Books

Books: Gifts you open again and again

Blue’s Hands,” by Joseph A. Rosen.
Blue’s Hands,” by Joseph A. Rosen.

For those who like quirky

“Hillary Rodham Clinton Presidential Playset” illustrated by Caitlin Kuhwald. There are plenty of memoirs from presidential hopefuls. Give them as gifts at your own peril unless you know the recipient well. This paper doll collection could go bipartisan – depending on what they do with the cut outs. Cutouts include facial expressions, pantsuits, the hubby and Republican adversaries including Jeb Bush and Rand Paul (sorry, no Donald Trump, showing how fast things changed from the book’s conception to publication). Quirk Books, $14.95.

“Little Miss and Mr. Me Me Me Parody Series” by Dan Zevin, illustrated by Dylan Klymenko. The iconic little children’s books by Roger Hargreaves featuring the goofy Little Miss and Mr. Men characters have been teaching good behavior for 45 years. They’ve had a big 2015: A feature film is in the works, Uniqlo came up with a clothing line and now there’s this twisted parody series featuring Mr. Humblebrag, Mr. Selfie, Little Miss Overshare and Little Miss Basic. Three Rivers Press. Each small paperback is $6.99.

“Mad Magazines’s Greatest Writers: Frank Jacobs” illustrated by Jack Davis, Mort Drucker and other members of “The Usual Gang of Idiots.” From. Jacobs’ parodies of pop culture (including some of the most inventive song lyrics this side of Weird Al Yankovic, who writes the forward) have been the backbone of Mad Magazine since the late 1950s. This collection begins with his “Why I Left the Army and “Became a Civilian” and runs through the Bush years. William Shakespeare at the Post Office and a modern reworking of Dr. Seuss are among some favorites. Running Press. $30.

“Bond by Design” by Meg Simmonds is a mammoth 320-page book that collects concept art, design notes and storyboards from all 24 official Bond canon films, from “Dr. No” to “Spectre.” Full of stunning artwork and fun facts: The massive volanco lair of 007’s nemesis in “You Only Live Twice” – complete with working monorail, 60-foot crater opening, 33-meter rocket and 700 tons of structural steel – took 250 people, working 12-hour shifts seven days a week for six months to make. DK. $50.

“Dr. Who: Impossible Worlds” by Stephen Nicholas and Mike Tucker. A 50-year history of the show in art and design. Extras at the back include sketches, schematics and full-color sets on cards tucked into an envelope. This one is for the hardcore fan. Harper Design, $45.

“Ultimate Spy” by H. Keith Melton. This history of spying offers short bios of famous spies, various spying agencies and plenty of low and high-tech gadgets. DK. $25.

For the music lover

This was a big year for musician’s to put down their guitars and start typing. There are autobiographies for just about any musical taste or era, including Carrie Brownstein’s “Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl,” Chrissie Hynde’s “Reckless Girl: My Life as a Pretender” and Carly Simon’s “Boys in the Trees.”

“Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink” by Elvis Costello. NPR called it “defiantly fun” and from The New York Times: “It’s streaked with some of the best writing – funny, strange, spiteful, anguished – we’ve ever had from an important musician.” You didn’t have to grow up singing along with “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?” and “Alison” to enjoy reading about the life he’s led. Blue Rider Press. $30.

“Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Peter Guralnick. Guralnick is a veteran music journalist and he knows Memphis well. He offers a detailed and sympathetic portrait of the man behind Sun Records who gave us Elvis,Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis.

“Blues Hands” by Joseph A. Rosen. Rosen has spent 30 years listening and photographing blues musicians. In this compilation, he lets the hands of the performers tell the story. Bios each musician in the back. Schiffer Publishing, $29.99.

For your favorite shop localista

“Andy & Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show” by Daniel de Visé. See the review on page 4. Simon & Schuster. $26.

“Long Upon the Land” by Margaret Maron. Maron, who lives outside of Raleigh, has said this is her last mystery featuring Judge Deborah Knott. It’s a wonderful read that answers many questions for long-time readers but not so many that it spoils earlier mysteries in the series for new readers.

“27 Views of ...” Eno Publishers realized they were on to a good thing after they published their first “27 Views of Hillsborough: A Southern Town in Prose & Poetry” in 2011. That first one included contributions by Lee Smith, Allan Gurganus, Michael Malone and musician Katharine Whalen, a former member of Squirrel Nut Zippers. There are now “27 Views” of Durham, Chapel Hill, Asheville, Hillsborough, Greensboro, Wilmington and Charlotte. Good thing the state is full of so many fine writers. Included in the Asheville collection are Charles Frazier, Ron Rash, Sharyn McCrumb and Mcihael McFee while Wilmington features works by Wiley Cash, James Leutze and Celia Rivenbark. These are great way to introduce transplants to a town – and to the state’s literary voices. Good for homesick souls as well. Paperbacks, $15.95.

For the history buff

John David Smith, a professor of American History at UNC Charlottea and frequent reviewer for The N&O, suggests:

“Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American” by John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste-Marie Bernier. This landmark and collectible volume includes 160 separate photographs of Douglass, many never before publicly seen and now lavishly produced in duotone, that canonize Douglass, the United States’ foremost nineteenth-century African American, through historic photography. The international team of editors establish Douglass as a leading pioneer in photography, both as a stately subject and as a prescient theorist who grasped the explosive social power of what was then just an infant art form. Liveright. $49.95

“The Old North State at War: The North Carolina Civil War Atlas” by Mark Anderson Moore, Jessica Bandel, and Michael Hill. Ten years in the making, this landmark atlas includes 99 newly-prepared maps based on period maps and modern GIS technology that transcend the military story and include information on slavery, women, the home front, divided loyalties, and dissent. “The Old North State at War” is the most detailed atlas ever produced of Civil War North Carolina and constitutes an essential resource for libraries and serious Civil War enthusiasts and researchers alike. N. C. Office of Archives and History Publications Section. $105 with shipping and handling.

For tweens

Susie Wilde, N&O children’s book reviewer suggests:

“The Thing About Jellyfish” by Ali Benjamin (Little Brown, ages 10 and up). Suzy (Zu), bereft when her best friend Franny joins a popular clique, is devastated when her friend drowns. Alternating chapters show Zu’s meticulous research on the jellyfish she holds responsible for Franny’s death, her unresolved memories and resulting silence, and secret schemes to go to Australia and meet a jellyfish scientist. Science and supposition, research and reality, facts and fancy are united with memorable metaphors and the unique voice of the curious sympathetic character.

“Orbiting Jupiter” by Gary D. Schmidt (HMH, audio from Audible read by Christopher Gebauer, ages 12 and up). Gary Schmidt’s sparseness sings with rhythms and repetitions that soften the story’s difficult subject. Twelve-year-old narrator Jack’s innocence is sometimes sparked, and other times strained, by the arrival of his 14-year-old foster brother, Joseph. Joseph has been abused by his father and the social system and only wants to find his baby daughter. This book is short in length and long on heartbreak.

“The Hired Girl” by Laura Amy Schlitz (Candlewick; audio from Recorded Books read by Rachel Botchan, ages 13 and up). The story unfolds in the youthful journals of Joan, a 14-year-old girl whose 1911 farm life consists of caring for three unappreciative brothers and a cruel father. Her passion for learning leads her to runs away, and she is hired into a wealthy, intellectual Jewish home. Joan’s naivety, romanticism, imagination and impulsivity add up to an character who amusing, engaging and ultimately, endearing.

Compiled by Mary Cornatzer

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