Byte-Size Blair | March 7

We’re back with Byte-Size Blair, our weekly wrap-up of all things social media. If you’re not already following us on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram, give us a look.

You’ve made it through Monday! Treat yourself with these fun links.

  1. We were blown away by this art exhibit called “The Impact of a Book”
  2. The invitations are in and you’re invited! If you live near Wilmington, join us for The Dark of the Island Launch Party on March 19th.
  3. Relax with these scrumptious tea and biscuit combinations.
  4. So many books and so little time. We know the feeling.
  5. March 2nd was Dr. Seuss’s birthday but we believe in celebrating this artist all year round.

Tomorrow is the publication date for The Dark of the Island by Philip Gerard. Congratulations Philip!


Byte-Size Blair | February 8

We’re back with Byte-Size Blair, our weekly wrap-up of all things social media. If you’re not already following us on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest, give us a look.

Tomorrow is Mardi Gras but before you start celebrating check out this week in review.

  1. Our president’s 30th anniversary with Blair was February 1st! Woooo! Congratulations Carolyn!
  2. Forsaken by Ross Howell Jr. was Lady Banks’ Commonplace Book last week.
  3. We laughed at this book dedication…and then tripped.
  4. Do you live in books like Neil Gaiman?
  5. Our Black History Month campaign continues on Facebook. For further reading check out This Day in Civil Rights History by Horace Randall Williams and Ben Beard and follow us for more suggestions.

Let the festivities begin!


The Book That Smacked Me Upside the Head | A Blog Post by Angela Harwood, Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Blair

Angela Harwood, Vice President of Sales & Marketing

Angela Harwood, Vice President of Sales & Marketing

The summer before I started kindergarten, my father (a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy at that time who would soon be gone for six months on his own adventure) began reading a chapter of The Hobbit to me each night before putting me to bed. Yes, for a few glorious weeks of childhood, The Hobbit was my bedtime story. My father created a distinctive voice for each character, made up tunes for all the lyrics, and joyfully sang all the songs in his deep bass. He was (and still is) a self-taught Tolkien scholar, and throughout the narrative, he provided interesting facts gleaned from the appendix of The Lord of the Rings or other Tolkien books like The Silmarillion. He spoke in Elvish at times during the day or at dinner (and still does), and the story of Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, the 13 dwarves (not dwarfs—read your Tolkien), and the dragon Smaug became real to me, like an actual part of history.

Angela Harwood at five years old

Angela Harwood at five years old

This early introduction into all things fantasy encouraged me to develop quite an imagination. I no longer spent my time riding around on my Big Wheel or bicycle or roller-skating up and down the driveway. Instead, I set out alone or with friends and headed into any woods I could find. I fashioned a nice, long branch to be my walking stick/magical staff, and I called what I was doing exploring. I often got very lost. I had no sense of direction and paid little attention to my surroundings, and I certainly didn’t care where I was as long as I was home in time for dinner. I was armed with a slingshot and black walnuts (my father told me not to shoot people; my mother told me not to shoot animals), and I kept an eye out for snakes, fire-ant hills, and quicksand. I created my own imaginary scenarios: I would be the first to discover what lay at the bottom of that ditch (yellow jackets—36 stings); I would follow the secret trail across the river, which eventually led to a lumberyard guarded by a mean dog on a chain—Warg! “Fly, you fools!”

Middle Earth

Middle Earth

From The Hobbit, I learned the importance of being clever, and I worked logic puzzles and brain teasers to strengthen my wit. (I must be prepared to solve riddles at the drop of a hat!) I kept an eye out for secret passages and hidden doors. My father told me that if the measurements of the outside of the house came out to be larger than the inside measurements, then there was likely a secret passage to be discovered inside. I was disappointed when all those tiny doors and panels in the backs of closets or under the stairs led only to plumbing, hot water heaters, or electrical wiring. My father was disappointed when he could never find his tape measure.

Angela with her dad (before she was book-smacked by The Hobbit

Angela with her dad (before she was book-smacked by The Hobbit)

As an adult, I am aware that nothing I do in life will ever live up to the more important and dramatic things I can imagine. I likely won’t save the world from an evil necromancer, or even save a small village from a dragon. I probably won’t find a secret passageway. (I may make one of my own someday when I’m not worried about the resale value of my home.) Instead, I have embraced the next best occupation within my capabilities: publishing. Perhaps a ghost-story collection or a history book about the real-life explorer and adventurer Daniel Boone will alter or influence someone else’s path in life. After all, as Tolkien says, “All have their worth, and each contributes to the worth of others” (The Silmarillion).

