Inside a handsome coffee-table book, a thousand stories wait to be told by the daily flip of a page: the last duel ever fought in North Carolina, the first tortoise to arrive at the N.C. Zoo, and the doomed geologist Elisha Mitchell tumbling off the mountain that would bear his name.
The book, “This Day in North Carolina History,” contains landmark dates in the lives of Chang and Eng, famed Siamese twins who settled in Wilkes County; Phil Ford, legendary Tar Heel point guard from Rocky Mount; and Roberta Flack, a Black Mountain native known for the song “Killing Me Softly.”
With at least three historic events each day, “This Day in North Carolina History” (UNC Press) begins with the day Duke University hosted the Rose Bowl in 1942 and finishes with the USS Monitor sinking off Cape Hatteras in 1862.
And along with a host of other locally authored books and guides, it makes a handy Christmas gift.
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“Readers take great pride in the people, inventions and products born in the Tar Heel state,” writes Ansley Herring Wegner, the book’s author, who also manages the state’s historical marker program for the North Carolina Office of Archives and History. “A few bountiful days have five topics — rare days for which we had more than we needed.”
“This Day” tops our list of local books suitable for stockings, but these others caught our eye. You can find them at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, Letters or The Regulator in Durham, Page 158 in Wake Forest, Flyleaf in Chapel Hill and assorted other local bookstores.
With “Blue Blood II,” (St. Martin’s Press) longtime sports journalist Art Chansky updates his chronicle of Duke-UNC basketball drama, following the rivalry into deeper into the one-and-done era that saw both teams cutting down nets.
His 2005 original won wide praise, and his follow-up views Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski in their autumn years, Hall of Fame coaches forced to adapt.
The book begins with Tyler Hansbrough in his first year as a Tar Heel and J.J. Redick in his last wearing Duke blue, following both teams through championship and scandal.
“ ’Blue Blood II’ ... would be different from the first,” Chansky writes in his acknowledgments. “Maybe kinder and gentler than when (legendary Heels Coach Dean) Smith was protecting his turf and Mike Krzyzewski was trying to claim his piece of it. Or maybe two programs with still-fiery coaches in their 60s and 70s, respectful of each other, sensing the end of their tenures and vowing to go out strong.”
Any calendar will tell you Independence Day comes on July 4 — as if anyone needed reminding. But “North Carolina’s Literary Luminaries and the Bookshops That Love Them” offers this collection of literary birthdays and happenings, informing the book-reading public that before Joseph Mitchell stalked the streets of New York, chronicling the lives of burlesque dancers and domino players, he was born in humble Robeson County on July 27.
Each month in the North Carolina Literary Luminaries calendar features a different independent bookstore, from the old guards at Quail Ridge and Regulator the newcomer Page 158 in Wake Forest and Read with Me in downtown Raleigh.
Banned Books Weeks gets highlighted in September, as does Book Lovers Day in August.
A bonus: Use the checkerboard on the last page to collect a stamp at every featured book stop. A mysterious but “valuable” prize awaits.
Any hiker knows the Appalachian Trail, its route mapped in detail in hundreds of guides along with dozens of other lesser-known routes through the Blue Ridge Mountains.
But Charlotte gets scant mention in most guides, despite having some of the state’s most appealing peaks. Crowders Mountain, with its playground of boulders, ranks in the top 10 most-visited state parks.
This Charlotte-centric book from Falcon Guides takes a stroll through Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, Kings Mountain National Military Park, Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge, Lake Norman and Uwharrie National Forest — known for frequent Bigfoot sightings.
“Best Hikes Charlotte” comes with mileage, maps, directions and rankings for best hikes to take with children or after work. Best of all: color photographs give a clue to the scenery ahead, so you’re not traipsing off into the woods unawares.
And if Charlotte doesn’t appeal, Falcon has similar guides for Asheville, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains.