YES! Weekly’s ten best regional reads

by Amy Kingsley

Ender’s Game

Orson Scott Card

This local author published his sci-fi masterpiece in 1977 and subsequently collected the prestigious Hugo and Nebula awards. The book’s hero, Ender, is a child genius charged with saving the Earth from alien invaders. In addition to packing the story with action, Card outdoes many of his science fiction peers by fleshing out Ender’s character with reams of interior monologue.

The Tao of Muhammad Ali

Davis Miller

Winston-Salem based writer Davis Miller was only 12 years old and mourning the death of his mother when boxer Muhammad Ali danced into his greater consciousness. He took up karate and studied the fighter’s technique and persona. In Ali, Miller found a character whose outsized personality and physical skill allowed him to conquer a world of injustice and tribulation.

White Christmas Bloody Christmas

M. Bruce Jones with Trudy J. Smith

This slim tome considers the sensational Christmas Day massacre of the Lawson family, a brood of rural tobacco farmers lodged in Stokes County. Patriarch Charlie Lawson murdered his wife and six children almost 80 years ago, committing one of the first mass murders of the 20th Century. Be prepared for sticker shock: This book might not be well known, but it is highly collectible.

Brighten the Corner Where You Are

Fred Chappell

The former poet laureate of North Carolina filled the 212 pages of his best-known novel with lyrical descriptions of a day in the life of a North Carolina schoolteacher. Chappell himself taught in the MFA program at UNCG and is still occasionally spotted around town. His facility with descriptive language is a rare gift, and Chappell is a writer Greensboro residents should be proud to call their own.

They Don’t Dance Much

James Ross

Unlike the previous entry, lyricism is absent from this gritty description of greed and violence in Depression-era North Carolina. Ross, by day an editorial writer at the Greensboro Daily News, grafted urban noir onto Southern Gothic and earned the admiration of such literary luminaries as Raymond Chandler.

The Lost World

Randall Jarrell

Jarrell died tragically in 1965, hit by a car while walking along the street. The vaunted humanist left behind this and other volumes of poetry, essays, fiction and children’s books, not to mention legions of bereft fans both in and outside of the UNCG English Department where he once taught. Four decades after his death Jarrell remains one of the most well known writers ever associated with Greensboro.

The Gift of the Magi and Other Short Stories

O. Henry (William Sydney Porter)

O. Henry lit out of Greensboro pretty early in life. He moved to Texas, Honduras and New York, racking up criminal charges and a reputation as a writer of clever short stories along the way. In Austin, the late author’s fans have been holding an annual pun off in his honor for the past quarter century. In Greensboro we have a ritzy hotel and downtown book sculpture dedicated to his memory.

Bitter Blood

Jerry Bledsoe

If you’re into true crime and interested in the most sensational multiple murder case to have ever unfolded in our own backyard, this is the book for you. Bledsoe picks apart the convoluted crimes of lovers/cousins Susan Lynch and Fritz Klenner, whose killing spree ended nine lives. The book was later made into a television miniseries.

Primate Behavior

Sarah Lindsay

Lindsay earned a nomination for the National Book Award in 1997 for her first volume of poetry on Grove Press, one of only five books of poetry considered for the honor. The poems in Primate Behavior combine the study of nature with the imagery and tall tales of vigorous imagination.

My Life in Heavy Metal

Steve Almond

Almond spent a handful of years in Greensboro earning his MFA in creative writing at UNCG and writing for the now-defunct alt-weekly Triad Style. The characters and themes in his first short story collection ring a bit familiar – think music, sex and drinking. But Almond is more than just a lad lit celebrity. At the very least he crafts smooth and highly readable prose.