5 Ways to Liven Up Your Holiday Break with Blair Books

It’s that magical time of year when most businesses shut down and workers are treated to some, often mandatory, time off. While traditional celebrations are fun, cabin fever can set in for those of us used to being in the office all week. To help avoid any vacation frustration, we present 5 Ways to Liven Up Your Holiday Break with Blair Books:

1. Revisit the Ghosts of Christmases Past

AmericanChristmasesThink your family has some crazy Christmas traditions? Read about what used to pass as appropriate holiday fare in American Christmases: Firsthand Accounts of Holiday Happenings from Early Days to Modern Times by Joanne Martell. The entries range from how the Christmas tree has evolved through history, to how Santa got too close to the candles in 1890, to how firecrackers were once a cherished and much-anticipated stocking stuffer, to Pete the Christmas goose, who laid an egg and was renamed Petrice in time to be wreathed in parsley on a platter. The stories, both heart-wrenching and heartwarming, allow one to reflect on personal memories and long to relive them. (as shared by Debbie Hampton)

2. Start a Sports Debate

ACCBasketballBookFameIs yelling at the TV during ACC basketball games a holiday tradition? Do you have ideas about who should be in the ultimate hall of fame? Dan Collins presents his system and the 78 players in his The ACC Basketball Book of Fame. Compare your own and your family’s rankings and let the discussion begin.


3. Bake Something Unexpected and Delicious

WellShutMyMouthNothing against Christmas hams and fruitcake, but they get a bit tiresome after the 3rd or 4th day of repetitious leftovers. Try out a different style of cooking with Tasia Malakasis and Stephanie L. Tyson. Malakasis’ Tasia’s Table (NewSouth Books) offers up creative ways to use goat cheese in a range of delectable dishes while Tyson’s Well, Shut My Mouth!: The Sweet Potatoes Restaurant Cookbook brings some soul to the table.

Give your family a treat with dishes like the Easiest Devil’s Food Cake in the World and introduce some new culinary traditions to your holidays.

4. Hike the Battlefields

SoGettysburgAt first glance a Civil War battlefield may seem just like a regular field with some scattered monuments, but James and Suzanne Gindlesperger bring these historical sites to life in So You Think You Know Gettysburg? and So You Think You Know Antietam? The Gindelspergers return some humanity to the soldiers who lived and died in the war by providing the reasoning behind each statue’s curios oddities.

Gettysburg National Military Park and Antietam National Military Park are both open throughout the holidays, excluding Christmas Day and New Years Day.

5. Laugh at Yourself…and Others

SWAGDo you feel the urge to bake a pound cake after reading the obituaries? Have you had professional photographs made of your children barefoot and dressed in their Sunday clothes? Are you socially conditioned to believe that tanned fat looks better than white fat?

Then you might be a SWAG (Southern Woman Aging Gracefully), and Melinda Rainey Thompson can relate. Ranging from swimsuit shopping to squirrel battling, from magnolia theft to cemetery etiquette, Thompson’s delightful essays and clever lists in SWAG: Southern Women Aging Gracefully and The SWAG Life reflect the everyday peculiarities of life in the South. Whether you can see yourself or others in her hilarious anecdotes, Thompson will have you doubled over in knowing laughter.

We hope that these suggestions help you make the most of your holidays. Happy Holidays from Blair!

Celebrate Small Business Saturday with Blair’s Big Book Sale

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As part of Small Business Saturday Blair will be holding a book sale on November 30 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Stop by the Blair offices at 1406 Plaza Drive, Winston-Salem, NC, for 30% off all titles, including the perfect gifts for everyone on your holiday checklist.

Christmas_Website Holiday Gift Guide

We are also excited to announce that The Great Escape Food Truck will be joining us from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.


Buy local and get 30% off all books. We look forward to seeing you!

Happy Birthday, NASCAR! | A Blog Post by Artie Sparrow

Did you know NASCAR was officially incorporated on this date in 1948? Celebrating this milestone is a great excuse to pick up a copy of Jerry Bledsoe’s World’s Number One, Flat-Out, All-Time, Great Stock Car Racing Book. According to Car and Driver magazine, it’s “the finest book on any kind of motor racing.”

