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Once again, Norwich, Vermont ushered Pages in the Pub into our holiday plans. For the first time since the pandemic, we met in person in the Norwich Inn. And once again, the presenters - Vermont librarian Lucinda Walker, bookseller Emma Nichols Kass, audiobook narrator Danielle Cohen, novelist Katie Crouch, and YA author Ken Cadow did an incredible job of selling a lot of books for the amazing Norwich Bookstore, raising a lot of money for our beloved Norwich Public Library (thanks to the generosity of the Norwich Bookstore and the people attending), confining their reviews to 90 seconds and their written reviews to six words (harder than it sounds), helping many finish (or at least start) their holiday shopping, and giving all of us a GREAT list of books to give and get (and maybe start reading today).
We hope you enjoy this list as much as we enjoyed seeing everyone in person again and hearing these amazing presenters.
COFFEE TABLE BOOKS OR LITERARY GIFTS THAT FIT YOUR GIFT LIST
The Book of (More) Delights by Ross Gay (2019). Bite-sized delights to soothe the soul. ~ Selected by Lucinda
A Handmade Life by William Copperthwaite (2002). Vermont's Chelsea Green. Absolutely lovely book. ~ Selected by Ken
BOOKS FOR YOUR FAVORITE YOUNG READERS (THINK AGES 8-12)
Watership Down: The Graphic Novel by James Sturm (2023). Beautifully illustrated classic. Bridges generation gap. ~ Selected by Ken
The Swifts by Beth Lincoln (2023). Treasure hunt triggers maelstrom of murder ~ Selected by Emma
BOOKS FOR YOUR FAVORITE TWEEN: FOR READERS THINKING ABOUT HIGH SCHOOL BUT NOT YET READY TO BE A HIGH SCHOOLER
West of the Sea by Stephanie Willing (2023). Texas. Dinosaurs. Cryptids. Acceptance. Mental Health. ~ Selected by Danielle
BOOKS FOR YOUR FAVORITE HIGH SCHOOLER
Gather by Ken Cadow (2023). Ken’s skilled words = National Book Finalist. ~ Selected by Lisa
Looking for Alaska by John Green (2005). Unrequited love breaks hearts. Yours included. ~ Selected by Katie
PICTURE BOOKS FOR KIDS: FOR GREAT READ ALOUDS, SNUGGLING OR QUIET CONTEMPLATION
Don't Worry Wuddles by Lita Judge (2023). Helpful' duck knits barnyard chaos. ~ Selected by Emma
BOOKS FOR COOKS (AND WANNA BE COOKS): COOKBOOKS, MEMOIRS, AND ESSAY COLLECTIONS
Snacking Bakes by Yossy Arefi (2023). Super easy, super yummy, a winner!. ~ Selected by Lucinda
I Dream of Dinner by Ali Slagle (2022). Easy, accessible, delicious: dinner is served ~ Selected by Emma
ROMANCE: BECAUSE … LOVE
Hello, Stranger by Katherine Center (2023). Temporary face-blindness causes romantic conundrum ~ Selected by Emma
MEMOIRS: WHEN LIVING VICARIOUSLY HELPS
Thinking Again by Jan Morris (2020). Daily Reminiscences. Wry Humor. Trans Pioneer. ~ Selected by Danielle
The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks (2016). Pairs with cheese & A Farmer's Wife. ~ Selected by Ken
A Farmer's Wife by Helen Rebanks (2023). Pairs with cheese & The Shepherd's Life ~ Selected by Ken
Born A Crime by Trevor Noah (2016). Incredible story. Funniest man on earth. ~ Selected by Katie. (Also a great audiobook.)
ADULT FICTION FOR EVERYONE WHO CRAVES AN ENGROSSING NOVEL
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa (2003). Mathematics. Poetic Prose. Eighty Minute Memory.~ Selected by Danielle
Late Bloomers by Deepa Varadarajan (2023). Love is complicated at any age! ~ Selected by Lucinda
On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (2019). Short novel. Prose poem. It’s stunning. ~ Selected by Katie
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (2010). Circular novel will blow your mind. ~ Selected by Katie
Embassy Wife by Katie Crouch (2021). Clever satirical travelog. Applies to you?. ~ Selected by Lisa
The Bright Side Running Club by Josie Lloyd, audiobook narrated by Danielle Cohen (2022). Jogging for your life with friends. ~ Selected by Lisa
SCIFI & FANTASY: BECAUSE EVERYONE CAN USE AN ESCAPE, EVEN A DYSTOPIAN ONE
Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree (2022). Cozy Fantasy. Coffee. Cinnamon Rolls. Orcs. ~ Selected by Danielle
MYSTERIES: BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED FOR THERE TO BE A SOLUTION AT THE END
All the Sinners Bleed by S.A. Cosby (2023). Mystery storytelling at its best – riveting! ~ Selected by Lucinda
Chateau Under Siege by Martin Walker (2023). Latest Bruno mystery. Amazing series too. ~ Selected by Ken
WOW! We are thrilled we get to write that Ken Cadow (Yes, Lisa Cadow's spouse) is a National Book Award finalist. There is a long story about the conversation we had the day this nomination was announced; we will not bore you with it here other than saying it included remembrances of talking about National Book Award nominees in the basement of the Norwich Public Library years ago. We will say we are beyond grateful and amazed that Ken's first YA novel has received such superb recognition. And, we are honored to review his book here.
So, CONGRATULATIONS KEN - no matter what happens in NYC on November 15th, you are a winner to us. (In related news, we hope Lisa Cadow gets to actually converse at length with Oprah at the Awards ceremony; the other Lisa from the Book Jam would really, really love for that to happen for her. And, we are wondering why the Award PR says you all live in Pompanoosuc... )
Gather by Ken Cadow (2023). Yes, we are biased towards giving this book a great review. And we are grateful that we can without hesitation. This book is amazing; the awards panel was brilliant in its selection as Ken's skilled words create a world in which you care deeply about 16 year old Ian and his fate. Quick plot outline -- Ian and his mother reside in a run-down house owned by his father's family for generations in rural Vermont. Unfortunately, his father left them for a new family in Tennessee some years ago. His mother struggles with employment and eventually addiction, complicating Ian's ability to play basketball for the high school team, succeed in school, and ensure his house has heat and food. When a really big dog appears in his backyard, Ian manages to keep it, an incredible gift as his world unravels in all directions. Ian's wry wit and ability to improvise and Ken's descriptions of rural Vermont and the people who populate it make this novel soar, even as it unflinchingly explores the consequences for kids from circumstances they did not choose and do not deserve. Read this if you care about kids, want insight into poverty, or just need an amazing story. Congratulations Ken! (PS- I loved your lovely tribute to the dear Lisa Cadow in your acknowledgements; it left me teary in a good way. See you at Pages in the Pub on November 28th) ~ Lisa Christie
Continuing our recent trend of highlighting great books by great friends, we review two intelligently written, delightfully entertaining books by two authors we are blessed to call friends. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.
A Stolen Child by Sarah Stewart Taylor (2023). Today, we finally review Sarah Stewart Taylor's latest Maggie D'arcy mystery - A Stolen Child. This latest book in the series continues Taylor's atmospheric portrayal of an American detective and Ireland. This time, D'arcy has moved, with her teenaged daughter, to Dublin for a new lease on life and a second chance on love. She's officially a Garda, and is happily enjoying her patrol assignment until a murder and a missing child need her detective skills. This book, the fourth in the series, continues Taylor's character-driven, nuanced twist on the traditional police procedural. Buy the first one, curl up by a fire and then continue through all four instalments of this series. You will not regret one moment spent with D'arcy and her collegaues and family - nor will the people you give this series to in the upcoming holiday season. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie
The Last Line by Stephen Ronson (available 16 November 2023). We finish with something to look forward to - our friend Stephen's first novel - The Last Line. Set in the backdrop of the British home front in 1940 as the UK prepares for a possible invasion and another world war, The Last Line provides a superb thriller mixed in a noir mystery. Sussex native John Cook secretly prepares the resistance effort, should war happen, while a missing child from London haunts his thoughts. As he investigates the child, a dark far reaching conspiracy unfolds. Enjoy this look at the British home front and the terrors of war - even of merely anticipated ones. Full of historical details and nonstop action, this novel, with Ronson's excellent descriptions and pacing, reads like a well written movie. Unfortunately for us, you have to be in the UK, Europe, or Canada to purchase this one. We look forward to having it published in the USA soon; please help us pester booksellers everywhere to bring it here asap. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie
Two things: 1) We are back after a long absence from book reviews with some fun things to recommend. 2) It's barely October and the stores are full of candy, costumes, and spooky decorations. Luckily, both books we wish to recommend as Autumn unfolds link these two facts. First, we love Book Jam friend KJ Dell'Antonia's latest novel - Playing the Witch Card. It's fun. It centers Halloween and we think you should read it and/or gift it to your friends. The second book we highlight, Agatha Christie's A Haunting in Venice, is a tale of a Halloween party gone horribly awry. This classic recently released as a major motion picture starring Kenneth Branagh. Read the book, grab some popcorn, see the movie, and enjoy a Happy Halloween!
Playing the Witch Card by KJ Dell'Antonia (2023). A magical tale about small town life, embracing who you are, second chances, letting go, the life changing power of cookies, and the importance of family (even dysfunctional, extremely broken ones). Brief plot summary -- Flair's readings of a particular deck of hand painted tarot cards (that answer only to Flair, her mother, and grandmother before her) result in magic. Flair hasn't seen the deck since she stole and hid them from her tarot-obsessed mother decades ago. Recently however, Flair and her 13-year-old daughter, Lucie, have returned to her hometown to restart life without her cheating ex; and well, the cards return as does some magic. All of this plot revolves around a huge Halloween festival and explores the cost of reuniting with friends and foes. A Kirkus review calls it "a complex tale about motherhood and witchcraft…” We call it fun and a perfect gift. Be sure to enjoy New York Times bestselling author KJ dell'Antonia's latest as soon as possible. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie
A Haunting in Venice, initially published as Halloween Party, by Agatha Christie (1969). Despite sharing the same surname, I have not read many of Christie's novels or short stories. I tend to know her work from streaming channel showings of movies adapting her prose. I am glad I broke this trend recently in an airport bookstore when I picked up A Haunting in Venice and finished it in one fell swoop while flying over the USA. In this 35th Hercule Poirot mystery, Joyce, a testy teenager, claims to have witnessed a murder just as a Halloween party begins. By the end of the evening she is discovered drowned in a tub of apples. Of course, Hercule Poirot is called in to solve the case, or is a double-murder? Enjoy! ~ Lisa Christie
There isn't a genre of books that the Book Jam Lisas hate or avoid as we both try not to prejudge any book. And, we hope to remain open to whatever we can learn or be entertained by, always. We also freely admit Sci-Fi and Romance are not our go-to genres. Luckily, Lisa Christie knows Dawson Nichols. This is a good thing as she likes and admires him (and his family). It also means she was lucky enough to receive copy of his first novel - Terminal Dispatch - a while ago - before it's June 2022 publication date. Seeing it on her shelf last week, under a stack of books that will eventually guide her walking the Camino and the UK's Coast to Coast trails, led to the realization we never reviewed it for Book Jam followers. This led to reviewing Terminal Dispatch today. This, in turn, will inspire our next set of reviews -- other books we are lucky to read way in advance because we know the authors as friends.
Terminal Dispatch by Dawson Nichols (2022). The fact Nichols is an award-winning playwright is apparent from the very first pages of his first novel - Terminal Dispatch. Characters are complicated and plot moves quickly, with enough dramatic pauses to allow you to breathe a bit. The fully realized world Nichols creates easily allows you to create your own movie version in your head. In Terminal Dispatch, the planet Thalinraya’s terraforming project, is being sabotaged by unidentified ships and Tab must trust in his friends, Vie and Wil, to help him escape before the planet comes apart. Terminal Dispatch is the first book in a new series that addresses very topical questions around artificial intelligence, and explores what our drive to survive often costs. Pick it up for a great summer page-turner, even if you are not a Sci-Fi person. And note, because I am not an unbiased reviewer, please read this review by Robert Sindelar of Seattle's Third Place Books & former President of the American Booksellers Association, “Dawson Nichols is a dazzling storyteller. Terminal Dispatch explodes onto the page and takes the reader for a thrilling and unpredictable ride. This is cutting edge world building in the tradition of William Gibson and Neal Stephenson.”~ Lisa Christie
Dads, grads, and June. These words connect so easily. Today in honor of dads - those we were born to and those we find along the way - we narrow the focus and highlight three books by dads about fatherhood.
A Heart that Works by Rob Delaney (2022). The star of Catastrophe pens a memoir about his child's fatal diagnosis, eventual death, and all the life that happens in between and after those two huge occurrences. Sound like a bummer? It's not. Delaney's humor and unflinching descriptions of exactly how he felt along the way are somehow uplifting in a book about the horrific tragedy of losing a child (and a brother-in-law to suicide). And yet, it is not full of inane platitudes or unrelenting optimism. As the Washington Post wrote in their review this memoir is "an account of grief that is not a series of hard-won life lessons wrapped in a gratitude journal". Delaney sprinkles much into a relatively brief book. He explores his own alcoholism, being new to a culture - London, and how he was often a crappy husband as he put his career and his needs above all because he knew his wife was so incredibly competent she had everything else covered. He writes how grateful he is he changed before he lost all that Henry's life and death highlighted ultimately mattered - his wife and family. He writes there are no reasons for anyone to lose a child, that to pretend all things happen for a reason is insane, and warns people not to ask people experiencing grief or pain what they need - but to instead just show up and start helping. I will be thinking about this book for a long time. ~ Lisa Christie
The Talk by Darrin Bell (2023). We are incredibly grateful publishers continue to recognize how graphic books provide powerful access to stories. Bell was six when his mother had The Talk with him around his wish to own a water gun. Now, Bell is a dad to a six year old and contemplating when and how he should have The Talk. This memoir follows Bell's childhood navigation of LA and young adult explorations at Berkeley into his professional choices and his life as a father. Bell's book helps readers understand the experience of Black people in America, but also some universal truths of life on this planet; inn doing so, he leaves a lasting mark on readers. As Garry Trudeau, creator of Doonesbury stated about The Talk, “It’s nearly impossible to appreciate another person’s truth ... Bell is ... an indispensable explainer of how it feels to grow up in a world that repeatedly treats you as other. The talk with my white sons boiled down to 'Be kind.' It’s hard to overstate the distance between that admonition and 'Stay alive.'” Bell won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for 2019 for Editorial Cartooning, the 2016 Berryman Award for Editorial Cartooning, the 2015 RFK Award for Editorial Cartooning, and UC Berkeley’s 2015 Daily Californian Alumni of the Year Award. ~ Lisa Christie
Why Fathers Cry At Night by Kwame Alexander (2023). Bestselling author of The Crossover and other young adult books, and Newbery Medalist Kwame Alexander gets completely personal in this memoir. In it, he explores, with honesty, grace, and regret, many aspects of his family life, including divorce after two decades together and especially how important his daughters have always been to him, even as mutual understanding has often proven evasive. The poems are heart wrenching at times and also heartening and are paired with delicious looking recipes, essays, and any lessons he feels able to pass along. His optimism shines throughout. ~ Lisa Christie
Most of us in the USA just completed tax season - something we were recently reminded was the only certain thing in life besides death. That fact and a book on grief that someone gave us years ago (Karen, we finally gave it the attention it deserves - thank you), has us thinking about how hard it is to have good conversations about difficult topics - death, taxes/politics, and sexuality come to mind. In service of trying to help us all be better conversationalists and humans, we review three books to encourage us all do just that.
Bearing the Unbearable: Love, loss, and the heartbreaking path of grief by Joanne Cacciatore (2017). A dear friend who was dealing with the unbearable death of her child said this book spoke to her like no other book could. She also stated that she wished everyone could read it before they had to use it either to deal with their own grief or support someone else's process. We skimmed it years ago, and for a variety of reasons delved deeply into it this past week. She is right -- it would help so many if we all read this as part of being human. Why? Because we all need, as the author writes, "an emotional home for our feelings" and because "grief that is dismissed, suppressed, or silenced harms individuals, families and communities". Cacciatore does not chastise anyone for anytime we said or did the wrong thing when talking about grief. Cacciatore talks about how hard these conversations are because so few of us are taught about the importance of grieving, and its inevitability. If you fear that this book is completely depressing, it is not. Cacciatore talks at length about elements of healing and transformation that accompany grief. We hope you all can read it before you need to assist a friend's or co-worker's grief, and before you need to process your own. We also argue this book, while focusing on the extreme grief accompanying death, might help with dealing with the grief accompanying divorce or the end of a relationship or even moving from a community you love. (We add this with hope it does not trivialize grief emerging from death.) Maybe even read it with a loved one so you can talk about how hard grief is to talk about.
It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris and Michael Emberley (2021). Our amazing pediatrician (hello Dr. Michael Lyons) introduced us both to this book when all our children were young. It has been updated to reflect gender neutral vocabulary, an expansion of LGBTQ+ topics, and social media advice. Get it, read it, and then read it with your children before you think they are ready. You won't regret it.
The Centrist Manifesto by Charles Wheelan (2013). Using humor and years of research and learning from teaching at Dartmouth College, Wheelan makes his case for a new American political party - the Centrists. Whether you agree with his conclusion or not, this book offers great fodder for difficult discussions around politics in America. Perhaps it works as a way to talk respectfully because it offers something that has not happened - a new political party and a new voice for people in the middle of political discussions, a middle Wheelan argues most Americans actually land. As Kirkus Reviews said when they discussed this book, "It’s a sign of the times that this sensible plea for moderation can seem so radical".
And to inspire us all, here is an article about the positive aspects (e.g., greater connections with others) of conducting difficult conversations. Happy May everyone!
April brings showers, flowers, and an excellent opportunity to highlight the power and beauty of poetry. We bring three volumes to your attention today.
The Shared World by Vievee Francis (2023). We had the privilege of hearing Francis read her own poetry, including some from this newest collection, on a cold evening in White River Junction, Vermont a few weeks back. To hear her is to be educated, entertained, and brought to a lyrical place that requires thinking anew about many things. In The Shared World, Francis discusses how it feels and what it is to be a Black woman in the world today; in doing so, she gives readers the great gift of better understanding. As Rebecca Morgan Frank says in her review of this collection for the Poetry Foundation, "longing for love and protection in a world that denies it permeates this collection". We are all better for having read this volume of Francis's latest work (and any of her other books). If Francis is ever in your vicinity reading anything - including the phone book - do yourself a favor and attend her reading; you will not regret it. ~ Lisa Christie (and Lisa Cadow when she's able to read it)
The Woman I Kept to Myself by Julia Alvarez (2011). For years I gave this collection to friends reaching milestone birthdays - 30, 40, 50. I don't know why I stopped. I need to resume this practice because when I recently dusted off my copy, these autobiographical poems still offered a road map for reviewing one's life and choosing anew to live it as best as one can. This collection explores multiple facets of Alvarez's life - as a little girl reciting poetry every night, her role as a sister anticipating her family's rejection, her life as a renowned professor; in doing so, as discussed on the podcast Code Switch, Alvarez provides "an acknowledgement that you're never all of yourself all of the time, and that so many of us exist perpetually in gray areas". This volume helps readers remember the gray areas where life often occurs and how to treat them with with respect and ideally joy. ~ Lisa Christie (and Lisa Cadow even if she never gave it as a gift)
Life by Donna Ashwood (2022). I should probably examine why I need to tell you all that this volume is definitely more of a self help book than the two poetry volumes discussed thus far. Is this need from my fear you will think I am not deep/intelligent or I am weak and require comfort? In light of the fact that the people who I have shared something from this book with, have in turn passed those poems along, this need to start with a disclaimer seems strange. And with that disclaimer out of the way, now come words about this book. I received this collection of Ashwood's poetry from a friend who knows I have been struggling through a seemingly never ending series of unfortunate events. Her gift of this volume and the poems within it have provided much needed help remembering I am not alone. Perhaps that is enough for any poem. We add it to this set of reviews as sometimes all one needs is a reminder they are seen; and, this book provides just that. ~ Lisa Christie
We are thrilled to report that on March 22, 2023 for the first time since November 2019, Pages in the Pub was held in person. This time we crossed the river into New Hampshire and held an incredible event at Still North Books & Bar. The presenters were fabulous, the books they recommended diverse and enticing, the setting inviting, and the money benefitted the Howe Public Library. As a fun bonus, the Book Jam briefly discussed the presenters books as part of the evening and wrote six word reviews for today's post. Thus, you all can see some of the presenters' unique talent at work, even if you could not join us in person.
Our incredible presenters:
Andy Borowitz was born in Shaker Heights, where he wrote made-up news for his high school newspaper. He moved to New York City in 2005, where he started writing made-up news for The New Yorker. His career demonstrates either a commitment to a genre or arrested development. You can find his New Yorker work here.
KJ Dell’Antonia is a novelist and former journalist and editor at the New York Times whose writing always inevitably ends up being about why the things we think will make us happy and solve our problems (Reality TV! Fame! Witchcraft! Genius athletic children!) never, ever do. She is possibly a witch and definitely has a book in her bag, and Shirley Jackson is her literary idol forevermore. You can subscribe to her newsletter by clicking here.
Peter Orner once ran for student council vice president under the slogan "Peter Orner Eats Salad." You see there was a new salad bar and the salad bar was popular, and so he thought...Anyway, he didn't prevail. You can find his personal writings here.
Sarah Stewart Taylor writes books and reads books and has way too many books. She is the author of the Maggie D'arcy mystery series, about an American police detective in Ireland, and also of a forthcoming series set in Vermont. Her new Maggie D'arcy mystery, A Stolen Child, will be out in June. She and her family raise sheep on their Hartland farm and she spends as much time in Ireland as she can. When she isn't reading, writing, or shepherding, you can find her moving her books around and coming up with excuses for her family about why she needs so many books. You can find her at www.SarahStewartTaylor.com.
And now, the books they believe we should all read, divided into categories to make it easier to figure out what you are in the mood to read right now, add to your to-be-read stack, or give as a gift.
Books for young readers (think ages 8-12) – For those not yet ready for teen topics
Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin (2015). Poignant novel about friendship & jellyfish behavior. ~ Selected by Peter.
The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill (1964). Best kids book about politics ever. ~ Selected by Peter.
