By Emma Castleberry
The holiday shopping season has begun, and we at The Laurel are encouraging our readers to shop small and independent this year—especially when it comes to the timeless, customizable gift of a book. Our region’s rich literary history has grown into a resilient landscape of local authors and robust independent bookstores. Books are a wonderful gift for people of all ages and interests, and it’s easy to find something for everyone on your list.
Blue Ridge Books
“Times are always tough for independent bookstores and when you throw a pandemic on top, then it becomes an issue of survival,” says Blue Ridge Books co-owner Jo Gilley. Customers can order books online from the Waynesville store and also have the option to order audiobooks through Libro.fm that will benefit the store.
This holiday season, Gilley recommends A Promised Land by Barack Obama; The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop: A Novel by Fannie Flagg; and When These Mountains Burn by David Joy.
“We love to share what we’ve read with people who love books,” says Highland Books owner Amanda Mosser. “Nothing makes us happier than matching a reader with a book we know they will love.”
Through December 16, the Brevard store is hosting an Angel Tree, where customers can purchase books to donate to the Sharing House. Customers who buy books for the Angel Tree get 10 percent off their purchase and the store will donate one extra book for every 10 purchased.
Titles Mosser recommends include This Will Make It Taste Good: A New Path to Simple Cooking by Vivian Howard; Where I Come From: Stories from the Deep South by Rick Bragg; and The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett.
Sassafras on Sutton
Social media has been crucial to Black Mountain’s Sassafras on Sutton for staying connected with customers, and the store is also hosting events via Zoom. Still, the pandemic shut-down was tough for the small indie store. “If you don’t shop local now, you may lose the opportunity to do it in the future,” says general manager Kathleen Madden.
For holiday gifting, Madden recommends the titles Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics by Dolly Parton and Robert K. Oermann; A Man & His Car: Iconic Cars and Stories from the Men Who Love Them by Matt Hranek; and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Deep End by Jeff Kinney.
City Lights Bookstore
“2020 may have been pretty rotten in many ways,” says Chris Wilcox, owner of City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, “but not when it comes to the literature of WNC.” City Lights carries five new fiction books from local authors, all released since the beginning of lockdown. These include F*ckface: And Other Stories by Leah Hampton and In the Valley by Ron Rash. Wilcox also recommends the many new nonfiction books published about our region, including Danny Bernstein’s Dupont Forest: A History and Lance Holland’s The Nantahala River: A History & Guide.
City Lights currently operates on curbside pick-up and home delivery only. Book orders ship anywhere in the US for just 99 cents plus a penny for each additional book.
“Indie bookstores are more than places that sell books,” says Stephanie Jones-Byrne, director of marketing and author events at Malaprop’s in Asheville. “Our stores are community spaces staffed by people who truly care about books, readers and writers.” Jones-Byrne recommends Obama’s A Promised Land and Denise Kiernan’s We Gather Together as great book gifts for this year.
Malaprop’s is open by appointment and also offers curbside pickup and delivery in Buncombe County. Booksellers are also available to help readers find the right book through the concierge service on the website or with a phone call. Also be on the lookout for an upcoming launch event with Wayne Caldwell, author of Requiem By Fire, the first book from Malaprop’s new publishing endeavor, Leaning Chair Press.