Christmas is a scant two weeks away, which means it’s about time to start panicking about those folks on your list who have offered nary a hint of a gift idea.
If there are readers on your list, here is an idea: Buy them one of the new releases this year written by a South Carolina author.
“From fiction to nonfiction, from prose to picture books, this list shows the state’s rich cultural contributions and the depth of talent grown right here in South Carolina,” said Tamara King, community relations director for Richland Public Library, which put together a list of recommended books written by South Carolinians.
Shoppers also get the satisfaction of knowing they’re helping neighbors.
“You’re supporting the local economy,” said Jerry Caldwell, owner of The Coffee Shelf bookstore in Chapin.
The Palmetto State has a plethora of artists tied to our state, and giving a gift with a local bent personalizes the gift.
“Every good book has a life of its own – and really is a gift that keeps on giving. Receiving a book written by a fellow South Carolinian who shares a common heritage is even better,” said Rod Gragg, whose book “My Brother’s Keeper: Christians Who Risked All to Protect Jewish Targets of the Nazi Holocaust” was released in October.
TV anchor and S.C. native Ainsley Earhardt agreed.
“I’m so proud to be from South Carolina and have so many wonderful memories of growing up there. For me, the great thing about reading books by South Carolina authors is that no matter where I am in the world, I can open a book and immediately I’m home.”
We asked local librarians and book sellers for recommendations from Palmetto State authors. While there were many, five were mentioned more than once:
▪ “Wild South Carolina: A Field Guide to Parks, Preserves and Special Places” by Liesl and Susan Hamilton. Compiled by a mother-daughter team of naturalists, it delves into outdoor destinations, offering advice on how, when, and where to experience the state’s ecological treasures.
▪ “A Lowcountry Christmas,” by Mary Alice Monroe. A wounded warrior and his younger brother discover the true meaning of Christmas.
▪ “All Summer Long,” by Dorothea Benton Frank. A New York couple are seemingly polar opposites, yet magnetically drawn together and in love for more than 14 years. As they prepare to relocate to Charleston, the wife, an ultimate New Yorker, has reservations about the promise she made to retire in the Lowcountry.
▪ “A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life,” by Pat Conroy. Final words and heartfelt remembrances from bestselling author Pat Conroy take center stage in this winning nonfiction collection, supplemented by touching pieces from Conroy’s many friends.
▪ “Take Heart, My Child: A Mother’s Dream,” by Ainsley Earhardt (FOX and Friends cohost Ainsley Earhardt’s debut picture book shares precious life lessons parents can pass on to their children so that they can follow their hearts, dreams, and passions.
Librarians at Richland County Public Library put together a list of books by South Carolina authors they’d recommend as gifts. In addition to “Wild South Carolina,” “All Summer Long” and “A Lowcountry Christmas,” they offer:
▪ “Another Brooklyn,” by Jacqueline Woodson. Running into a long-ago friend sets memory from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything – until it wasn’t.
▪ “We Are Charleston: Tragedy and Triumph at Mother Emanuel,” by Herb Frazier, Dr. Bernard Edward Powers Jr. and Marjorie Wentworth. This book recounts the events of the Charleston church massacre and offers a history lesson that reveals a deeper look at the suffering, triumph, and even the ongoing rage of the people who formed Mother Emanuel A.M.E. church and the wider denominational movement.
▪ “The S.N.O.B. Experience: Slightly North of Broad,” by Frank Lee. A cookbook from the popular Charleston restaurant.
▪ “The Forbidden Wish,” by Jessica Khoury. When Aladdin discovers Zahra’s jinni lamp in this book for teens, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn’t seen in hundreds of years – a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra’s very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.
Suzanne Axland, Marketing Director for the University of South Carolina Press, suggests these three books:
▪ “Painting the Southern Coast: The Art of West Fraser,” a non-fiction/coffee-table art book
▪ “A Question of Mercy,” by Elizabeth Cox
▪ “Crabbing: A Lowcountry Family Tradition,” illustrated by Monika Wyrick
Axland said “Painting the Southern Coast” is a “beautiful coffee-table book (that) showcases 260 works from Fraser’s 40-year career – paintings, studies, and sketches. “Fraser has dedicated his life to capturing the lush beauty as well as the spirit and soul of the coastal lowcountry he loves.”
Cox’s work of fiction, Axland said, is evocative and “examines the moral, ethical, and seemingly unnatural decisions people face when caring for society’s weakest members and walks us along the blurred line between what is legal and what is just.”
The children’s book, “Crabbing: A Lowcountry Family Tradition” is a story about young boys learning about crabbing from their grandfather. “It’s an intriguing ‘how-to’ book that includes educational information as well as a tasty crab-cake recipe,” Axland said.
Laurie Funderburk, co-owner of Books on Broad in Camden, offered these suggestions for books by South Carolina authors. In addition to “Wild South Carolina,” “All Summer Long,” “A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life,” “Take Heart, My Child: A Mother’s Dream,” and “A Lowcountry Christmas,” Funderburk offers:
▪ “Archaeology in South Carolina: Exploring the Hidden Heritage of the Palmetto State,” by Adam King. This overview of archaeological research ongoing in the Palmetto state featuring essays by 20 scholars studying South Carolina’s past through archaeological research.
▪ “Flowers for the Living,” by Sandra E. Johnson. A suicidal African-American teenager forces a young white cop to kill him, devastating the teenager’s mother as well the rookie cop. It also sparks a massive race riot and puts the mother and rookie in the crosshairs of a deranged gunman.
▪ “Citizen Scholar,” Robert H. Brinkmeyer Jr. Essays in honor of Southern historian Walter Edgar.
▪ “Ants ‘n’ Uncles,” by Clay Rice. What happens in this children’s book when Uncle steps on an ant hill? The ants in his pants make him dance, of course, and his dancing skills become famous around the world.
▪ “Lowcountry Coloring Book,” by Melissa Conroy. The book by Pat Conroy’s daughter has 44 detachable pages with the South’s lush, magical Lowcountry, capturing the stately mansions and intricate gardens, haunting statuary and monuments, and animals from both the land and sea.
▪ “Nathanael Greene in South Carolina: Hero of the American Revolution,” by Leigh Moring. Greene faced the British in several key battles in South Carolina in 1781 and ultimately was able to rid the state of the British and free Charleston, but not until 1782, long after the victory at Yorktown. Moring tells the story of Greene and the liberation of the Lowcountry at the end of the American Revolution.
Brad Summer, the store manager at Barnes and Noble in Forest Acres, has these recommendations. In addition to “All Summer Long,” “A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life” and “Take Heart, My Child: A Mother’s Dream,” he offers:
▪ “On Living,” by Kerry Egan. A hospice chaplain passes on wisdom on giving meaning to life, from those taking leave of it.
▪ “The Stone Necklace,” by Carla Damron. Stories of a grieving widow, a struggling nurse, a young mother, and a troubled homeless man, remind us of the empowering and surprising ways our lives touch one another. Set in Columbia.
▪ “The Fatherless Daughter Project: Understanding Our Losses and Reclaiming Our Lives,” by Denna D. Babul, Karin Luise. Drawing on interviews with over 5,000 women who became fatherless due to death, divorce, neglect, and outright abandonment, the authors found that fatherless daughters tend to push their emotions underground.
▪ “Head Ball Coach: My Life in Football,” by Buddy Martin and Steve Spurrier. Technically not a South Carolinian now, but to many, close enough.
Jerry Caldwell, owner of The Coffee Shelf bookstore in Chapin, suggests this, in addition to “All Summer Long:”
▪ “Moms on the Go (Party Time and What’s for Dinner),” two cookbooks by Chapin resident Erin K. Courtney.
Here are a few more books by South Carolina authors:
▪ “Deep Rooted Wisdom: Skills and Stories from Generations of Gardeners,” by Jenks Farmer. A plea to take gardening back from the marketing companies and return to traditional-organic gardening, told through stories of old gardeners, farmers, and country people.
▪ “My Brother’s Keeper: Christians Who Risked All to Protect Jewish Targets of the Nazi Holocaust,” by Rod Gragg. Stories of Christians from across denominations, including teenage girls, pastors, priests, a German army officer, a former Italian fascist, an international spy, and even a princess, who gave everything they had to save Jews during the Holocaust.
▪ “Freddy Frog and His Adventure,” by Lauren Dasher. Children’s book that teaches kids important life lessons such as stranger danger. Freddy teaches kids that some actions have difficult consequences, but it is how they respond to those actions that define their character.
▪ “The Adventures of Edward Monkey and His Opa,” by Ed Waller. In this children’s book, young Edward Monkey decides to visit his beloved Opa on his own. Though his mother gives him very specific instructions to stay on the path, Edward is soon wandering off in search of adventure.
▪ “Kept by the Word,” by Lynet Winfrey. Winfrey asserts that when the Father instituted prayer, he righteously designed it to be equipped with his purpose to accomplish his will. Satan, knowing this, has tried to redefine prayer to have people think that prayer is based on their purpose – not God’s. This has led to a misunderstanding and misuse of prayer.
▪ “The Leaves of Life,” by Du-Leesa Martine Morris. Insightful poetry book, reflecting on the author’s life’s journey.
▪ “The Truthful Story,” by Helen Stine. Set in the tumultuous 1960s, it’s the journey of 10-year old Genevieve Donovan who fears her grandmother’s death may not have been an accident because she may have gotten in the way of so-called progress.