What should I be reading this spring?

Some of you know that I get this question from my friends each year when the weather starts to warm up. And, you remember, I often respond with a list of a variety of books, each of which has a North Carolina connection and, often, just happen to be scheduled on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch’s upcoming programs.

First up is former poet laureate of North Carolina, essayist, critic, teacher mentor of many of North Carolina’s outstanding writers, recent recipient of the John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities, and acknowledged by many to be the dean of the North Carolina literary community, Fred Chappell. Every student of North Carolina writing should become familiar with Chappell’s work. His recent book of short fiction, “Ancestors and Others: New and Selected Stories,” showcases his storytelling talents by taking his readers all over the world and then back to people we know in North Carolina. He will talk about the book and his writing career on North Carolina Bookwatch on Friday, May 6, at 9:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 8, at 5 p.m.

Kathy Pories, senior editor at Algonquin Books, is the series editor of “New Stories from the South,” an annual collection of the best short fiction in our region. Reading this collection of authors like Lee Smith and Jill McCorkle is a great way to sample the best of today’s important southern fiction writers. On Bookwatch, Pories answers questions like “What sets southern literary writers apart from other American writers?” and “What makes a short story different from a short novel?” (May 13, 15)

Jennifer Thompson and Ronald Cotton. You probably remember reading about their nightmare stories. She is brutally raped and must live with that trauma for the rest of her life. Then, based on her testimony, Cotton, though innocent, is convicted and spends more than 10 years in prison until DNA evidence proves his innocence. Their poignant story is the subject of the book they wrote together, “Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption.” (May 20, 22)

With the legislature debating whether or not to pass a law making NASCAR North Carolina’s official sport, it is a good time to read Daniel Pierce’s “Real NASCAR: White Lightning, Red Clay, and Big Bill France.” Some North Carolina basketball and baseball fans might disagree, but there can be no argument that for many of us, stock car racing, the NASCAR variety, is their passion. They can tell you how North Carolina moonshiners driving their fast car away from the revenuers got things started. The real story, as told by Pierce, is even more interesting. (May 27,29)

In its review of Wells Tower’s collection of short stories, “Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned,” The New York Times reviewer wrote, “This arresting debut collection of stories decisively establishes Mr. Tower as a writer of uncommon talent.” Tower is one of the young North Carolina writers that people all over the country are watching. (June 3, 5)

Raleigh author Scott Huler is the 2011 Piedmont Laureate. Recently, he asked his readers to think about how we are surrounded by electric, telephone, and cable wires, water and sewer lines, utility poles, cell phone towers, roads, and other infrastructures that connect us. Huler followed all these links from his house to their source or final destination. He shares those journeys in his book, “On the Grid: A Plot of Land, an Average Neighborhood, and the Systems that Make our World Work” and on North Carolina Bookwatch (June 10, 12)

I hope you will save this column and use it as a guide for reading and television viewing in the next few weeks.

Now, what will YOU be reading this Spring?