With the weekend upon us, I’m counting down the hours until I can retreat to a quiet spot and curl up with a good book. Recently, I read that reading relaxes the mind, so much so that it is actually proven to reduce stress: a study conducted at the University of Sussex showed that participants experienced a slower heart rate and significantly less muscle tension after only six minutes of quiet reading. Interestingly enough, the study also proved that reading was the most effective way to reduce stress, and beat out other typical stress-reducing techniques like listening to music, having a cup of coffee or taking a walk. Reduce stress and lose yourself in a good book with our picks for the best reads for Carolinians.
Good stories based on history
Robert Morgan, born in Hendersonville, NC, has many books that will have you reading past your normal bedtime. Several of these, including Gap Creek, Truest Pleasures and Brave Enemies span both Carolinas.
Lee Smith’s, newest book is titled Guests on Earth and is set in the once-famous Highlands Mental Hospital in Asheville, NC, where Zelda Fitzgerald died in the fire that destroyed the facility.
Even if you’ve seen the movie, Cold Mountain, read the book by Asheville native Charles Frazier for a riveting glance into the Carolinas during the Civil War. His follow-up novel, Thirteen Moons examines the relationships between the Cherokee natives and Scottish immigrants in the region.
Ellen Foster is Kaye Gibbons’ autobiographical account of growing up in a volatile situation in rural North Carolina. Her On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon is set in a Civil War hospital in Raleigh.
Modern fiction page-turners
Former advertising exec Jan Karon has a whole set of books, called the Father Tim or Mitford Books. Set in a fictional town modeled after Blowing Rock, NC, her stories are a sweet portrayal of life in the Carolinas.
Patricia Cornwell’s Hornet’s Nest is a fictional story of the gritty, heroic life of big-city police seen through the eyes of three leading crime fighters from Charlotte.
The Parris Distinguished Professor in Appalachian Cultural Studies at Western Carolina University, storyteller Ron Rash writes books set in the Appalachian Mountains that run through North and South Carolina, including the bestseller Serena.
Popular novelist Nicolas Sparks has written many romantic books set in the Carolinas, including The Notebook, A Walk to Remember and Safe Haven.
Clyde Edgerton is the Thomas S. Kenan III Professor of Creative Writing at UNC Wilmington. He has set many of his novels in the heart of small town Carolina, including The Floatplane Notebooks and Lunch at the Piccadilly.
Pat Conroy is a New York Times bestselling author who has written several acclaimed novels and memoirs set famously in and around Charleston, SC. Two of his novels, The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini, were made into Oscar-nominated films.
Josephine Humphreys is a native of Charleston, South Carolina, which is also the setting for her novels Dreams of Sleep, Rich in Love and The Fireman’s Fair. The critically acclaimed Nowhere Else on Earth is historical fiction set in the Lumbee settlement of Robeson County, NC.
Durham resident and Pulitzer Prize nominee Reynolds Price is renowned for his work in southern literature, including the fiction work, Roxanna Slade, which recounts ninety years of life in North Carolina.
Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel, published in 1929, created quite a furor among the residents of Asheville, who saw themselves in this autobiographical work of fiction.
Other books with a Carolina backdrop include some of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, Joyland by Stephen King, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs, A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash, Flash and Bones by Kathy Reichs, Life After Life by Jill McCorkle, The Secret of Ararat by Tim LaHaye, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares, Sullivans Island by Dorothea Benton Frank, The Glory Field by Walter Dean Myers and many, many more.
Our area, so beautiful and welcoming to all, is evidently an amazingly interesting place to authors as well. We are sure to have missed some favorite books set right here in our area. What are some of yours?