By Mark I. West
January 3, 2022
For Charlotte’s community of readers and writers, 2021 was a year for the books (pun intended). So many good books by local authors came out this year and a top-ten list just wasn’t enough. With fiction, nonfiction, poetry, children’s and young adult categories, we’ve compiled a guide to our favorite books written by Charlotte-area authors.
Doctors and Friends by Kimmery Martin, Berkley
Kimmery Martin’s third medical novel, Doctors and Friends, focuses on three women physicians who have been friends since medical school. They have established their careers in different cities, but they gather together for a reunion each year. When this story opens, their annual get-together is disrupted by the outbreak of a global pandemic. Even though Martin wrote the initial draft of this novel before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, her novel uncannily anticipates the impact of the current pandemic on the lives of physicians and others in the medical community.
Blaze of Glory by John G. Hartness, Falstaff Books
Blaze of Glory is an urban fantasy novel set in Charlotte. The concluding volume to John G. Hartness’s Bubba the Monster Hunter series, Blaze of Glory involves the Department of Homeland Security, Count Dracula, and lots of mayhem. Like the other volumes in this series, Blaze of Glory combines humor and horror in lots of amusing scenes, but this volume also has some strong character-driven scenes that add complexity to the story.
Open Your Heart by Cheris Hodges, Dafina
Open Your Heart is a romantic-suspense novel set in both Charlotte and Charleston, South Carolina. The third book in Cheris Hodges’s Richardson Sisters series, Open Your Heart, focuses on Yolanda Richardson, the owner of a fashion boutique. After Yolanda witnesses a murder, her safety is in jeopardy. Her father and youngest sister, Nina, hire a bodyguard to protect her. Charles “Chuck” Morris, the bodyguard, tries to keep his distance from the woman he is responsible for protecting, but the two of them are drawn together.
Dear Miss Cushman by Paula Martinac, Bywater Books
Dear Miss Cushman takes place in New York City during the 1850s. It is told from the point of view of Georgiana “Georgie” Cartwright, a young woman who aspires to be a professional actress like Charlotte Cushman, who was a real 19th-century American actress. In many ways, this novel is a coming-of-age story in which a young woman forges an identity that transcends the confines of traditional, 19th-century gender roles, but it also provides an immersion into the colorful theater scene as it existed in antebellum America.
Fatal Scores by Mark de Castrique, Poisoned Pen Press
The eighth volume in Mark de Castrigue’s Sam Blackman series, Fatal Scores revolves around a murder rooted in Asheville’s past. This mystery involves four true-life luminaries with actual ties to Asheville: baseball great Babe Ruth, composer Béla Bartók, Moog synthesizer inventor Robert Moog, and pioneering environmentalist Wilma Dykeman.
Salvation: A Novel Based on a True Story by Avery Caswell, TouchPoint Press
Salvation brings to light a story of two African American girls who were abducted by a travelling evangelist from their home in the Druid Hills neighborhood in Charlotte in 1971. Although written as a fiction novel, Salvation is based on a true story from Earthell Latta’s childhood. For Earthell, the experience of being abducted was harrowing, but rather than repress the memory of this experience, she felt that it would be better to bring her story out into the open. She knew Leslie Rindocks, who writes under the pen name of Avery Caswell, and she suggested that the two of them work together to transform her story into a novel. The result is Salvation.
The Steel Rose by Nancy Northcott, Falstaff Books
The Steel Rose is the second book in Nancy Northcott’s historical fantasy trilogy, The Boar King’s Honor. The trilogy follows a family’s quest to lift a blood curse dating to the reign of Richard III. In The Steel Rose, Bonaparte has escaped from Elba. A magical artifact draws Frenchmen to his banner in droves. To stop him, a seer and a wizard spy must find and steal it– before he plunges Europe back into war.
The Tannery by Michael A. Almond, Koehler Books
Michael A. Almond’s debut novel, The Tannery, is a murder mystery/legal thriller set in Wilkes County, North Carolina, in the pivotal year of 1900 amidst the turbulent world of post-Reconstruction South. Like Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, The Tannery deals with the impact of racial prejudice on the court system and provides readers with an insider depiction of life in small Southern communities. Almond’s depiction of North Carolina’s bigoted past is unflinching and disturbing, but his portrait of his native state is not entirely negative. His story has its bigots, but it also has its heroes.