Books for foodies and foodie aspirationals - cookbooks and beyond
My Vermont Table by Gesine Bullock-Prado (2023). Vermont vibes. Local Ingredients. Fabulous Dishes. ~ Selected by Sarah
Romance -- Because we could all use a bit more
Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan (2022). People run hard from their happy endings. ~ Selected by KJ
Memoirs & Biographies - When living vicariously through other people’s memories helps
Shy by Mary Rodgers & Jesse Green (2022). Hilarious, profane life of Broadway princess. ~ Selected by Andy
Non-fiction, reference, or huge history books for sitting out mud season
Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell (1992). No Better book about life in a city, any city. ~ Selected by Peter
Watergate by Garrett Graff (2022). Unfolds like thriller. Essential historical context. ~ Selected by Sarah
Mysteries & Thrillers - Because sometimes you need a reminder life could be scarier
Missing Presumed by Susie Steiner (2016). Lovable police detective. Real Life. Gorgeous writing. ~ Selected by Sarah
Murder Your Employer: The McMasters guide to homicide by Rupert Holmes (2023). Knives Out in book form. ~ Selected by KJ
Such Sharp Teeth by Rachel Harrison (2022). Surprisingly un-glam life of reluctant werewolf. ~ Selected by KJ
Anywhere you Run by Wanda Morris (2022). Sisters navigating secrets danger. Jim Crow. ~ Selected by Sarah
Adult fiction for anyone who just needs an engrossing novel
Writers and Lovers by Lily King (2020). Against the odds, waitress becomes writer. ~ Selected by Andy
Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher (2015). Screamingly funny, told entirely in letters. ~ Selected by Andy
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson (2022). Twisty family secrets with lasting impact. ~ Selected by KJ
The Sweet Spot by Amy Poeppel (2023). Revenge misfires, backfires, makes everything better. ~ Selected by KJ
Small Things Like These (2021) and Foster (2022) by Claire Keegan. Irish. Lovely writing. Heartbreaking characters. Timely issues. ~ Selected by Sarah
Fifth Business by Robertson Davies (2001). Canadian, small town pettiness, occasional wonder. ~ Selected by Peter
Poetry - because everyone can use more in their life
Forest Primeval by Vievee Francis (2015). Intense, moving, among America's best. ~ Selected by Peter
The Shared World by Vievee Francis (coming in April 2023). No 6-words. Added at event. Lucky us. ~ Selected by Peter
Creativity, inspiration, and/or humor - for those who could use a dose of positive thoughts
On Writing by Stephen King (2000). Priceless advice from our greatest storyteller. ~ Selected by Andy
Books by the presenters
Profiles in Ignorance (2022). Laugh cry over USA’s anti-intellectualism. ~ Selected by Lisa
The Borowitz Report (2004). Big book of socking news stories. ~ Selected by Lisa
The Chicken Sisters (2020). Fried chicken feud attracts reality tv. ~ Selected by Lisa
In Her Boots (2022). Imploding daughter returns. Prank goes awry. ~ Selected by Lisa
Playing Witch Card (coming in September 2023). She gave up on magic. Right? ~ Selected by Lisa
Still No Word From You (2022). Peter discusses writing he has loved. ~ Selected by Lisa
Maggie Brown & Others (2019). Novellas. Short stories. Magnificent one-pagers. ~ Selected by Lisa
Am I Alone here? (2016). Living to read. Reading to live. ~ Selected by Lisa
Sarah Stewart Taylor
The Mountains Wild: Maggie D’Arcy #1 (2020). Maggie D'Arcy debut. Cousin Erin missing. ~ Selected by Lisa
A Distant Grave: Maggie D’Arcy #2 (2021). Combines Long Island, Ireland, and Love? ~ Selected by Lisa
The Drowning Sea: Maggie D’Arcy #3 (2022). West Cork vacation home equals mystery. ~ Selected by Lisa
A Stolen Child: Maggie D’Arcy #4 (coming in June 2023). Maggie relocates for love, Garda, mysteries. ~ Selected by Lisa
In many situations, perspective is everything. We can choose to see someone's actions as a result of something we did, or as a result of something going on with them. We can choose to see someone's bad behavior as them having a bad day and/or struggling with hard things, or we can choose to think they are a jerk and/or that they purposefully decided to hurt us. The stories we tell ourselves about the reasons behind actions influence our reactions.
And, as Winston Churchill stated "history is written by the victors". So it is also important to consider the source of any story one hears. Lately quite a few books that have made it off our "to be read stack" actively set out to highlight the importance of point of view as they rewrite Greek myths from the standpoint of someone we don't normally hear from in traditional tellings of myths. We review two of these books below.
Stone Blind by Nathalie Haynes (2023). This is Haynes's third novel based on myths, and somehow the first one we have read. In it, Haynes retells the story of Medusa, the youngest of the Gorgon sisters and the only mortal among them. When Medusa's beauty attracts the attention of Poseidon, he assaults her in Athena's temple. And, because of course she does, Athena takes out her rage that her temple was defiled on Medusa - giving her snakes for hair, blindness, and the ability to turn all she "gazes" upon into stone. Haynes retells the myths involving Medusa, her sisters, Perseus, Cassiopeia, and others in short chapters written from many points of view. We think Ebony Purks of INDIEbound reviewed this novel best -- “Stone Blind offers Medusa deserved sympathy, and asks: What makes a monster, and on whose authority? What does it mean to to have your authority stripped? And what does it look like when old stories get reclaimed through a little empathy?” Enjoy.
Circe by Madeline Miller (2019). According to Greek myths, Circe was banished to a deserted island by Zeus due to her ability, through her witchcraft, to transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods. But the best planned punishments go awry and islands receive unexpected visitors. Eventually after crossing paths with many mythical heroes, Circe draws the ire of both men and gods. Miller recreates Circe's story from Circe's perspective - not those of the heores and gods she encounters and in doing so Miller creates a page-turning epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss. This is a tale that will have you rethinking what makes a hero/heroine, and why perspectives matter.
Today, we review one book and it's designed for kids (although we'd argue it's also for people who love books for kids and people who love kids). Only one, although it mentions many, many graphic novels so maybe it's technically many more than one. BTW, Happy Valentine's Day.
Finally Seen by Kelly Yang (2023). This book for kids celebrates graphic novels while frankly and empathetically addressing the immigrant experience, how hard being the new kid in school can be, complicated family dynamics, climate change, how much betrayal hurts, and what occurs when you finally speak your truth and are seen. If you still need a quick plot summary, here you go... Ten year old Lina Gao finally joins her mom, dad, and younger sister in Los Angeles after years of living with her grandmother in China. Once in California, she discovers her parents haven't been exactly truthful about life in America. She learns how to navigate school and bullies with the help of an amazing teacher, a fun librarian, and some new friends. She develops new ways of communicating with her parents and sister, and ultimately helps the family grow a business in order to pay back rent on their apartment. Is she perfect? No, thank goodness. And we think you will love watching her learn to navigate her new life as you read this excellent novel for middle grade readers. As Booklist said in their starred review, "In this involving, realistic chapter book, a likeable character overcomes a series of obstacles while forging strong connections with her parents, her sister, and two friends. Yang...writes with a beguiling combination of clarity, simplicity, and immediacy in a new story exploring the practical and emotional challenges of immigration as experienced by children." Graphic novels mentioned in this include, but are not limited to, Smile and Drama by Raina Telegemier, one of our favorite graphic novelists for kids.