Summer Reading: Part II (in which Carolyn Sakowski ponders “Fifty Shades of Grey”)

Today, Blair President Carolyn Sakowski shares her summer reading plans–and her reaction to E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey. Enjoy!

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Sum..Sum..Summertime. I was going to devote my summer reading to lofty literary fiction and the latest offerings from my favorite mystery/detective writers, but my plans suddenly changed course the first weekend in June.

I joined a group of five college friends for a beach reunion. We’re talking about women in their mid-60s here—all intelligent, voracious readers with enough disposable income to indulge in purchasing dozens of books every year.

Our usual conversations revolve around family and ailments, but this year, something new entered the discourse. Yep, the Fifty Shades trilogy. They all wanted to know what I thought about it. Of course, I was aware of the phenomena, but I had purposefully avoided reading the first book. I just couldn’t fathom any serous interest in reading about bondage and sex toys. I will admit that I like to read a good romance every now and then, but this just sounded too trashy.

The first afternoon of our weekend, while my friends took their naps, I picked up the first book someone else had been reading. Several hours later, we were all down at Pelican Bookstore getting our fixes. I had to get my own copy to take home; one person had just finished book two and had to have the third. We were all disgusted with our reactions to this trilogy, but were certainly not alone. Neilsen BookScan numbers show 815,000 copies of this trilogy sold during the week of May 21-27. They accounted for 13% of all trade paperbacks sold that week. Total sales topped 10 million that same week. Will sociologists look back on the spring and summer of 2012 and analyze why so many women went crazy? I especially loved what one of my hairdresser’s clients said when asked if her sex life had improved after reading these books. She answered that after you read these books, you won’t need a man—just get a dog.

What do you think? Have YOU read–or do you plan to read–Fifty Shades of Grey?

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For a good chuckle, check out this clip about the books from Saturday Night Live or this clip of Gilbert Gottfried reading excerpts (fair warning: these clips are NOT safe for work–much like Fifty Shades of Grey).

BookMarks book club social and membership drive this week

One of our favorite things about Winston-Salem is the BookMarks Book Festival, an annual literary event where folks from the all over the Triad and beyond head to the Winston-Salem Arts District to meet authors, attend signings and readings, and just have a great time with books.

But BookMarks is more than just a festival–the group sponsors events all year long. This Thursday, Dec. 8, head to their first ever book club social at the Downtown Winston-Salem public library where you can meet local authors Rachel Keener and Jo Maeder. This book club social will offer new ideas for your book club, suggest books that make for great book club discussions, and talk about how your book club can benefit from being involved with BookMarks–for example, did you know that your book club has the opportunity to meet with BookMarks authors privately before their book signing events? Sounds good, doesn’t it? Blair President Carolyn Sakowksi will also be attending, so you don’t want to miss this meeting!

Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011, 4 p.m.-5 p.m.
Forsyth County Public Library
660 West 5th Street  
Winston-Salem, NC
More details

If you’re unable to attend, look for future events like a conversation with David McCullough or a discussion with Kim Edwards. And while you’re at it, become a member of BookMarks to support the organization and the festival. BookMarks’ membership drive runs from today, Dec. 5, through Friday, Dec. 9. The goal is to get 100 new members, who will help keep the festival free to people of all ages and backgrounds, bring focus on reading and literacy as priorities, and enhance our community’s quality of life. To become a member, you simply make a tax-deductible contribution to BookMarks.  As a member, you will receive many perks throughout the year–including being the first to know and register for author events. Check out the BookMarks website for more information.

See you at the book club social this Thursday!

Our favorite Civil War titles

Booming cannons, a brass ensemble, and hushed crowds ushered in the 150th anniversary of America’s bloodiest war yesterday at Fort Sumter. April 12 marked 150 years since the Confederate bombardment of Union-held Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, a battle that plunged the nation into four years of war at a cost of more than 600,000 lives.

To help remember the deadliest war in United States history, we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite Civil War books. If you’re looking to learn more about the American Civil War, these titles are for you!

_________________________________________________________________________Touring Civil War Sites by Clint Johnson

Touring the Carolina’s Civil War Sites (2nd Edition) and Touring Virginia’s and West Virginia’s Civil War Sites (2nd Edition) by Clint Johnson

COMING IN MAY! Preorder your copy today.

