundreds of photos and images combine with soldiers’ letters, diary excerpts and world leaders’ writings to weave a history of the war from multiple perspectives.

The Life & Love of Cats

By Lewis Blackwell (Abrams, 216 pages, $50)

More than 100 memorable photographs accompany a global tour of one the world’s most popular animals. You’ll find wild cats in Africa, show cats, rare breeds and lovable kittens.


Woody Durham: A Tar Heel Voice

By Woody Durham with Adam Lucas (John F. Blair, 272 pages, $26.95)

Durham recounts his 40-year-career as the play-by-play radio voice for UNC Chapel Hill basketball and football games in this autobiography. Durham retired in 2011.


By Joe Posnanski (Simon & Schuster, 416 pages, $28)

In his biography of the late Penn State football coach, Charlotte’s own Joe Posnanski used his unprecedented access to the man to explain how he went from one of America’s most beloved sports icons to one of its most controversial.

Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever

By Jack McCallum (Ballantine, 384 pages, $28)

Sports Illustrated writer Jack McCallum tells the story of the 1992 U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team.

Biographies, memoirs

Losing My Sister

By Judy Goldman (John F. Blair, 270 pages, $21.95)

In her first memoir, Charlotte poet and novelist Judy Goldman excavates her family’s hidden dynamics as she explores her intense, loving and sometimes difficult relationship with her late sister.

Midstream: An Unfinished Memoir

By Reynolds Price (Scribner, 192 pages, $25)

Reynolds Price, a Duke University professor who became one of the South’s great authors, contemplates a short period of his life, from his late 20s to early 30s, in this final memoir. Price died in 2011.

The Grand Tour: Around the World With the Queen of Mystery

Edited by Mathew Prichard (Harper, 384 pages, $29.99)

In this treat for mystery lovers: Agatha Christie’s grandson, Mathew Prichard, has collected and edited her letters home from a trip around the British Empire with her husband, Archie. It’s a memoir-travelogue, with lots of photos and reproductions of letters and postcards.


America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t

By Stephen Colbert (Grand Central, 240 pages, $28.99)

Stephen Colbert, the man who makes misguided egotism hilarious, explains all the ways that our nation is “Americeptional.”

I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats

By Francesco Marciuiano (Chronicle, 112 pages, $12.95)

Quirky poems by “Sally Forth” comic strip author Fracesco Marciuiano will delight cat lovers (and maybe cat haters, too.) The title poem includes the line “She’s gone out for the day and / left her laptop on the counter / I could pee on that”.

Mysteries, thrillers

Live by Night

By Dennis Lehane (William Morrow, 416 pages, $27.99)

The best-selling author of “Mystic River” and “Shutter Island” sets his newest novel in Boston during Prohibition. Joe Coughlin, son of a police captain, moves up the ladder of organized crime in this epic thriller that’s both love story and revenge saga.

The Beautiful Mystery

By Louise Penny (Minotaur, 384 pages, $25.99)

In the latest Chief Inspector Gamache novel, a murder takes place deep in Quebec’s wilderness, in a monastery where the cloistered monks are renowned for their chanting. The victim? The monastery’s choir director.

The Twenty-Year Death

By Ariel S. Winter (Hard Case Crime, 700 pages, $25.99)

Reviewers loved this debut effort. It’s three interrelated novels in one, each written in the style of a detective fiction legend – George Simenon, Jim Thompson and Raymond Chandler.


Who Could That Be at This Hour?

By Lemony Snicket (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 272 pages, $15.99)

This is the first of Snicket’s new four-volume “All the Wrong Questions” series, and it starts like this: “There was a town, there was a girl, and there was theft. I was living in the town, I was hired to investigate the theft, and I thought the girl had nothing to do with it. I was almost thirteen and I was wrong.”

Red Knit Cap Girl

By Naoko Stoop (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 40 pages, $15.99)

The New York Times Book Review has ranked Naoko Stoop’s story of a little girl who wants to meet the moon as its No. 1 Best Illustrated Book of the year.

Santa Is Coming to the Carolinas

By Steve Smallman, illustrated by Robert Dunn and Katherine Kirkland (Sourcebooks, 32 pages, $9.99)

It’s Christmas Eve, and Santa is spotting all sorts of landmarks as he flies over the Carolinas. Among them: the Gaffney Peach, Charlotte’s Hearst Tower and Bank of America building, and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

Middle-grade readers and young adult

The White Glove War

By Katie Crouch, with Grady Hendrix (Poppy, 320 pages, $17.99)

The second in a series, this young-adult novel centers on a high-society debutante group in Savannah known as the Magnolia League. Katie Crouch grew up in Charleston, where she attended cotillion but did not become a debutante.

The Other Normals

By Ned Vizzini (Balzer & Bray, 387 pages, $17.99)

Many young-adult readers know Ned Vizzini from his best-selling “It’s Kind of a Funny Story.” In this new novel, life changes for a nerdy kid named Perry Eckert when his parents ship him off to summer camp to improve his social skills.