Release the Snyder Cut: The Crazy True Story Behind the Fight That Saved Zack Snyder’s Justice League by Sean O’Connell, Applause
Sean O’Connell, Charlotte film critic and the director of the CinemaBlend entertainment news website, draws on his expertise in the entertainment industry in his book Release the Snyder Cut. In this book, O’Connell writes about how fans of film director Zach Snyder campaigned for the release of the original director’s cut of Snyder’s Justice League. The book also covers the controversy surrounding the production of the movie.
Jewel in the Crown: Bonnie Cone and the Founding of UNC Charlotte by William Thomas Jeffers, University of North Carolina Press
Jewel in the Crown tells the story of how Bonnie Cone came to establish the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in the years immediately after World War II. Written by William (Bill) Thomas Jeffers, this book is a collaboration between the Atkins Library’s Special Collections and University Archives and Digital Publishing units along with the University of North Carolina Press.
No Common Ground: Confederate Monuments and the Ongoing Fight for Racial Justice by Karen L. Cox. University of North Carolina Press
In No Common Ground, Karen L. Cox recounts how the Daughters of the Confederacy and other groups of white Southerners commissioned the building and erection of statues honoring Confederate military figures and political leaders. She then discusses the growing controversy surrounding these monuments, culminating with the current movement to remove these monuments from public display.
PANDEM!C: Stories of COVID-19 edited by Chris Rudisill
A joint project of the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative and BOOM Charlotte, PANDEM!C: Stories of COVID 19 has the look of a graphic novel. Each of the stories is told by a Charlotte journalist and illustrated by a Charlotte artist, and each of the stories is told in both English and Spanish. Most of the stories are about individual Charlotte residents and their particular experiences with the pandemic. For a print copy you contact the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative by emailing email@example.com.
Teaching During the Jurassic: Wit and Wisdom from an Old Hippie Teacher by Martin Settle, Atmosphere Press
Martin Settle’s new memoir, Teaching During the Jurassic, focuses on Settle’s successful career as a high school English teacher in the age before computers. He writes about how his experiences in college and the military prepared him to become a teacher even though he initially did not plan to pursue a teaching career.
Children’s and Young Adults
Becoming Vanessa by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, Knopf Books for Young Readers
Vanessa Brantley-Newton has written and illustrated many picture books featuring Black children, including her latest book, Becoming Vanessa. In this story, Vanessa is anxious about her first day of school. She vacillates between wanting to appear “special” and wanting to blend in with the other children. In the end, the book celebrates the uniqueness of each child.
Cave Dada Picky Eater by Brandon Reese, Chronicle Books
Brandon Reese’s Cave Dada picture books are funny accounts of the misadventures of a Stone Age father and his toddler son, Baba. In the first book, Baba wants his father to read him a bedtime book, which takes more effort than one might expect since Baba’s books are made out of stone. In the Cave Dada Picky Eater, it is morning and Baba wants an egg for breakfast, but Cave Dada is all out of eggs. What follows is a series of mishaps as Cave Dada tries to entice his son to eat something else for breakfast. Cave Dada eventually finds an egg and invents the omelet in the process of cooking it.
Jump at the Sun: The True-Life Story of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston by Alicia D. Williams, Atheneum Books for Young Readers
In Jump at the Sun, Alicia D. Williams shows how Zora Neale Hurston’s experiences growing up in Eatonville, Florida, during the 1890s shaped her interest in African American folklore and sparked her love of storytelling. Williams focuses much of the book on Hurston’s childhood and early adulthood, but she touches on Hurston’s career as a folklorist, anthropologist and professional writer. As several reviewers have noted, the book has a lively, joyful tone that is matched by Jacqueline Alcántara’s vibrant and energetic illustrations.
List of Ten by Halli Gomez, Sterling Teen
List of Ten is a young adult novel featuring a sixteen-year-old boy named Troy Hayes. Troy suffers from both Tourette Syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Although Troy has serious problems, his personality is not defined entirely by his conditions. Troy is a fully developed and sympathetic character who succeeds in forging meaningful and complex relationships with other characters.