Mostly it’s just really entertaining, even if you’re not a big fan of auto racing. Bledsoe is a master storyteller (infamous in our office as a great guy to get talking), and this is a perfect subject for him: colorful characters who operate on the fringes of the law.

Ever wonder what really happened in the old Richard Pryor movie Greased Lightning? Or why Tom Wolfe called Junior Johnson the “Last American Hero”? Read this book to find out and to discover several other memorable tales of men who lived and sometimes died on the edge.


Blair’s holiday gift guide

Blair's Holiday Gift Guide

For the holiday inspired

American Christmases
by Joanne Martell

The Angel Doll
by Jerry Bledsoe

A Gift of Angels
by Jerry Bledsoe

Mama’s Wreaths
by Julia Taylor Ebel with M. Joann Moretz

The Christmas Bus
by Robert Inman, illustrated by Lyle Baskin

For Mom

A Guide to North Carolina’s Wineries
by Joseph Mills & Danielle Tarmey

I Love You—Now Hush
by Melinda Rainey Thompson and Morgan Murphy

I’ve Had It Up to Here with Teenagers
by Melinda Rainey Thompson

In a Magnolia Minute
by Nan Graham

Losing My Sister
by Judy Goldman

by Melinda Rainey Thompson

The SWAG Life
by Melinda Rainey Thompson

For Dad

Bob Garner’s Book of Barbecue
by Bob Garner

Murder on Music Row
by Stuart Dill

The Politics of Barbecue
by Blake Fontenay

North Carolina Craft Beer & Breweries
by Erik Lars Myers

They Tore My Heart Out and Stomped That Sucker Flat

by Lewis Grizzard

Rockin’ a Hard Place
by John Jeter

For gardeners and nature lovers

Becoming Elizabeth Lawrence
edited by Emily Herring Wilson

Rain Gardening in the South
by Helen Kraus & Anne Spafford

Middlewood Journal
by Helen Scott Correll

The Successful Gardener Guide
by Leah Chester-Davis & Toby Bost

For sports fans

Chasing Moonlight
by Brett Friedlander & R. W. Reising

Hark the Sound of Tar Heel Voices
edited by Daniel W. Barefoot

Instant Replay: 365 Days of North Carolina Sports Trivia
by Jimmy Tomlin

Woody Durham: A Tar Heel Voice

by Woody Durham with Adam Lucas

For the family chef

Chefs of the Mountains: Restaurants and Recipes from Western North Carolina
by John E. Batchelor

Tasia’s Table: Cooking with the Artisan Cheesemaker at Belle Chevre
by Tasia Malakasis

Well, Shut My Mouth! The Sweet Potatoes Restaurant Cookbook
by Stephanie L. Tyson

For avid readers

Binocular Vision
by Edith Pearlman

The Books That Mattered
by Frye Gaillard

by Debbie Lee Wesselmann

God Bless America: Stories

by Steve Almond

The Iguana Tree
by Michel Stone

Mercy Creek

by Matt Matthews

The Middle of the Air

by Kenneth Butcher

The Patron Saint of Dreams

by Philip Gerard

Through the Pale Door
by Brian Ray

For pet lovers

Ghost Cats of the South
by Randy Russell

Ghost Dogs of the South
by Randy Russell & Janet Barnett

Literary Dogs & Their South Carolina Writers
edited by John Lane and Betsy Wakefield Teter

For ghost lovers

Boogers & Boo Daddies
by the Staff of John F. Blair, Publisher

Ghost Cats of the South
by Randy Russell

Ghost Dogs of the South
by Randy Russell & Janet Barnett

Haunted Halls of Ivy
by Daniel W. Barefoot

For civil war buffs

Civil War Blunders
by Clint Johnson

So You Think You Know Antietam?
by James and Suzanne Gindlesperger

Stoneman’s Raid, 1865
by Chris J. Hartley

So You Think You Know Gettysburg?
by James and Suzanne Gindlesperger

Available through www.blairpub.com and wherever books are sold.

Free shipping on all website orders of $30 or more by individuals.

