The Book That Smacked Me Upside the Head | A Blog Post by Margaret Couch, Accounts Payable at Blair

Margaret and Narnia

In many households, parents read books to their children. My clearest memories of being read to were after dinner and on car rides heading for family vacation or visiting distant relatives. For me, after-dinner reading time was especially magical. One of my first book memories is hearing C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia series. We heard one chapter at a time after dinner. That meant that sometimes I had to wait a whole day to find out what happened next. Perhaps the surprises were leaked, but I don’t remember that part. I remember only the magic Narniaof listening to the written word and being shown the pictures so skillfully rendered by Pauline Baynes that accompanied the text. My mother was usually the reader. She instilled in me a love of reading, but also a love of reading out loud.

So, in the natural order of things, I read to my children. Not only early-childhood books, but books that engaged them even as they grew to early teens. Harry Potter was a favorite. Even when they were old enough to read the books to themselves, they begged me to read them aloud. I can’t think of a more satisfying legacy to pass along than the passion for reading, but more importantly the passion for reading aloud.


Illustration above is by Pauline Baynes from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Why we’re excited about our fall titles (and why you should be, too!)

Some of our fall titles have been getting some press in the aftermath of Book Expo America, so we thought we’d share a preview of what’s to come. We’re excited to bring these books to you this autumn, and here’s why, in our own words:

The Politics of Barbecue
A novel by Blake Fontenay
September 2012

From editor Steve Kirk: Seriocomic. There’s a word that hasn’t come to mind in a while–probably because quality novels in the mold of Fontenay’s Politics of Barbecue are few and far between. A serial arsonist wants to burn down Memphis. An up-and-coming “producer” would turn it into the porno capital of the East. A beef mogul would steal one of its best assets–a new barbecue museum–for his own hometown. The mayor doesn’t care what happens as long as graft flows into the pockets of his quilt-patched overalls. All of this leaves a pair of Wiffle ball-playing slackers as the last best hope for saving a city that’s equal parts eyesore and landmark. Joining forces with a more-than-she-seems starlet and a crossbow-toting billionaire bum, they set Memphis on its first baby steps toward renewal.

With all that going on, it’s no wonder that Library Journal included The Politics of Barbecue in their Editor’s Picks from Book Expo America 2012.

Woody Durham: A Tar Heel Voice
Woody Durham with Adam Lucas
September 2012

From Debbie Hampton, design and production director: Leave it to sentimental me to get all teary while reading Woody Durham: A Tar Heel Voice—a voice inked to my idyllic youth in a family of Tar Heel fans. As a 15-year-old, I had a Carolina-blue room with one wall dedicated to the Tar Heel player I had a crush on—with his pictures and a big ol’ 13, his number.  When not actually in Chapel Hill at the games, my family and I were glued to the TV. It was yours truly jumping and screaming among the men in the family, who would sit there stoically, trying to hear. Men—how can they just sit there?

Reading Woody Durham: A Tar Heel Voice brought back all of those memories. Immediately, I recalled the sound of Woody’s voice doing the play-by-play (of course, the men in my family never heard it). It sent me straight to YouTube to recount some of those heart-pounding moments set to the tune of Woody’s voice. Even though I later married an N.C. State grad and “converted,” I could still recall the names of the faces in the photos of players from the ’60s and ’70s. Yes, I’m giving away my age. There will be many Tar Heel fans reminiscing with this book, which for me was a scrapbook of fond memories and sounds.

Losing My Sister
A memoir by Judy Goldman
October 2012

From Brooke Csuka, publicist: I have two and a half sisters. No, really. I have an older half-sister from my father’s first marriage, and he ended up with three girls once he married my mother.  Ballet practice, Disney princesses, dress-up shoes–then teenage jealousy, competition–you name it, we shared it. So when it comes to sisters, you can call me an expert.

I think that’s why Judy Goldman’s Losing My Sister speaks to me the way it does. Beyond being a beautifully written memoir that flows like poetry–the author is a poet, after all–it’s just so true.  Along with the joy, the humor, and the fun of sisterhood comes the agony of loss and heartache of illness, and Goldman captures it beautifully as she and her sister, Brenda, deal with the deaths of their parents to Alzheimer’s and cancer and then Brenda’s own sickness. Even Publishers Weekly agrees: “Goldman beautifully renders the complexity of sibling relationships with candidness, tenderness, and sorrow…[her] book speaks to the human ability to forgive and attain a measure of peace amid loss.” As Jenny Lawson says, this book “made me hug my family a little bit closer.”

So You Think You Know Antietam? The Stories Behind America’s Bloodiest Day
James and Suzanne Gindlesperger
September 2012

From Katie Saintsing, editorial assistant: When I was a kid, my parents took my brothers and me to Boston; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia: places rich with American history. A book like So You Think You Know Antietam? would have been an excellent resource to have on these family vacations. James and Suzanne Gindlesperger have told the story of the battle of Antietam in an interesting and accessible way, and with its color photos, maps, and GPS coordinates, the book makes a great companion on trips to the battlefield. So You Think You Know Antietam? guides readers to each of the battlefield’s monuments and explains who the markers are for, but it also illuminates the most engaging details of the battle: Readers will find out who the “Red Legged Devils,” the “Black Devils,” and the “Jackass Battery,” were, what a “witness tree” is, and who the youngest casualty from either army was. I found the story about Colonel John B. Gordon to be one of the most interesting. Gordon was wounded five times and fell forward with his face pressed into his hat, which rapidly filled with blood. It was a hole shot through the hat that saved him from drowning in his own blood, and Gordon went on to become governor of Georgia.

On a recent trip up through Virginia, my mother took every sign for a Civil War site (and there are a lot of those on the highway in Virginia) as an opportunity to say how much she’d like to go on a tour of all the Civil War battlefields. I think So You Think You Know Antietam? (as well as the authors’ earlier book, So You Think You Know Gettysburg?) might be just the thing to help her to start planning her trip.

Chefs of the Mountains: Restaurants and Recipes from Western North Carolina
John E. Batchelor
October 2012

From Margaret Couch, accounts payable: I’ve always wanted to revisit the mountains of North Carolina for a vacation. My husband and I are celebrating a significant wedding anniversary this year, and since we actually honeymooned in the mountains, we thought it was the perfect opportunity for another visit. Commemorating special occasions always requires food, so naturally I looked at Chefs of the Mountains by John Batchelor as a good resource for restaurants while vacationing. There are so many restaurants with fascinating stories about the chefs that it will be difficult to narrow it down to just one. But since the restaurants are organized by locale, I just need to decide what town to visit. There are lots of restaurants in Blowing Rock and some of them have hotels or inns attached—same with Asheville. There are also featured chefs and restaurants in Boone, Valle Crucis, Banner Elk, Linville, Spruce Pine, and Hot Springs. I guess it won’t matter which place we plan to visit because there will definitely be a great restaurant wherever we choose to go. Now I just need to make a decision!

Check back later this summer–we’ll start previewing titles from our distributed presses.