Read Local: Top Books by Charlotte or N.C. Authors

  • Charlotte Living Realty
  • 12/13/21

From an N.C. mountain murder mystery to Charlotte historical fiction, recommendations from a librarian and podcaster

 

Books may be one of the most perfect holiday gifts — there’s no fit or color choices to stress over, no worries about taking up too much shelf space or being hard to tuck into a suitcase.

In the spirit of making your holiday shopping a little easier (or giving yourselfsomething enriching to do with your downtime this winter) we’ve asked two people who spend lots of time scoping out great books to share five of their favorites published in 2021 by Charlotte or North Carolina authors. We’ve also listed a few books by local authors that’ve been getting a lot of buzz recently.

Sally Deason is an adult services librarian at the Mint Hill branch of Charlotte Mecklenburg Library who takes great joy in spreading the word of new literature. “I truly love the part of my job that is suggesting new authors or titles to the wider community,” she told The Ledger.

And Landis Wade is the host of the Charlotte Readers Podcast, in which he interviews authors from North Carolina and across the country. He’s recorded nearly 270 podcasts with storytellers and poets, getting to the depth and insight behind their works.

Enjoy these recommendations, and if you have a locally penned 2021 book recommendation of your own, let us know and we’ll include it in a future edition of The Ledger.

Sally Deason’s recommendations

📗 When Ghosts Come Home by Wiley Cash. A mystery unfolds after a plane crashed at an airfield in eastern North Carolina near the coast. Local personalities emerge in the suspenseful novel alongside larger social issues from the past. Well worth the read.

📗 Doctors and Friends by Kimmery Martin. Author of two previous novels, Kimmery Martin practiced medicine for years prior to launching a successful writing career. This novel delves into female friendships begun in medical school that continued into a pandemic. Written before Covid but eerily familiar to our current situation, Martin develops great characters with the wildness of a pandemic as the collective setting.

📗 Tomorrow’s Bread by Anna Jean Mayhew. Though published in 2019, this title did not come across my desk until 2021. Selected as the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Community Read for 2022, this historical fiction relied heavily on primary sources from the North Carolina Room (in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library). Set in 1960s Charlotte, the story follows three adults: an African American woman living in the Brooklyn neighborhood, soon to be demolished for Urban Renewal; an African-American pastor from the same neighborhood; and a white woman from the Myers Park neighborhood. Truly, it is a great book to read and consider with the current affordable housing crisis.

📗 Mergers and Acquisitions: Or, Everything I Learned About Love I Learned on the Wedding Pages by Cate Doty. Doty lives in Raleigh and attended UNC Chapel Hill before her career at the New York Times on the wedding pages. The book gives some neat insights into working at the New York Times, and in particular, for one of the sections most sought after in any paper pre-internet. Her references to the “South” and cultural shifts highlight other changes that occurred during the 2000s. 

📗Fatal Scores by Mark de Castrique. The 8th installment in the Sam Blackmon Series, this murder mystery continues in the Western North Carolina area, but this time the focus has an environmental twist. One of the best mystery writers from North Carolina!

Landis Wade’s recommendations

📕 Triangle True Crime Stories by Cathy Pickens, a Charlotte award-winning mystery and true crime author. This is the third book in a series of North Carolina true crime stories, the first being Charlotte True Crime Stories, published in 2019. In this third collection, Cathy Pickens explores headline-grabbing tales that show the sinister side of the Triangle’s cities, where readers can learn about the nation’s largest prison escape, a couple of North Carolina’s poisoners, and other stories of murder, fraud, and betrayal. The stories are old in a way that only an award-winning mystery writer can tell them.

📕 My Mistress’ Eyes are Raven Black, by Terry Roberts, an Asheville award-winning literary fiction author. This is a literary mystery that explores the disturbing lengths some people will go to protect racial purity and condemn those that are different, the ones they fear. The book is set on Ellis Island in 1920. A young, pregnant Irish woman disappears from the Isolation Hospital on Ellis Island. Stephen Robbins, a specialist in finding missing persons, discovers an inexplicable string of deaths and disappearances among immigrant patients … and a staff that appears to be hiding a chilling secret.

📕 The Unwilling by John Hart, a six-time New York Times bestselling author. The book is set in Charlotte, during the height of the Vietnam War. It’s a novel inspired by the courage and sacrifice shown by soldiers who fought in that conflict. Booklist calls the book “another scorcher.” Mystery and Suspense Magazine describes the book as “a very enjoyable, twisty ride.” AARP uses the words “unforgettable and propulsive.” Several New York Times bestselling authors say the book “is crime fiction at its absolute best,” “richly complex” and “somehow, raw, tender, brutal and exquisite–all at the same time. Exceptional.”

📕 The Tannery by Michael Almond, a retired international business attorney who practiced in Charlotte. This is a story of racial injustice in 1900 in Wilkes County, North Carolina. It is a fast-paced courtroom drama set in the post-Reconstruction South laced with the truth of an early 1900s past gone backward. The Tannery will have readers wondering until the very end whether there is any hope for a 16-year-old Black boy on trial for murder and the young white lawyer who represents him. It reflects issues prominent in today’s headlines, themes of Black voter suppression and intimidation, and the violence and depravity of vigilante “justice.”

📕 Teaching During the Jurassic: Wit and Wisdom from an old Hippie Teacher by Martin Settle, a Charlotte artist, poet, author and photographer retired from a long career teaching English to high school and college students. This is a memoir in the vein of Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods,” but instead of the Appalachian Trail, we follow the twists and turns of Martin Settle’s teaching career from his first approach to teaching as a hippie subversive to his eventual triumph as a self-actualized person. Part memoir, part teaching guide, this book charts what Settle calls the “Jurassic” period of teaching with a humorous and poignant touch — it’s a world without personal computers, cell phones, or internet, where new social movements invade the classroom (women’s rights, civil rights, and gay rights). It’s a thought-provoking take on what it means to be a teacher.

 

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