Joseph Bathanti, Blair-distributed author, named N.C. Poet Laureate

Congrats, Joseph Bathanti! The award-winning poet, professor, and advocate for literacy has been named North Carolina’s Poet Laureate by Governor Bev Perdue.

“Joseph Bathanti is an award-winning poet and novelist with a robust commitment to social causes. He first came to North Carolina to work in the VISTA program and has taught writing workshops in prisons for 35 years,” Perdue said. “As North Carolina’s new Poet Laureate he plans to work with veterans to share their stories through poetry — a valuable and generous project.”

North Carolina’s seventh poet laureate, Bathanti will be installed during a public celebration scheduled Thursday, Sept. 20 at 4:30 p.m. at the State Capitol. The event is free.

Bathanti’s books of poetry include This Metal (St. Andrews College Press, 1996 and Press 53, 2012), Restoring Sacred Art (Star Cloud Press, 2010), Land of Amnesia (Press 53, 2009), Anson County (Williams & Simpson, 1989 and Parkway Publishers, 2005, distributed by John F. Blair), The Feast of All Saints (Nightshade press, 1994) and Communion Partners (Briarpatch Press, 1986). He has published two novels, Coventry (Novello Festival Press, 2006, distributed by John F. Blair) and East Liberty (Banks Channel Books, 2001, distributed by John F. Blair) along with a book of short stories, The High Heart (Eastern Washington University Press, 2007).

A native of Pittsburgh, Penn., Bathanti arrived in North Carolina in 1976 as a member of Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), a national service program designed to fight poverty, and he never left the state. Assigned to work in Huntersville Prison in Mecklenburg County, he met fellow volunteer and future wife, Joan Carey on his first day of training. They have been married for 35 years.

“Giving Back” wins 2012 Terry McAdam Book Award

Big congratulations to Valaida Fullwood and Charles W. Thomas, Jr. Their book, Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists, won the 2012 Terry McAdam Book Award, recognizing it as the “most inspirational and useful new book for the nonprofit sector.”

Giving Back lifts up seldom-celebrated traditions of giving among Americans of African descent. Rarely acknowledged as philanthropy, these centuries-old cultural customs and beliefs nevertheless continue to have an impact on lives and communities. Images and narratives of more than 200 people commemorate the legacy of black philanthropists—from generous donors of wealth to ingenious givers carving a way out of no way.

In Giving Back, Valaida Fullwood poignantly chronicles the African American philanthropy experience. Intimate vignettes and candid reflections reveal a myriad of philanthropic practices grounded in faith, mutuality, and responsibility. Fullwood juxtaposes personal accounts from a cross-section of black philanthropists with fascinating quotes from givers and game-changers across cultures to illuminate transcendent truths and elicit new thinking about philanthropy.

Photographer Charles W. Thomas, Jr. beautifully captures images that portray the joy, aspirations, remembrance, and resilience that characterize black philanthropy. Pairing photographic portraiture and narrative, Thomas and Fullwood give readers over 160 artful page spreads that enliven the soul of philanthropy and honor the legacy of America’s black philanthropists.


Join us this weekend for the High Country Festival of the Book

Join us tomorrow, August 4th,at the Meadowbrook Inn in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, for the High Country Festival of the Book. It’ll be a fun day of author panels, workshops, and book shopping.

Our distributed press, Canterbury House, will also exhibit. And at 12:45 p.m. tomorrow, two Canterbury authors — award-winning Julia Taylor Ebel and Smoky Mountain novelist Lin Stepp — will appear on the Mountain Voices panel, moderated by Joseph Bathanti. Authors Jenny Bennett and Carolyn Guy as well as Canterbury publisher Wendy Dingwall will also sign books.

For full details, check the High Country Festival site. See you there!

Summer Reading from Blair: Part I

The pool is open, half of my coworkers are out of the office on holiday, and it’s hot enough to enjoy a glass or two of sweet iced tea (or perhaps something stronger) on the porch. So here are a few of our favorite books to read when you’re taking a break from the real world this summer. Enjoy!