It is January in New England and while we finally have enough snow that the sunlight reflects delightfully everywhere, January is often not the easiest month to enjoy. As with a lot of life, what sometimes helps is to have something to look forward to. So today, we review two books that will not be out until April, because sometimes anticipation is an amazing cure for doldrums no matter what the weather. And for those who do not enjoy waiting, we review one book (chosen as it fits what we belatedly realize is an unintentional theme of love and heartbreak; think of today's theme as an early gift both for those who love and those who hate Valentines Day?) that you can read today.
Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld (4 April 2023). The author of Prep (which produced one of the best book club discussions ever) and American Wife which made me rethink Laura Bush, returns with a romance novel. Romance novels are not my cup of tea - I can't remember the last one I read; and yet, this one found it's way to my bedside table and eventually my hands and brain. The main characters - Sally, a writer for TNO, a thinly disguised fictional version of SNL, and Noah, a gorgeous pop star who hosts TNO a year or two before our recent pandemic lockdown are relatable, even if their professions are not. They connect, breaking a rule Sally wrote into a TNO sketch - the Danny Horst rule - that theorizes "hot" men will not date regular women, but regular men regularly date "hot" women. And because there needs to be a plot for there to be a novel, they disconnect, and then connect again during lockdown, or do they? Sally and Noah don't seem contrived. Their funny TNO friends - Viv, Henrietta and Danny in particular - charm. And, the plot blends "boy meets girl boy loses girl ..." with pandemic retellings and Midwestern wholesomeness/cheesiness to a great overall affect. I was simultaneously entertained and casting the inevitable movie in my head. If necessary, forget you don't do romance novels and try this one; I am pretty certain you will be glad you did, even if your own life currently seems the opposite of romantic and you worry this might depress you more than your lack of romance already does. As the Washington Post has said, “Sittenfeld has an astonishing gift for creating characters that take up residence in readers’ heads.” ~ Lisa Christie
You Could Make This Place Beautiful by Maggie Smith (11 April 2023). With a title lifted from the last line of her poem Good Bones, Maggie Smith has fashioned an incredibly moving portrait of a life in which a marriage disintegrates, and instead of skipping to the part where everyone is OK, she explores the extremely personal aspects of her heartache and betrayal. In doing so, she does not let her either ex-husband or herself off the hook for the ending of their vows and their life together. She spends a more than a few pages talking about how betrayal "is neat and ... absolves you from having to think about your own failures... Because no matter what else happened - if you argued about work or kids, if you lacked intimacy, or ... it is as if the other person doused everything with lighter fluid and threw a match." In her discussions, she does not absolve her ex for the betrayal, or whitewash either of their actions leading up to her discovery of his betrayal. She talks candidly about the affects of divorce on her kids and their need for privacy. She discusses therapy, poetry, emotional and physical affairs, how secrets harm everyone and are so hard to manage, and how the division of labor is not the thing that ends marriages, but it certainly does not help. If you ever wondered what divorce feels like, or if you would like to help someone you love who is experiencing the ending of a partnership or honestly any type of grief, or if you would like to see how someone manages to feel all the feels and not deny all the hurt still keeps moving, this book is amazing. Smith is a poet, so each word seems perfectly chosen. The "chapters" are short and easily digested. And even though the pain is not remotely circumvented, hope permeates the entire book. My advanced copy (thank you Allie of Still North Books & Bar) looks like a journal as I added a written conversation between Maggie Smith and myself as phrases struck home. Even if this seems depressing or somehow something you - a happily partnered person will never need, this book has wisdom and gorgeous prose for everyone. ~ Lisa Christie
Heartbreak by Florence Williams (2022). In keeping with today's unexpected theme of heartache and love, for those of you who need a book to read today (anticipation is not for everyone), and for those of you who enjoy books laden with scientific facts and interesting interviews with researchers and scientists, Heartbreak will not disappoint. In fact, this was declared a Smithsonian Best Science Book of 2022. Williams is a journalist by training and vocation, and when her 25 year old marriage unexpectedly (to her) falls apart (her husband may or may not be having an affair, but definitely does not want to be married to her anymore) she finds herself emotionally reeling and physically ill. So she turns to her profession and sets out to find a rational answer to her reactions to her heartache. In doing so, she finds herself rafting a river, hiking with survivors of sex trafficking, getting her genetic markers tested, speaking with experts in neurogenomic (had to look this up - the study of how the genome of an organism influences the development and function of its nervous system) research laboratories, and undergoing electric shock, among other things. She discovers that one often makes really really bad decisions in the pain of heartache, and the scientific reasons why. She explores loneliness, health, betrayal, love, joy, and life with candor, wit, and a lot of science. ~ Lisa Christie
Last week we finished two books that could not be more different; yet, we recommend them both. We hope one of them fits the mood for your next great read. And, if they don't strike your fancy, please stay tuned for more options in our other reviews as 2023 progresses.
The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman (2022). The third in this series is just as charming as the first; maybe more so as you now know and are invested in the main characters: Elizabeth - a possible MI6 operative, Joyce - former nurse turned narrator of the stories, Ron - the former trade union leader, and Ibrahim - a retired therapist. This time, they are investigating the disappearance of a TV newscaster whose body was never found, and of course a few other things such as romance. Read these if for no other reason than to enjoy time spent with 80something characters who are enjoying life to its fullest. I agree wholeheartedly with what the New York Times wrote, " Enjoy!
