Hi, Tar Heels! Class is back in session and we are stoked to be just a skip away from football season *heart eyes*. Break in the new school year by reigniting your spark of intellectual curiosity with works written by the brilliant staff and alumni that have graced UNC’s halls. From the work of the late and great Randall Keenan to the up and coming Gabriel Bump, savor the literary genius that UNC has inspired and will forever live within the spines of these books.

  1. Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom

In eight highly praised treatises on beauty, media, money, and more, Tressie McMillan Cottom—award-winning professor and acclaimed author of Lower Ed—is unapologetically “thick”: deemed “thick where I should have been thin, more where I should have been less,” McMillan Cottom refuses to shy away from blending the personal with the political, from bringing her full self and voice to the fore of her analytical work. Thick “transforms narrative moments into analyses of whiteness, black misogyny, and status-signaling as means of survival for black women” (Los Angeles Review of Books) with “writing that is as deft as it is amusing” (Darnell L. Moore).

P.S. We have signed copies!

2. Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy by Tressie McMillan Cottom

Lower Ed is quickly becoming the definitive book on the fastest-growing sector of higher education at the turn of the twenty-first century: for-profit colleges. With sharp insight and deliberate acumen, Tressie McMillan Cottom—a sociologist who was once a recruiter at two for-profit colleges—expertly parses the fraught dynamics of this big-money industry.

Drawing on more than one hundred interviews with students, employees, executives, and activists, Lower Ed details the benefits, pitfalls, and real costs of the expansion of for-profit colleges. Now with a new foreword by Stephanie Kelton, economic advisor to Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, this smart and essential book cuts to the very core of our nation’s broken social contracts and the challenges we face in our divided, unequal society.

P.S. We have signed copies and donate 10% of this book’s sales to The Night School of Durham. 

3. If I Had Two Wings by Randall Kenan

Mingling the earthy with the otherworldly, these ten stories chronicle ineffable events of ordinary in Kenan’s fictional territory of Tims Creek, North Carolina. Shot through with humor and seasoned by inventiveness and maturity, Kenan riffs on appetites of all kinds, on the eerie persistence of history, and on unstoppable lovers and unexpected salvations. If I Had Two Wings is a rich chorus of voices and visions, dreams and prophecies, marked by physicality and spirit. Kenan’s prose is nothing short of wondrous.

4. All the Agents and Saints by Stephanie Elizondo Griest

After a decade of chasing stories around the globe, intrepid travel writer Stephanie Elizondo Griest followed the magnetic pull home—only to discover that her native South Texas had been radically transformed in her absence. Ravaged by drug wars and barricaded by an eighteen-foot steel wall, her ancestral land had become the nation’s foremost crossing ground for undocumented workers, many of whom perished along the way.

5. Rocket Fantastic by Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Like nothing before it, Rocket Fantastic reinvents the landscape and language of the body in interconnected poems that entwine a fabular past with an iridescent future by blurring, with disarming vulnerability, the real and the imaginary. Sorcerous, jazz-tinged, erotic, and wide-eyed, this is a pioneering work by a space-age balladeer.

6. UNC A to Z by Nicholas Graham & Cecelia Moore

You can’t be a real Tar Heel without reading this book! Covering everything from the Old Well to the Speaker Ban and more, UNC A to Z is a concise, easy-to-read introduction to the nation’s first public university, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Perfect for new students getting to know the campus or alumni who want to learn more about their alma mater, this richly illustrated reference contains more than 350 entries packed with fascinating facts, interesting stories, and little-known histories of the people, places, and events that have shaped the Carolina we know today.

7. Everywhere You Don’t Belong by Gabriel Bump

In this alternately witty and heartbreaking debut novel, Gabriel Bump gives us an unforgettable protagonist, Claude McKay Love. Claude isn’t dangerous or brilliant—he’s an average kid coping with abandonment, violence, riots, failed love, and societal pressures as he steers his way past the signposts of youth: childhood friendships, basketball tryouts, first love, first heartbreak, picking a college, moving away from home.

Claude just wants a place where he can fit. As a young black man born on the South Side of Chicago, he is raised by his civil rights–era grandmother, who tries to shape him into a principled actor for change; yet when riots consume his neighborhood, he hesitates to take sides, unwilling to let race define his life. He decides to escape Chicago for another place, to go to college, to find a new identity, to leave the pressure cooker of his hometown behind. But as he discovers, he cannot; there is no safe haven for a young black man in this time and place called America.

P.S. Copies are on sale for 10% off!

8. Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

A flying demon feeding on human energies. A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down. And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.

She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth

9. Bewilderness by Karen Tucker

Set in rural, poverty-stricken North Carolina, this “beautiful, gritty, and piercing” novel follows two young women—best friends—as they “journey through the highs and lows of friendship, love, and addiction,” perfect for readers of Julie Buntin’s Marlena (Erika Carter, author of Lucky You).

