Have a North Carolina Nerd in the Family? Here Are 9 Books to Gift 

Henry Frye, far right, with NC Central law professor Hugo Payne and Dean Daniel G. Sampson. One of 12 children born to Richmond County tobacco farmers, Frye became the first Black person elected to the state legislature after Jim Crow, the first Black person to serve on the state Supreme Court, and the first Black person to be chief justice of that court. A history of this remarkable man makes our list of NC-centric books to gift. (Image via NC Central)

By Dylan Rhoney

December 6, 2022

A comprehensive history of this fascinating state, the (ongoing) struggle for voting rights, and the scandal that rocked North Carolina politics: They all make our NC-centric reading list. 

The holidays are just around the corner and like me, many of you are probably wondering what gift you should get for your family and friends.

Take it from us: Books make a great present. 

In a world where we are all living on smartphones and computers, it can be refreshing to not have our eyes buried into a screen. Most importantly, books teach us something new and broaden our horizons.

Looking to pick up any of these book recommendations? Here’s our guide to the independent NC bookstores to buy them in.

There is so much to learn about North Carolina and its history:

“North Carolina: A History” by William S. Powell

UNC Press

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North Carolina: A History is a classic. First published in 1977, William S. Powell takes readers on a journey from the 1500s to the present day. The book covers all aspects of North Carolina’s history, including its time as a British colony, the role it played in the American Revolution, The Civil War, reconstruction, the Great Depression, and the Civil Rights Movement. 

For readers looking to expand their knowledge of the history of the state, this book provides a great opportunity to do so. At 218 pages, this isn’t a difficult read, and could be a great option for anyone looking to get back into the habit or a gift to a young person looking to learn more about our state. The book is well-rounded, providing critical knowledge to the reader about the events that have made North Carolina the place it is today.

“The Vote Collectors: The True Story of the Scamsters, Politicians, and Preachers behind the Nation’s Greatest Electoral Fraud” by Michael Graff & Nick Ochsner 

UNC Press


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“The Vote Collectors” focuses on the 2018 9th Congressional District election in North Carolina. 

As many know, this election turned into one of the biggest scandals in recent history. Democrat Dan McCready and Republican Mark Harris faced off in one of the most competitive races in the country, with Harris initially appearing victorious. However, as many know and the book goes into depth about, there was something rotten happening in Bladen County

Graff and Ochsner provide readers with an in-depth account of how a small county three hours east of Charlotte became the center of the political world just a few years ago.

To fully comprehend Bladen County, readers will learn about the history of the community and how it has shaped current events. In buying this book, you will learn the full account of how a ballot harvesting scandal engulfed the North Carolina Republican Party and left the people of the 9th District without representation for months after Election Day 2018.

Fragile Democracy: The Struggle Over Race & Voting Rights In North Carolina By James L. Leloudis & Robert R. Korstad

UNC Press

In Fragile Democracy, Leloudis and Korstad give readers a history lesson and inform them on contemporary battles taking place in North Carolina as it pertains to voting rights.

The book focuses on historic examples of voting rights expansion in the state, as well as times when the right to vote has been under attack.

In the present day, the book looks at efforts to curb voting rights in the form of voter ID laws and gerrymandering. 

What makes this book so important is that it provides the reader with a historical analysis of voting rights in North Carolina and explains how many of the issues facing the state today are not new.

Furthermore, the book educates readers on how race has been used to exclude some North Carolinians from participating in society and having the same opportunities that white citizens have had.

This is essential reading for those who want to learn more about the battle for voting rights in North Carolina, how voter suppression has been used in the state in the past and in the present day, and for those who want to learn how they can fight back against this oppression. 

“That’s Rufus: A Memoir of Tar Heel Politics, Watergate and Public Life” by Rufus L. Edmisten

McFarland Books

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That’s Rufus is an informative and expansive account of the life of Rufus Edmisten, a giant in North Carolina politics for several decades.

Edmisten recounts his life growing up in Boone and his work on the Watergate Committee with Sen. Sam Ervin. Edmisten was the first person in American history to serve a subpoena to a sitting president.

Edmisten’s journey did not end with his work on Watergate. He served as North Carolina’s Attorney General before suffering a difficult defeat in the 1984 Gubernatorial Election

The book also provides readers a glimpse into Edmisten’s political comeback, his friendship with President Clinton, and his love of gardening. This book is an excellent option for those looking for a political memoir focused on North Carolina.

Henry Frye: North Carolina’s First African-American Chief Justice by Howard E. Covington, Jr.

McFarland Books

This excellent book on the life and career of former Chief Justice Henry Frye is a must read for anyone interested in North Carolina political history.

The book chronicles Chief Justice Frye’s extraordinary life from his early years in Richmond County, throughout his career, and eventual nomination to the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Frye was a trailblazer in North Carolina politics and society. He was the first Black person to be elected to the North Carolina Legislature in the 20th Century, the first Black person to serve on the North Carolina Supreme Court, and the first Black person to be Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Readers will learn about one of the most important figures in North Carolina’s history and how he overcame barriers growing up in the Jim Crow South to lead one of the state’s three branches of government.

Great gift for anyone wanting to expand their knowledge of our state’s history, for those with an interest in the political history of North Carolina and the South, and for those with an interest in law.

“Andy Griffith’s Manteo: His Real Mayberry” by John Railey

The History Group

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Andy Griffith was a fixture of American Culture in the 1960s. His portrayal of Sheriff Andy Taylor brought small town North Carolina to television sets across America. 

Although younger Americans may not be familiar with the show, many will appreciate this account of Andy Griffith’s life. The book focuses on Griffith’s love of Manteo, located on the Outer Banks.

Ironically, the man whose fame is credited to being the sheriff of Mayberry, loosely based on the mountain town of Mount Airy, found refuge on the coast of North Carolina. 

What makes this book so intriguing is that it provides an account of a famous North Carolinian who has faded from memory for many.

However, in his lifetime and during his career, Griffith was known around the country as Sheriff Andy Taylor or Ben Matlock.

“A Guide to the Historic Architecture of North Carolina” – Western, Piedmont, and Eastern NC Editions

by Catherine W. Bishir, Michael T. Southman, and Jennifer F. Martin

UNC Press

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Perhaps this is cheating, but I feel compelled to include this three-book series as a recommendation.

Architecture is part of our daily lives whether we live in a small town or a large city. This book series provides examples of architecture in all 100 counties in North Carolina. [Bonus: We picked some of our favorites in the state here. ]

Readers are treated to learning about historic churches in the North Carolina Mountains, skyscrapers in Charlotte and Raleigh, and old houses that define some of our state’s small towns. 

What I appreciate the most about this series is that it is truly a great way of connecting our state. It allows those living at the coast to learn about the architecture of the mountains and those living in cities to connect with the smaller towns. 

Little Poplar Schoolhouse in Mitchell County and the Bank of America Corporate Center in Charlotte couldn’t be more different. One is a small building in a small mountain county, while the other is the tallest in North Carolina, located in one of the fastest growing cities in America. However, both structures tell the story of this state. They weave the past and the present together.


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