The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O'Farrell (2022). It's Florence in the 1500s and Lucrezia, daughter of the grand duke, is happily living her life - painting, sketching, checking out her father's zoo, and basically ignoring her siblings while spying on court life. Then one of her older sisters dies, and Lucrezia is substituted as bride for her sister's fiance. The novel's question then becomes is her new husband the playful person he appeared to be in her father's court or a manipulative powerful man with his own agenda - one that does not consider Lucrezia's desires? The portrait from the title is one Lucrezia sits for to preserve her image for posterity and comes to represent both her freedom and her confinement. I will be honest, it took me a few pages to enjoy this tale, but at some point I was enjoying living in Italy many centuries ago and was fascinated by how things have changed and not changed for women, and contemplating the chasms that can appear between life partners, with or without malicious intent. As the Washington Post stated in their review of this book, "O’Farrell pulls out little threads of historical detail to weave this story of a precocious girl sensitive to the contradictions of her station . . . You may know the history, and you may think you know what’s coming, but don’t be so sure. O’Farrell and Lucrezia, with her ‘crystalline, righteous anger,’ will always be one step ahead of you.. . . O’Farrell [is] one of the most exciting novelists alive.” Enjoy.
We have no idea if you make, keep, or disdain New Year's resolutions. And, it feels as if we could all use some fun, hopeful, inspiring, and perhaps gentle books to peruse as we think about how we wish to be going forward (and process the past few years). Thus, we take a bit of time, during Kwanza and in the pause between Christmas/Hanukkah and New Years, to share a few books we've found as we shopped our favorite indie bookstores during the holidays. Regardless of where you land on resolutions, we wish you all the best in 2023. Happy reading.
Big Panda and Tiny Dragon by James Norbury (2021). This lovely book can be dipped into or read all at once with equal effectiveness. Big Panda and Tiny Dragon was created by British author and artist James Norbury to share ideas - mostly from Buddhism - that have helped him throughout his life. It would make an excellent housewarming gift or thank you gift for holiday hosts.
Hope Is A Verb: Six steps to radical optimism when the world seems broken by Emily Ehlers (2021). This book addresses, with fun illustrations and encouraging words, how to get unstuck when the issues you are facing overwhelm everything else. Ehlers is an environmental activist and begins with the importance of making change and also not burning out. Then her six steps are actually tips that even those of us who are not trying to change the world can use. A great book to pick up and put down when you feel, well stuck.
Keep Moving: Notes on loss creativity and change by Maggie Smith (2020). A loving mediation on how to move through grief caused by any loss (death, illness, divorce, kids moving out of the home, new work situations). In the wake of her painful divorce, Smith started writing Twitter posts, inspiring thousands. This book collects them and would be helpful for anyone wondering what is next (probably best once they've had a bit of time to process the loss though as keep moving can be hard to hear in those initial stages of grief). The Boston Globe calls it “A shining reminder to learn all we can from this moment, rebuilding ourselves in the darkness so that we may come out wiser, kinder, and stronger on the other side.”
Choke: What the secrets of the brain reveal about getting it right when you have to by Sian Beilock -- Beilock is both a renowned expert about the brain science behind human performance and neighboring Dartmouth's next (and first female) President. So, we were very curious about her book. In it, Beilock addresses questions such as 1) Why do the smartest students often do poorly on standardized tests? 2) Why did you tank that interview or miss that golf swing when you should have had it in the bag? 3) Why do you mess up when it matters the most—and how can you perform your best instead? We haven't finished it; but, we have a feeling her ideas about how not to crack under pressure will prove helpful going forward.
On a warm (for a Vermont winter) evening last week, we once again ushered Pages in the Pub into our holiday plans, and for a third, and we vowed final time, we met via Zoom.
Once again, the presenters - our fabulous town librarian Lucinda Walker; our town's terrific children's librarian, Erin Davison; amazing booksellers Emma Nichols and Sam Kass; and the delightful Samantha Davidson Green of Junction Arts Media (JAM), did an incredible job of raising a lot of money for our beloved Norwich Public Library (thanks to the generosity of the Norwich Bookstore). They confined their Zoom reviews to 90 seconds and their written reviews to six words (harder than it sounds), and helped many of those attending finish (or at least start) their holiday shopping.
No matter what, they gave all of us a GREAT list of books to give and get (and maybe start reading today). Just look below for their picks and reviews, and some great gift ideas.
We thank everyone who attended. We thank our presenters. We thank Dan and Whit's for donating a portion of wine sales for the evening. And finally, we thank the presenters! To easily shop from an indie bookstore, just use the Norwich Bookstore's online ordering page for this event.
Sci-Fi & Fantasy: because everyone can use an escape, even a dystopian one
Spear by Nicola Griffith (2022). King Arthur but make it queer. ~ Selected by Emma
Books for your favorite High Schooler
Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley (2021). Intersectional feminism, strong community, and murder. ~ Selected by Erin
Non-fiction or reference books for sitting by the woodstove
From Here to Equality by William Darity (2022). enraging history. deeply researched. paradigm shifting. ~ Selected by Samantha
Africa Is Not A Country by Dipo Faloyin (2022). Essential primer on history and culture. ~ Selected by Sam
Adult fiction for everyone who craves an engrossing novel
True Biz by Sara Novic (2022). True Talk about Deaf culture - Electrifying! ~ Selected by Lucinda
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert (2019). Hot and hilarious in equal measure. ~ Selected by Emma
Corner That Held Them by Sylvia Townsend Warner (2019). Political and petty nuns lack piety. ~ Selected by Emma
Poetry: because everyone can use more in their life
Essential Ruth Stone by Ruth Stone (2020). Honest. Stays on my bed stand. ~ Selected by Samantha
Coffee table books or literary gifts that fit everyone on your gift list
American Wildflowers by Susan Barba (2022). Beautiful writing, beautiful art, beautiful concept.~ Selected by Sam
Biography & Memoir: When living vicariously through other’s memories helps
Riverman by Ben McGrath (2022). Turns out, freedom is very affordable. ~ Selected by Sam
Goddess Pose by Michelle Goldberg (2016). Brisk Storytelling. Epic Adventure. Inspiring woman. ~ Selected by Samantha
Mysteries because everyone can use a thrill
Shutter by Romona Emerson (2022). Riveting storytelling with murder & ghosts. ~ Selected by Lucinda
Verifiers by Jane Pek (2022). Old-school sleuthing for the internet age. ~ Selected by Sam
Books for young readers (think ages 8-12)
Measuring Up by Lily Lamotte (2020). Kid cooking competition brings family together. ~ Selected by Erin
Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen (2002). Compelling characters. Survival adventure. Restorative Justice. ~ Selected by Samantha
Picture books for kids (think under 8): For great read alouds, snuggling or quiet contemplation
After the Fall by Dan Santat (2017). Facing fears and learning to fly. ~ Selected by Erin
Books for your favorite tween
Attack of the Black Rectangles by AS King (2022). Middle schoolers protest censorship with aplomb. ~ Selected by Emma
Books for foodies and foodie aspirationals -- cookbooks and beyond
Black Food by Bryant Terry (2021). Genre defying art, prose, and recipes. ~ Selected by Erin
Smitten Kitchen Keepers by Deb Perelman (2022). Deb makes everything easy & delicious! ~ Selected by Lucinda
Breaking Bread by Debra Spark (2022). Bite-sized morsels of literary food memories. ~ Selected by Lucinda
It's that time of year -- gift giving, multiple festivities, and our annual Holiday Edition of Pages in the Pub.
