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North Carolina Reads

North Carolina Reads is North Carolina Humanities’ award-winning, virtual statewide book club! North Carolina Reads annually features five books that explore issues of racial, social, and gender equity and the history and culture of North Carolina. All featured books pose critical questions about how North Carolinians view their personal roles in helping to promote and form a more just and inclusive society. 

From February to June 2024, NC Humanities is hosting virtual monthly book club discussion events where participants will hear from book authors and topic experts. Libraries, community groups, and individuals across North Carolina are encouraged to read along with NC Humanities, and then host their own local book discussions to accompany our virtual events.

Books, reading, literacy, and literary history are important parts of NC Humanities’ mission. At the heart of North Carolina Reads is NC Humanities’ desire to connect communities through shared reading experiences. Reading with others develops critical-thinking skills; strengthens minds, vocabulary, and mental health; and creates opportunities to empathize with others by hearing and relating to their experiences and stories.

In 2023 North Carolina Reads received a national Schwartz Prize from the Federation of State Humanities Councils for its outstanding statewide impact. Since 2022, North Carolina Humanities has distributed over 10,500 free North Carolina Reads books and resources across the state to help increase equitable access to books.

Register to Attend Upcoming Discussions

North Carolina Reads will be back in 2025! Check back soon for more details. 

Non-Fiction. A young Black man is falsely accused of murdering a white woman in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and is sentenced to life in prison, where he spent 19 years behind bars before his tireless attorneys were able to prove his innocence. Part true crime drama, part chronicle of a remarkable life cut short by systematic prejudice, Zerwick’s narrative powerfully illuminates the sustained catastrophe faced by an innocent person in prison and the difficulty all formerly incarcerated people face when they try to restart their lives.

Our book club discussion featured Phoebe Zerwick and Mark Rabil in a conversation moderated by Mike Wakeford. Watch the Recording.

Historical Fiction. After an unwanted southern migration, an upside-down world in 1943 offers military wife and mother, Maggie Slone, a job at Charlotte’s largest wartime employer––the massive and dangerous Shell Assembly Plant. Meanwhile, military wife and Alabama native, Kora Bell’s steadfast determination enables her to navigate the challenges she faces as a Black woman seeking employment under Jim Crow. A shared love of literature spurs an unlikely friendship between Kora and Maggie, and the two work together to unify the plant’s workforce.

Our book club discussion featured Meredith Ritchie and Dr. Sarah Patterson in a conversation moderated by Laura Demski Williams. Watch the Recording.

Non-Fiction. In this intimate and eye-opening book, Diya Abdo–daughter of refugees, U.S. immigrant, English professor, and activist—shares the stories of seven refugees. Coming from around the world, they’re welcomed by Every Campus A Refuge (ECAR), an organization Diya founded to leverage existing resources at colleges to provide temporary shelter to refugee families. We learn that these refugees from Burma, Burundi, Iraq, Palestine, Syria, and Uganda lived in homes they loved, left against their will, moved to countries without access or rights, and were among the 1% of the “lucky” few to resettle after a long wait, almost certain never to return to the homes they never wanted to leave. We learn that anybody, at any time, can become a refugee.

Our book club discussion featured Diya Abdo and Dr. Omar Ali in a moderated conversation. Watch the Recording.

Fiction. The riveting story of a young Black musician who discovers that his old family fiddle is actually a priceless Stradivarius: when it’s stolen on the eve of the world’s most prestigious classical music competition, he risks everything to get it back. Growing up Black in rural North Carolina, Ray McMillian’s life is already mapped out. But Ray has a gift and a dream—he’s determined to become a world-class professional violinist, and nothing will stand in his way. Not his mother, who wants him to stop making such a racket; not the fact that he can’t afford a violin suitable to his talents; not even the racism inherent in the world of classical music.

Our book club discussion featured Brendan Slocumb and Dr. Marcus Pyle in a moderated conversation. Watch the Recording.

