Take a break from politics; read books

By: D.G. Martin - Contributing Columnist

Do you need relief from two weeks of over-the-top contentious politics?

Here are four books that could give both Trump and Clinton supporters a break from worrying about our political future.

One is the paperback edition of a poignant memoir by one of North Carolina’s most important novelists. It hit bookstore shelves this week. Another book won a prestigious Agatha award for the first novel by a native North Carolinian. A third book profiles a bestselling and controversial Charlotte author and gives us a look back at life in the 1950s and 60s. And finally a respected writer turned-award-winning photographer’s book captures the landscapes of post-Hurricane New Orleans.

Here is why each of these should be by your bedside.

Henderson native David Payne wrote five highly praised novels, including “Confessions of a Taoist on Wall Street” and “Back to Wando Passo.” His latest book, “Barefoot to Avalon: A Brother’s Story,” now available in paperback, is a memoir of Payne’s family and with it a chronicle of mental illness, infidelity, failed marriages, suicide, abuse, addiction, and alcoholism. No doubt painful to write, it provides a moving experience for the brave reader who follows Payne’s struggle to understand his family and himself.

The Charlotte Observer’s Dannye Romine Powell writes about “Payne’s skill in transforming his family’s dirty linen into a memoir that’s instructive, healing and redemptive. It’s a timeless story: two brothers at odds, an uneasy reconciliation. Then the brother dies a tragic death on the highway, which Payne witnesses. That impact loosens the ropes that have long bound the author, and he sets out on a journey of ruthless self-dissection. Riveting.”

Art Taylor, a former writer and editor at the Triangle area’s Spectator Magazine, has written Agatha-award-winning novel “On the Road With Del & Louise.” It relates the adventures of an engaging pair of young criminals, who crisscross the country on a crazy crime spree along Route 66, falling in and out of love at each stop. Every chapter tells the story of a separate caper, and each could be read as a standalone short story. But once I began, I could not put the book down until the last chapter brought the couple back in North Carolina for a surprising conclusion.

In the late 1950s and 1960s Harry Golden was one of the best-known North Carolinians after his 1958 book, “Only in America,” took the country by storm. How and why this editor of a small Charlotte newspaper gained fame and helped the country through challenging times is the story Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett tells in “Carolina Israelite: How Harry Golden Made Us Care about Jews, the South, and Civil Rights.”

For instance, he proposed his “Golden Vertical Negro Plan,” based on the experiences of businesses like Durham Mayor “Mutt” Evans’ store. When Evans took out the seats in his store’s dining area, blacks and whites ate comfortably together. Even under Jim Crow, the races could mix if everybody was standing. So, to deal with school integration, Golden proposed removal of all chairs from the classrooms. If all the students were standing, integration would cause no problem!

After Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans destroying whole sections and communities, acclaimed North Carolina photographer, John Rosenthal, revisited the city’s Lower 9th Ward. He recorded what he found in a series of painfully beautiful photographs which are assembled in his new book, “After: The Silence of the Lower 9th Ward.”

These books will be featured on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch during August. If politics has you down in the dumps, let them take you on a short vacation from the stories Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are telling us.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV.


D.G. Martin

Contributing Columnist