Murder on Music Row: A Music Industry Thriller
Stuart Dill
2012 IPPY Award winner in the Mystery category

“Remember your first John Grisham? Country music veteran Dill (he served as a personal manager for Minnie Pearl, Dwight Yoakam, and other greats) doesn’t miss a beat in this debut high-adrenaline thriller full of twists and turns.”
—Library Journal, starred review

Judd Nix, a 23-year-old unpaid intern at Elite Management, welcomes the chance to become
the paid assistant of Simon Stills, one of country’s biggest managers, but he soon finds himself a witness to an assassination attempt. When a gunman takes aim at megastar Ripley Graham, Stills’s most important client and the last hope for the troubled recording industry, on stage at the Grand Ole Opry, the shooter misses and seriously wounds Stills instead. Nix and his co-worker, Megan Olsen, decide to investigate on their own, but with music executives plotting a major merger, they can’t be sure whom to trust.

Murder on Music Row leads readers through a maze of twists and turns that connect Nashville, New York, Los Angeles, and London in a behind-the-scenes look at an industry where there are no limits in the pursuit of money, power, and fame.


God Bless America: Stories
Steve Almond
2012 ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award Honorable Mention

God Bless America is a meditation on the American dream and its discontents. In his most ambitious collection yet, Steve Almond offers a comic and forlorn portrait of these United States: our lust for fame, our racial tensions, the toll of perpetual war, and the pursuit of romantic happiness.

Each of these 13 stories is an urgent investigation of America’s soul, its particular suffering, its injustices, its possibilities for redemption. With deft slight of hand, Almond, “a writer who knows us as well as we know ourselves” (Houston Chronicle), leavens his disappointment and outrage with a persistent hope for the men and women who inhabit his worlds. God Bless America offers us an astonishing vision of our collective fate, rendered in Almond’s signature style of “precise strokes… with metaphors so original and spot-on that they read like epiphanies” (San Francisco Chronicle).

Still not sold on this book? I’ve got two reasons more:


The Iguana Tree
Michel Stone

This isn’t your typical light read for the summer. This is a book of substance. It is a universal story of loss, grief, and human dignity.

Set amid the perils of illegal border crossings, The Iguana Tree is the suspenseful saga of Lilia and Hector, who separately make their way from Mexico into the United States, seeking work in the Carolinas and a home for their infant daughter.

Michel Stone’s harrowing novel meticulously examines the obstacles each faces in pursuing a new life: manipulation, rape, and murder in the perilous commerce of border crossings; betrayal by family and friends; exploitation by corrupt officials and rapacious landowners on the U.S. side; and, finally, the inexorable workings of the U.S. justice system.

Hector and Lilia meet Americans willing to help them with legal assistance and offers of responsible employment, but their illegal entry seems certain to prove their undoing. The consequences of their decisions are devastating.

If you’re looking for a book that humanizes the agony and elation of illegally entering the United States without politics, this is for you.

“Michel Stone’s first novel, The Iguana Tree, is an astonishing achievement, a daring but plausible leap into a world unnoted by most of us yet close around us daily. This story is at once a page-turner and a moving, psychologically genuine drama.”
—Rosa Shand, author of The Gravity of Sunlight, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year


Hank Hung the Moon . . . And Warmed Our Cold, Cold Hearts
Rheta Grimsley Johnson

“Part whimsical memoir, part cultural anthology, Hank Hung the Moon is a celebration of the music, the man, the era, the lore, and the magic of the South’s most beloved songster. If I were stranded on a desert island with only one book that captured everything I know and love about the South, this would be the one.”
—Cassandra King (Conroy), author of The Sunday Wife

The dark story of America’s Pulitzer Prize–winning hillbilly singer has been told often and well, but always with sad country fiddles wailing. This latest Hank Williams paean will make readers laugh as well as cry. Hank hung the moon and left his fans behind to admire it. He transformed the musical landscape, as well as the heavens, with his genius. And that’s a good thing.

More a musical memoir than a biography, Hank Hung the Moon is the author’s evocative personal stories of ’50s and ’60s musical staples—elementary-school rhythm bands, British Invasion rock concerts, and tearjerker movie musicals. It was a simpler time when Hank roamed the earth. The book celebrates a world of 78 rpm records and five-cent Cokes. Hank provides the soundtrack and wisdom for this Last Picture Show of a book.