Non-Fiction. A gloriously funny, nostalgic memoir of a popular ESPN reporter who, in the summer of 1994, was a fresh-out-of-college intern for a minor league baseball team. Madness and charm ensue as Ryan McGee spends the season steeped in sweat, fertilizer, nacho cheese sauce, and pure, unadulterated joy in North Carolina with the Asheville Tourists. He has since risen the ESPN ranks to national TV, radio, and Internet host, but his time in Asheville still looms large.

Our book club discussion featured Ryan McGee and Dr. Nick Buzzelli in a moderated conversation. Watch the Recording. 

Watch the Latest Discussion

Join the Club

  • Get the books you want to read from your local library or bookstore.
  • Accessible books may be requested courtesy of the State Library of North Carolina Accessible Books & Library Services. Please read the eligibility requirements to see if you qualify for service.
  • Earlier this year, NC Humanities supplied over 4,000 free North Carolina Reads books to readers around the state to aid in equitable book access. Book Boxes included a selection of the five book titles, unique swag, and bookmarks.
  • Join thousands of other North Carolinians at one of the five virtual book club discussion events hosted by NC Humanities. 
  • All North Carolina Reads book club discussions are recorded and available on YouTube.

Thank You to Our Statewide Sponsor

Past Selections and FAQs

  • Are North Carolina Reads book discussions free to attend?
    • Yes! Discussions are free with registration and will be recorded and available to re-watch on NC Humanities’ YouTube channel.
  • Does North Carolina Humanities provide free North Carolina Reads books?
    • To make participation in North Carolina Reads possible and ensure equitable access to materials, NC Humanities provides free book resources to groups and individuals in communities where participation would otherwise be limited. Because North Carolina Reads is a statewide initiative, NC Humanities prioritizes giving free books and resources to groups and individuals in underserved and/or under resourced communities*. 
    • NC Humanities takes requests from groups and individuals for a limited supply of free books (dates announced in fall/winter). Books are sent in “book boxes” which include a reading schedule and discussion guide, bookmarks, and more.
    • NC Humanities encourages everyone to contact their local library or bookstore for North Carolina Reads books.
    • Please note: you do not need to receive books from NC Humanities to participate in North Carolina Reads.
  • Who selects the North Carolina Reads featured books?
    • Using its expertise and resources as the North Carolina Center for the Book, NC Humanities selects the books with input and feedback from our volunteer book selection group and the public. Annually, NC Humanities convenes a group of rotating members to provide feedback on selections for that year’s five featured books. Group members may include past participating North Carolina Reads group coordinators, authors, content experts, moderators, and the State Library of North Carolina to inform selection. NC Humanities conducts an annual public survey (available in spring/summer)  to see what books most interest you!

*Rural communities; low-income communities (including those located in Tier 1 Counties); African American, Hispanic/Latinx, Asian American, Arab American, Native and Indigenous populations; older adult populations; persons with disabilities; first-time program participants.

A North Carolina Reads book may be fiction or non-fiction, and should meet the following criteria:

  • Prominently features a story, event, and/or characters and individuals from North Carolina history and culture.
  • Addresses one or more of the themes of racial, social, and/or gender equity and promotes community discussion on these themes.
  • Appeals to a wide range of adult (18+) readers of different backgrounds in the state of North Carolina.
  • Is of manageable length to read in one month (up to 400 pages).
  • Is contemporary and published within 10 years of the current North Carolina Reads program.
  • Is in print and readily available from the publisher. If possible, the book is available in audio, electronic and/or other accessible formats. Please note self-published books are ineligible for consideration.
  • Written by an author residing in or from North Carolina is a consideration for selection, but not a requirement.
  • Written by a living author is a consideration for selection, but not a requirement.
  • Written by an author not previously featured in a North Carolina Center for the Book program is a consideration for selection, but not a requirement.
  • If you have a book that you would like to share with us that meets the selection criteria, please complete this short form
  • We are currently accepting requests for potential North Carolina Reads 2025 titles now through May 1, 2024. 

Please note submission of a title does not guarantee selection.