The updated versions of both these Touring books help travelers find the states’ battlefields, forts, and memorials, as well as the lesser skirmish sites, homes, and towns that played significant roles in the war. Touring the Carolina’s Civil War Sites covers the entire Carolinas, combining riveting history with clear, concise directions and maps. As fascinating to read as it is fun to take on the road, this second edition includes additional historic houses in Charleston, a new battlefield in New Bern, updated driving directions, new photos for each site, and more. Touring Virginia’s and West Virginia’s Civil War Sites covers all the significant sites in both states. The 17 tours visit large and small battlefields, historic houses and buildings, cemeteries, monuments and statues, rivers, and mountains, while sharing the histories behind each location, some surprising and obscure.


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

So You Think You Know Gettysburg? shows why the famous battlefield a place not only of horrible carnage and remarkable bravery but endless fascination.

Who, or what, was Penelope? Whose dog is depicted on the Eleventh Pennsylvania Monument, and why? What are the Curious Rocks? Why does Gettysburg have two markers for the battle’s first shot, and why are they in different locations?

The plentiful maps, the nearly 200 site descriptions, and the 270-plus color photos in So You Think You Know Gettysburg? will answer questions you didn’t even know you had about America’s greatest battlefield.


Undaunted Heart by Suzy Barile

When a brigade of General Sherman’s victorious army marched into Chapel Hill the day after Easter 1865, the Civil War had just ended and President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated. Citizens of the picturesque North Carolina college town had endured years of hardship and sacrifice, and now the Union army was patrolling its streets. One of Sherman’s young generals paid a visit to the stately home of David Swain, president of the University of North Carolina and a former governor of the state, to inform him that the town was now under Union occupation.

Against this unlikely backdrop began a passionate and controversial love story still vivid in town lore. When President Swain’s daughter Ella met the Union general, life for these two young people who had spent the war on opposite sides was forever altered.

General Smith Atkins of Illinois abhorred slavery and greatly admired Abraham Lincoln. Spirited young Ella Swain had been raised in a slave-owning family and had spent the war years gathering supplies to send to Confederate soldiers.

But, as a close friend of the Swains wrote, when Atkins met Ella, the two “‘changed eyes’ at first sight and a wooing followed.”

The reaction of the Swains and fellow North Carolinians to this North-South love affair was swift and often unforgiving.

In Undaunted Heart: The True Story of a Southern Belle & a Yankee General, author Suzy Barile, a great-great-granddaughter of Ella Swain and Smith Atkins, tells their story, separating facts from the elaborate embellishments the famous courtship and marriage have taken on over the generations. Interwoven throughout Undaunted Heart are excerpts from Ella’s never-before-published letters to her parents that reveal a loving marriage that transcended differences and scandal.


Civil War Blunders by Clint Johnson

There was little funny about a war in which 620,000 Americans died. But it was finding humor amid devastation that kept Civil War soldiers marching toward the enemy.

Union or Confederate, those in command proved adept at making mistakes. Many leaders were drunkards, couldn’t speak English, didn’t know a cannon’s breech from its muzzle. Among the galleries of heroes were:

  • Colonel Edward Baker, who told his Federals to follow the plume of his hat if they wanted to find war—and sent them over a cliff in a panicked retreat
  • General Felix Zollicoffer, who wore a white raincoat so opposing Federals could see him—but not his eyeglasses so he could see them
  • Lieutenant Commander Thomas Selfridge of the Union navy, who “found two torpedoes and removed them by placing his vessel over them”
  • Colonel Alfred Rhett, a captured Southern blue blood whose fancy boots proved too small for every Union officer who coveted them
  • Rum-drinking James Ledlie and dance-instructing Edward Ferrero, generals who kept each other company in a Union bombproof while their men faced slaughter

From Fort Sumter to Appomattox, Civil War Blunders traces the war according to its amusing, often deadly miscues. Lurking behind every significant action, as readers will discover, was someone with a red face.


Stoneman’s Raid, 1865, by Chris J. Hartley

In the spring of 1865, Federal major general George Stoneman launched a cavalry raid deep into the heart of the Confederacy. Over the next two months, Stoneman’s cavalry rode across six Southern states, fighting fierce skirmishes and destroying supplies and facilities. When the raid finally ended, Stoneman’s troopers had brought the Civil War home to dozens of communities that had not seen it up close before. In the process, the cavalrymen pulled off one of the longest cavalry raids in U.S. military history.

Despite its geographic scope, Stoneman’s 1865 raid failed in its primary goal of helping to end the war. Instead, the destruction the raiders left behind slowed postwar recovery in the areas it touched. In their wake, the raiders left a legacy that resonates to this day, even in modern popular music such as The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”

Based on exhaustive research in 34 repositories in 12 states and from more than 200 books and newspapers, Hartley’s book tells the complete story of Stoneman’s 1865 raid for the first time.


For more Civil War titles, visit our website.