Justin Bieber: Just Getting Started

By Justin Bieber (HarperCollins, 240 pages, $21.99)

He’s only 18, but global superstar Justin Bieber has already produced two international best-sellers. In this photo-filled volume, Bieber describes his music, travels and life.


Bouchon Bakery

By Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel (Artisan Books, 400 pages, $50)

The Wall Street Journal called this cookbook “the knockout new pastry testament.” Filled with recipes for scones and muffins, madeleines, brioche, doughnuts and breads, it includes photos and explanations to help home cooks master fancy techniques.

Fire in My Belly: Real Cooking

By Kevin Gillespie with David Joachim (Andrews McMeel, 356 pages, $40)

In his debut collection, “Top Chef” winner Kevin Gillespie, executive chef of Atlanta’s Woodfire Grill, pushes the boundaries of classic Southern fare with some inspired reinventions. Think charred okra with tomato-coconut chutney.


By Kathleen Purvis (UNC Press, 108 pages, $18)

This is the first of two volumes in the Savor the South series, cookbooks that celebrate Southern ingredients.

Charlotte Observer food editor Kathleen Purvis offers a host of recipes, from appetizers to desserts, for that quintessentially Southern nut. The pralines recipe is one of our favorites.


By Debbie Moose (UNC Press, 96 pages, $18)

This is the second Savor the South cookbook. Veteran cookbook author Debbie Moose of Raleigh demonstrates buttermilk’s versatility with recipes ranging from chilled soup to fried chicken.

Music CDs

Boys & Girls

Alabama Shakes (ATO, $9.34)

This Georgia quartet broke out in 2012 thanks to an endorsement from Drive-By Truckers, which also led to accusations that they’re a hype job. But Brittany Howard’s volcanic voice is not to be denied on these 11 soulful rockers.

The Sound of the Life of the Mind

Ben Folds Five (ImaVeePee Records/Sony Music, $8.99)

Reunion album finds the peerless North Carolina piano-pop trio picking up right where they left off 13 years ago. And while they may not be so young anymore, they’re still plenty loud and snotty – not to mention catchy, very catchy, especially on “Hold That Thought.”

The Clearing

Bowerbirds (Dead Oceans, $14.94)

Raleigh folk group’s third album is far lusher and more sophisticated than their first two records, but without losing any of the evocative power that made them so arresting to begin with. “The Clearing” is as heavy as it is pretty, coursing with a sense of Zen acceptance on 11 songs that grapple with mortality. It’s calm, but calamitous.

Falling Off the Sky

The dB’s (Bar/None, $9.99)

It’s been 30 years since the original foursome of this Winston-Salem band made an album, but the years have been kind. Co-leaders Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey’s power-pop sense remains as sharp as ever.

From the Ground Up

John Fullbright (Blue Dirt, $9.99)

This freakishly talented prodigy hails from Woody Guthrie’s Oklahoma hometown, and he’s about the best troubadour-type singer-songwriter roaming the land nowadays. “From the Ground Up” adds piano and some accents from Lyle Lovett’s ballpark, with the greatest of ease. There might not be anything this kid can’t do.


Grizzly Bear, (Warped, $7.99)

You’d never know that Grizzly Bear was from Brooklyn, based on the atmospherically pastoral tones of the group’s music. “Shields” takes a spin through bucolic pastures, and the music is spacey enough to make you wonder if they’re from somewhere closer to Saturn.

I Like to Keep Myself in Pain

Kelly Hogan (Anti-, $10.53)

Best-known as Neko Case’s backup singer, Hogan is an amazing vocalist who makes everything look easy, even when she’s evoking the worst heartbreak imaginable. She really is jaw-droppingly good – recommended if you like Adele.

Thankful N’ Thoughtful

Bettye LaVette (Anti-, $9.99)

Like Tina Turner, this soul goddess never does anything nice ’n’ easy. “Thankful N’ Thoughtful,” however, can manage. LaVette’s latest finds her covering songs by Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Black Keys and even the Pogues, making them all her own.

A Church That Fits Our Needs

Lost in the Trees (Anti-, $9.99)

Getting lost in a forest can be the stuff of childhood nightmares, a state of mind this Chapel Hill orchestral-pop ensemble evokes with frightening realism. Pretty sounds plus unnerving vocals equal beautiful unease.


Patti Smith (Columbia, $9.99)

The punk priestess hasn’t sounded this accessible in eons. Yes, she does have a very poetic interlude with “Constantine’s Dream,” a 10-minute fever-nightmare. But “April Fool,” “Amerigo” and the Amy Winehouse tribute “This Is the Girl” are all deliciously catchy.

Coffee Colored Eyes

Winslow Stillman (, $12.95)

Finding himself in Colombia with some time to kill, this Triangle jazzman fell in with the local jazz players. The result is this lovely collection of tropical-flavored jazz-pop, bright and sunny.

David Menconi

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