South Carolina leaders offer history, fiction summer reading suggestions

Take a look


Summertime and vacation conjure images of spending time with a light novel — a “beach read” — to while away the time and recharge the brain’s batteries.

But what if someone wanted to read something a little more substantive to learn about South Carolina’s history or politics? Or read a great novel that inspires?

At the top of the history list should be The Palmetto State: The Making of Modern South Carolina, a 2009 examination of modern South Carolina history by Jack Bass and Scott Poole that gives context to everything going on today. It’s well-written, not too long, and easy to finish in a week.

“It’s a history book with the theme of politics throughout,” reflects College of Charleston political science professor Gibbs Knotts, who also recommended the book. “My favorite chapter is chapter 11, ‘The Republican Rise.’ The transformation from the solid Democratic South to the reliably Republican South is one of the most consequential political changes in American history.”

If you’re looking for more detail, there’s a 716-page brick of a book, Walter Edgar’s comprehensive and outstanding South Carolina: A History published in 1998.

“It is my favorite for history and politics,” Gov. Henry McMaster said this week, adding “Dan Hollis’ short, out-of-print A Brief History of South Carolina is an excellent introduction.”

Bo Moore, dean of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Citadel, also recommended Edgar’s history: “The single best, one-volume account of the full-sweep of the South Carolina experience.”

Two readers endorsed a new book, Denmark Vesey’s Garden: Slavery and Memory in the Cradle of the Confederacy, by Ethan J. Kytle and Blain Roberts. The New York Times called the book, set in Charleston, a “fascinating and important new historical study.”

Michael Boulware Moore, head of the soon-to-be-built International African American Museum, said he is currently reading the work. “It’s a clear and unflinching look at Charleston, ‘the capital of slavery,’ and the histories that that institution spawned.” Fellow Charlestonian Jennet Robinson Alterman, the chair of SC WREN, also recommended the book.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, pointed to his 2015 memoir, Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black. He said: “Blessed Experiences was intended to be a primer for young people interested in politics,” adding that Frank E. Jordan Jr.’s 1966 The Primary State on the history of the state’s Democratic Party from 1896 to 1962 might be a good first history read.

Longtime Columbia public relations guru Bud Ferillo suggested Christopher Dickey’s 2015 tome, Our Man in Charleston: Britain’s Secret Agent in the Civil War. Ferillo called it “a brilliant and exciting history of the anti-slavery British consul general who helped, at great personal risk, keep Britain from backing the Confederacy to continue the cotton supply.”

University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides pointed to Slaves in the Family, a modern classic by South Carolina’s Edward Ball. A bestseller from 1998, it won the National Book Award and launched Ball’s career. Kirkus Reviews noted, “The former Village Voice columnist displays his journalistic moxie wading through the voluminous written record (10,000 pages of family papers spanning four centuries, National Archives documents, census reports, and more) to flesh out the family character and track down slave descendants.”

But what if you want something about South Carolina, but lighter and still serious?

Several people recommended novels by Pat Conroy, such as The Prince of Tides and Beach Music. S.C. Rep. Bill Herbkersman, (R-Beaufort), said The Great Santini is his favorite novel of all time because “we can all feel a little of us in that book.”

“Conroy captures the Lowcountry,” Furman professor Danielle Vinson told us. She also recommended Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees as a South Carolina novel with oomph.

Conservation Voters of South Carolina Executive Director John Tynan of Columbia, Moore, and Knotts recommended novels by Ron Rash such as Saints at the River.

Robinson and Charleston food author Nathalie Dupree suggested an oldie, but goodie, Three O’clock Dinner by Josephine Pinckney.

And Ferillo reminded us not to forget a great beach read from the beach that is just plain good: Sullivan’s Island, by Dorothea Benton Frank.

What are your recommendations?

Support the Charleston City Paper

We’ve been covering Charleston since 1997 and plan to be here with the latest and Best of Charleston for many years to come. In a time where local journalism is struggling, the City Paper is investing in the future of Charleston as a place where diverse, engaging views can flourish. We can't do it without our readers. If you'd like to support local, independent journalism:

UP NEXT FROM

FEATURE

Lata: Help Charleston restaurants, vote ‘Yes’ on affordable housing ballot questions

Mike Lata

Charleston has become a world-class city, known for its hospitality and charm. The tourism renaissance began in the early 2000s and has carried on to today. Historical sites, first-class hotels and a burgeoning food scene puts Charleston at the top of national lists to visit. However, in order to sustain this level of accomplishment, many […]


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Feeling COVID-19 impact, Charleston asking for warming shelter volunteers

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many Charleston locations that have previously hosted warming shelters will not be doing so this winter. But, since the need is still there, the city of Charleston is asking for help. City leaders are asking organized groups, like community clubs or religious groups to help operate a warming center that […]

The Agenda: High turnout exposes problems; Harrison raises $108M to unseat Graham

2020 election expected to bring historic voter turnout, exposes problems. With 772,000 voters already having cast their ballot — either by mail in voting or by in person absentee — the 2020 election is expected to surpass the previous record set in 2016, when 2.1 million votes were counted. However, the turnout has exposed problems […]

SC House justice panel seems to skirt race, critics say

By his account, Marcus McDonald was the youngest person in Room 110 of the Blatt Building at the Statehouse complex when he took the lectern this month.  The 23-year-old Charleston man also lacked law enforcement or attorney credentials — a hallmark of many speaking before the special House Equitable Justice System and Law Enforcement Reform Committee. […]

10/25 COVID-19 update: 11.1% positive, 1,281 cases; 7 deaths

COVID-19 updates: South Carolina health officials reported 1,281 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, with 7 additional confirmed deaths. With 11,501 on Saturday, the 11.1 percent of tests came back positive. As of 6:57 p.m. Oct. 25, via S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control:Confirmed cases in S.C.:  163,143 (+628)Positive tests in Charleston County (total): 16,576 (+54)Negative tests in S.C.: 1,642,954Deaths […]