The Longest Letsgoboy by Derick Wilder, Chronicle Books
The Longest Letsgoboy tells the story of an old dog and a young girl going for one last walk in the woods together. Narrated in the voice of the dog, the story captures the special relationship between a dog and a child. The dog has a unique way of talking– referring to trees as tallsticks, and squirrels as branchjumpers– and uses the name Little when talking about his girl. The dog’s love of Little shines through on every page. Cátia Chien’s mixed-media illustrations are in perfect sync with the strong emotions that the story evokes.
Phoebe Unfired by Amalie Jahn, BermLord
Phoebe Unfired is a young adult novel about a sixteen-year-old girl who wrestles with germophobia and depression after getting Covid. The novel explores the psychological dimensions of the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of its impact on the lives of young people. In the end, the central character must decide if she wants to live in isolation or risk initiating friendships.
Narrow Escapes: A Poetic Diary of the Coronavirus by Tanure Ojaide, Spears Books
Narrow Escapes is presented as a series of poetic diary entries, spanning from March 19 to October 31, 2020. Each of the poems is a response to the coronavirus pandemic, but they vary in focus from the global impact of the pandemic to the very personal impact on one’s family members.
Of Earth and Sky: Poetry Anthology 2021 curated by Boris “Bluz” Rogers, Jay Ward and Jordan Bailey, designed and implemented by artist Bree Stallings, Blumenthal Performing Arts
Of Earth and Sky: Poetry Anthology 2021 is part of a larger multi-media project. The brainchild of British installation artist Luke Jerram, this project originated in the city of Gloucester in the UK and it is now touring the world. He envisioned Earth and Sky as a large-scale poetry installation in which he used lines from poems to form a temporary sculpture trail. Of Earth and Sky made its American debut in Charlotte thanks to Blumenthal Performing Arts. In preparing for the Charlotte version of this project, the project leaders and poetry curators associated with Blumenthal solicited original poems by Charlotte writers and then used lines from these poems for the installation in uptown. Although the installation came down in October, the project lives on in the form of a newly published book titled Of Earth and Sky: Poetry Anthology 2021. This anthology includes one poem from each of the 200 Charlotte writers who submitted their poetry to the Of Earth and Sky installation project.
Mark I. West is a professor of English at UNC Charlotte. He also writes Storied Charlotte, a weekly blog that celebrates Charlotte’s community of readers and writers.
In this article
- A Poetic Diary of the Coronavirus
- Alicia D. Williams
- Amalie Jahn
- Atheneum Books for Young Readers
- Atmosphere Press
- Avery Caswell
- Becoming Vanessa
- blumenthal performing arts
- Bluz Rogers
- Bonnie Cone
- Books for Young Readers
- Boris Rogers
- Brandon Reese
- Bree Stallings
- Bywater Books
- Cátia Chien
- Cave Dada Picky Eater
- Cheris Hodges
- Chris Rudisill
- Chronicle Books
- Confederate Monuments and the Ongoing Fight for Racial Justice
- Dear Miss Cushman
- Derick Wilder
- Doctors and Friends
- Falstaff Books
- Fatal Scores
- Founding of UNC Charlotte
- Halli Gomez
- Jay Ward
- Jewel in the Crown
- Jordan Bailey
- Jump at the Sun: The True-Life Story of Unstoppable Storycatcher
- Karen L. Cox
- Kimmery Martin
- Koehler Books
- List of Ten
- Mark de Castrique
- Martin Settle
- Michael A. Almond
- Nancy Northcott
- Narrow Escapes
- No Common Ground
- non fiction
- north carolina
- Of Earth and Sky
- Open Your Heart
- Paula Martinac
- Phoebe Unfired
- Poetry Anthology
- Poetry Curators
- Poisoned Pen Press
- Project Leaders
- Salvation: A Novel Based on a True Story
- Spears Books
- Sterling Teen
- Stories of COVID-19
- Tanure Ojaide
- Teaching During the Jurassic: Wit and Wisdom from an Old Hippie Teacher
- The Longest Letsgoboy
- The Steel Rose
- The Tannery
- TouchPoint Press
- UNC Charlotte
- University of North Carolina Press
- Vanessa Brantley-Newton
- William Thomas Jeffers
- Zora Neale Hurston