Told in a riveting dialogue between the girls’ addicted past and their hopes for a better future, Bewilderness is not just a brilliant, funny, heartbreaking novel about opioid abuse, it’s also a moving look at how intense, intimate friendships can shape every young woman’s life.

10. Speaking of Feminism by Rachel F. Seidman

From the Women’s Marches to the MeToo movement, it is clear that feminist activism is still alive and well in the twenty-first century. But how does a new generation of activists understand the work of the movement today? How are their strategies and goals unfolding? What worries feminist leaders most, and what are their hopes for the future? In Speaking of Feminism, Rachel F. Seidman presents insights from twenty-five feminist activists from around the United States, ranging in age from twenty to fifty. Allowing their voices to take center stage through the use of in-depth oral history interviews, Seidman places their narratives in historical context and argues that they help explain how recent new forms of activism developed and flourished so quickly. These individuals’ compelling life stories reveal their hard work to build flexible networks, bridge past and present, and forge global connections. This book offers essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the contemporary American women’s movement in all its diversity.

11. Cheated by Jay Smith and Mary Willingham

Written by UNC professor of history Jay Smith and UNC athletics department whistleblower Mary Willingham, Cheated recounts the story of academic fraud in UNC’s athletics department, even as university leaders focused on minimizing the damage in order to keep the billion-dollar college sports revenue machine functioning. Smith and Willingham make an impassioned argument that the “student-athletes” in these programs are being cheated out of what, after all, they are promised in the first place: a college education.

Updated with a new epilogue, the paperback edition of Cheated carries the narrative through the defining events of 2017, including the landmark Wainstein report, the findings of which UNC leaders initially embraced only to push aside in an audacious strategy of denial with the NCAA, ultimately even escaping punishment for offering sham coursework. The ongoing fallout from this scandal—and the continuing spotlight on the failings of college athletics, which are hardly unique to UNC—has continued to inform the debate about how the $16 billion college sports industry operates and influences colleges and universities nationwide.

12. Time Will Tell by Trevy A. McDonald

Thomasine, Rachel, and Hope share laughs and heartaches, hopes and dreams over the years, but only Time Will Tell if their friendship can survive the drama.

Accountant Hope Jones-McCoy goes through life masquerading self-righteousness for saintliness until the world she spent ten years building comes crashing down around her at once. Although she has a sunny disposition, Rachel Curtis-Brown faces dark days as her estranged husband and his chemical dependency leave her to raise two young sons alone. Thomasine Mintor, anthropology and women’s studies professor at the prestigious Steeplechase University, is a preacher’s daughter who’s into everything and everybody but herself, until she has a spiritual awakening and makes a major life change.

Time Will Tell is a story of tragedy and triumph, and the test of true friendship. You’ll find yourself laughing, crying, reflecting on your own hopes and dreams, and even reconnecting with an old friend.

13. Round ‘Bout Midnight by Trevy A. McDonald

A new chapter begins in the lives of childhood friends, Thomasine, Rachel, and Hope. Their friendship has stood the test of time, but more adventures are in store for them…Round ‘Bout Midnight. In this sequel to Time Will Tell, the unresolved issues and hurts Thomasine, Rachel, and Hope experienced during their youth don’t just vanish into thin air.

14. Meander Belt by M. Randal O’Wain

This memoir examines what it means for the son of a carpenter to value mental rather than physical labor and what this does to his relationship with his family, whose livelihood and sensibility are decidedly blue collar. Straining the father-son bond further, O’Wain leaves home to find a life outside Memphis, roaming from place to place, finding odd jobs, and touring with his band. From memory and observation, O’Wain assembles a subtle and spare portrait of his roots, family, and ultimately discovers that his working-class upbringing is not so antithetical to the man he has become.

M. Randal O’Wain earned his MFA from the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program. He is a teaching assistant professor of creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and serves as a National Endowment of the Arts Writing Fellow at the Beckley Federal Correctional Institution. O’Wain is the author of the short story collection Hallelujah Stationand his work has been published in Oxford American, Hotel Amerika, Crazyhorse, and Guernica Magazine. For more information about the author visit randalowain.com.

15. The Copperline Chronicles: A History of the Kings Mill – Morgan Creek Neighborhoods

Beginning as part of Mark Morgan’s farmland in the 1700s, the Kings Mill-Morgan Creek neighborhood continues to play an important role in the Chapel Hill community. Still largely wilderness in the early 20th century, the neighborhood was developed in the post-World War II era by UNC botanists W.C. Coker, Henry Totten, and William Lanier “Billy” Hunt. It became known as “Pill Hill” due to the many medical professionals who lived there after the building of the North Carolina Memorial Hospital in the early 1950s, and later became the home of many notable Chapel Hillians, including the legendary basketball coach Dean Smith and the singer James Taylor. This book details the history, architecture, neighborhood notables, and neighborhood stories of the Kings Mill-Morgan Creek neighborhoods.

Smells Like School Spirit: Books by UNC Staff and Local Authors

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