Before Christmas, knowing some people were waiting till the last minute to shop or simply hadn't found quite the right extra gift for someone on their list, I suggested a CD by local musicians Ashby Stokes, Jake Bartley, Will Thompson and Keller Ridgeway. Recording under the name The Colly Birds, the musicians produced their first CD, just in time for Christmas, title "First Noel."
Some readers apparently liked the idea and took me up on making a purchase. For the record, the CD is still available (Call me, as I still have a few handy and ready to sell. And no, I'm not an agent and I'm making no money on the deal. Just trying to help out some darn good local talent). So what if Christmas is over! You might need a little Christmas come July. Or you might need to stock up on a gift for Christmas 2014.
Anyway, some of you are thoroughly and completely through with Christmas and there's no way, no how you're going to even think about ribbons and wrapping paper, much less gifts, until about November. And that's fine, too.
Instead, you're trying to figure out what to do with your time. All the leaves are off the trees and out of the yard (they are, aren't they?), the decorations are put away, the house is tidied and soon the bowl games will have all been played out.

SO, RATHER THAN THINKING ABOUT projects around the house that can wait till spring, rather than having any Christmas gift thoughts, you might think of yourself and what you'd like to do during the winter months. How about some reading time? Maybe you got a good book or two for Christmas, but you still have some room on the shelf and some time on your hands to curl up with one or two more. And maybe you'd like something closer to home, so to speak. Better than that, maybe you're not only into the college football games, but also the pros. And you just happen to be a fan of the team the Palmetto State lays claim to — the Carolina Panthers.


If that's the case, and if you could use some lighter reading, you might want to pick up a copy of "100 Things Panthers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die," written by sports writer Scott Fowler and published by Triumph Books.
Fowler's not just any sports writer. He's been writing about the Panthers since they first arrived on the scene in 1995. The Charlotte resident covered 200-plus Panthers games, so he might be considered something of an expert on all things Panthers.
Your favorite players are covered in the 286-page book in tales that share their best moments and are anecdotal. True to the sports writer's trade, the book is also loaded with facts about the players, coaches and teams.

FOR EXAMPLE, DO YOU REMEMBER the Panthers' first-ever win? Hey, if you're a true fan you already know, so no spoiler alert needed. If you're only a passive fan, the book will beef up your Panthers knowledge. That might come in handy during the Super Bowl or at a party.
The win? The Panthers beat the New York Jets 26-15 at Clemson. Why Clemson? The Charlotte stadium was still under construction.
This next book wouldn't have been a good one to tout for Christmas. Not because it's poorly written, but rather because of the subject matter. Plus, it only became available this month.
History buffs, especially those who cannot get their hands on enough books about a particular war that involved the Palmetto State from the git-go, will want to get this new release. But again, a word of warning. War is not pretty, but when the stories are about rape in war times it's even uglier.
Kim Murphy has produced a highly informative and enlightening book, "I Had Rather Die: Rape in the Civil War." Again, not a pleasant topic, and one that is rarely touched by other historians. In fact, historians have often referred to the Civil War as a "low-rape" conflict. Murphy, however, in her seven years of exhaustive and extensive research, proves otherwise. Rape, sadly, was rampant.

MURPHY PORED OVER NEWSPAPERS, official records, diaries, letters and court documents in producing what is certainly a gut-wrenching expose on the topic. Coachlight Press is the publisher of the 180-page book.
Here, an excerpt from chapter six:
"The argument that the Civil War was a low-rape war usually ignores the fact that black women were rarely taken seriously when they were raped.
"In December 1864, Union Brigadier Saxton reported to Secretary of War Stanton:
'The women were held as the legitimate prey of lust, and as they had been taught it was a crime to resist a white man they had not learned to dare to defend their chastity. Licentiousness was widespread; the morals of the old plantation life seemed revived in the army of occupation.'"
I know, I know. Some people would much prefer to ignore that side of the war as they cling to the flag and the belief and hope the South will rise again. Those people won't be reading Murphy's book anyway. But others who don't mind a solid dose of reality and want to gain further insight into the horrors of the Civil War will have to get a copy. It won't be pleasant reading, but not all reading should be for pleasure only.

Whiting is executive editor of the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-2522; email rwhiting@indexjournal.com ,or follow him on Twitter at IJEDITOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.