A Cajun girl learns to understand English by listening to Hank on the radio. A Hank impersonator works by day at a prison but by night makes good use of his college degree in country music. Hank’s lost daughter, Jett, devotes her life to embracing the father she never knew. A newly minted recording artist buys a belt from Hank himself at a Nashville store that country’s first superstar bought to pacify a nagging wife.

Finally, here are stories readers haven’t heard a thousand times before about people—some famous, some not—who loved Hank. This lively little book uses Hank as a metaphor for life. Readers will tap their toes and demand an encore.


Murder on the Outer Banks
Joe C. Ellis

The perfect beach read!

Newly hired deputy Marla Easton and Sheriff Dugan Walton are amazed at the performance of Dr. Sylvester Hopkins in a local 5K footrace. At age 65, Hopkins posts a world-class time of 17:35, two minutes faster than he has run in the past few years. Walton suspects Hopkins has concocted some new performance-enhancing drug.

A trail of bodies from Frisco to Nags Head, North Carolina, leads Deputy Easton and Sheriff Walton to the discovery of the Methuselah serum—a new drug designed by Hopkins that reverses aging in human cells. A nefarious triumvirate of pharmaceutical CEOs known as “the Medical Mafia” wants the formula at any price. So do the FBI and the president of the United States. But Sheriff Walton believes that he and Deputy Easton have been divinely chosen to guard the formula and serum, and they take their mission seriously—much like the angels posted in Eden to guard the Tree of Life. Their mission turns perilous when Deputy Easton’s seven-year-old son, Gabe, is kidnapped.


Well, that’s all for today. Want to know what else we’re reading? Check our our staff picks on Pinterest. And share your favorite summer reads with us in the comments section.

Happy reading!

Congrats to the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award winners!

Congrats to Lookout Books, Eno Publishers, Edith Pearlman, Steve Almond, and Daniel Wallace! Their books received ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Awards this weekend.

Binocular Vision, by Edith Pearlman (Lookout Books), took home the gold award in the short story category, while Steve Almond’s God Bless America received an honorable mention in the same.

27 Views of Chapel Hill, introduction by Daniel Wallace (Eno Publishers), won the bronze award in the anthologies category.

Congrats again!

“Render Unto the Valley” is Piedmont Land Conservancy’s book club selection

Render Unto the Valley is a many-stranded tale of three generations of a star-crossed family struggling to mend itself and preserve something of its rightful heritage. In the midst of this tempestuous story stands Travis Whitfield, as stony-hearted a bad hat as you are ever likely to meet. But the female forces arrayed against him are formidable. Are they strong enough to prevail? Read and you’ll find out. But be warned: It’s a breathless ride.”
—Fred Chappell, North Carolina poet laureate emeritus and author of Ancestors and Others

Render Unto the Valley by Rose Senehi

The Piedmont Land Conservancy selected Rose Senehi’s Render Unto the Valley (K.I.M. Publications) as its book club selection for June. The book touches on land conservation in the western part of North Carolina and highlights the daily work of a land protection staff member. It’s a great read, particularly if preserving our history and heritage through the land is important to you.

In Render Unto the Valley, Karen Godwell isn’t as much ashamed of her mountain heritage as of what she once had to do to preserve it.

Karen reinvents herself at college and doesn’t look back until her clan’s historic farm is threatened. The gutsy curator at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art returns to the mountains only to come face to face with who she was and what she did.

Descendants of the early settlers still have a grip on the farmlands deep in the folds of the southern Blue Ridge Mountains, but the ground is shifting beneath their feet. Cousin Bruce, the town historian, sees life through the family’s colorful 200-year past; Tom Gibbons, a local conservationist, keeps one eye on the mountains and the other on Karen; Karen’s nine-year-old daughter, Hali, is in the throes of the mission her dying father sent her on; and Karen is hiding the ugly secret that drove her away.

As she wrestles her dangerously cunning brother for the farm, Karen straddles the divide between the staunchly independent mountain culture she comes from and the sophisticated world she has become a part of.