Pages in the Pub is a lively evening of discussing and celebrating books with the Norwich Bookstore, The Book Jam, and the Norwich Public Library. Discover new reads and connect with fellow book lovers!
AND leave with a fabulous list of books to give and get.
This year’s gathering will be online via Zoom, so pour yourself a pint or grab a snack and settle in at home for the fun!
Register here | $20 per registration
ALL proceeds benefit the Norwich Public Library.
With Thanksgiving only days away and gift giving season descending soon, we are reminded that people often put that right book in your hands when you didn't even know you needed it. Since this serendipity has happened often lately, today we share three books that found their way to us through the generosity and insight of others. We hope they help you find your next great book; and, Happy Thanksgiving.
This is not a book about Benedict Cumberbatch by Tabitha Carvan (2022). On the surface, and probably on most blurbs, this is a memoir about a woman who likes Benedict Cumberbatch in a way that created the moniker "Cumberbitches" to describe segments of his fandom. It is also about stages of one's life - how we play as a kid, how we react to teenage dramas, how our choices in our 20s shape us, and what happens when we marry or have kids or when our careers do or don't quite lead to where we thought they would. It is about how the gaze of others shapes us. It is also full of science; Carvan is a science writer by trade. The bit about birds and the permeating belief female birds don't sing - spoiler alert, they do - still ruminates around my head.
Carvan is also Australian. Perhaps I should pay attention to that; I seem to be attracted to Australia of late -- my Siri voice is Australian, my Australian friend Maree has popped into my photo feed a lot lately for some odd reason. Just saying that part about paying attention to Australia feels like too much detail about the book because a big part of the fun of this book is riding the wave of Carvan's musings, and not really knowing at any point in your reading what the book is actually about. I do know it is a book I was meant to read this book at this moment in time; thank you KJ for putting it in my hands from the vast stack of books in your car. ~ Lisa Christie
Macando: Welcome to Elsewhere by Liniers (2022). On a recent Saturday, I woke feeling pretty bummed about my current life situation (no details needed; let's just say 2022 has been full of bleak events, thankfully balanced by incredible support from all sorts of people - THANK YOU ALL, and somehow with my extreme optimism intact - much to the chagrin of many). And in my bummed out state, I repeatedly circled the house trying to start my day. Luckily, this book that my amazing neighbors the Mccaulls gave me when our dog of 12 years died last month (one of the bleak events of 2022) caught my eye and saved my day.
Liniers was just what I needed on that Saturday. His cartoons are amazing, with their playfulness enhancing their insight. I am so grateful I picked it up that Saturday. It was the perfect thing to laugh over and cry with so that my day could proceed beyond its initial melancholy. ~ Lisa Christie
Freedom and Unity (2022). Our final example highlights when our friend James Sturm of the Center for Cartoon Studies gave us a perfect book for that moment in time. This latest volume enhances CCS's series of books that help readers understand complicated things: mental health, democracy, health, how we read. In their latest outing, the talented CCS team tackles Vermont's unique governing structure and state motto - Freedom and Unity. The book reminded me why serving on the school board is worth every difficult conversation. This gift's timing was perfect. Thank you James.~ Lisa Christie
Hello everyone, we have returned from our annual "gone reading" break with new books to recommend. For today, we limit ourselves to three: one YA, one for kids, and one with adults in mind. And, we close with a wish for a very happy and safe Halloween.
I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys (2022). Ruta Sepetys never fails to introduce us to pieces of history we had not encountered before. Her latest novel continues this trend. This time, she tackles Romania in 1989. While communist regimes are crumbling in Europe, Nicolae Ceaușescu maintains a strong hold on life in Romania. Seventeen-year-old Cristian dreams of becoming a writer, and instead is blackmailed by the secret police to become an informer in order to protect his family. Eventually, he risks everything - with encouragement from his grandfather - to unmask the truth and show the world what is happening in his country.
Just Like That by Gary D. Schmidt (2021). Mr. Schmidt returns to some of his tried and true characters and settings in this outing. As the story begins, Meryl Lee is sent to a girls' boarding school in fall 1968 to help her process her grief from her best friend's death. Matt is on the run from a criminal gang and lands in the same town as the boarding school. Of course their paths cross, and of course they help each other; however that does not take away from the power of this story of friendship, loss, and hope. BookPage gave it a starred review and stated, "Set in 1968, Just Like That is part of an outstanding series that began with Newbery Honor recipient The Wednesday Wars, and continued in Okay for Now, a finalist for the National Book Award." Enjoy!
Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout (2022). We recommend this new novel for people looking for a way to process the pandemic, and/or book clubs. We all experienced great trauma the past few years, and most of the books we've read so far might mention the pandemic, but do not make it a plot point. This book is the first we've read in which the pandemic and the characters' various reactions to the pandemic are the main point, basically driving the plot. In this novel, Lucy Barton from Elizabeth Strout's other books, moves from Manhattan to the coast of Maine with her scientist ex-husband who sees that the pandemic is something to be fled long before most people have even registered something life changing is coming for the world. The novel deals with the pain of isolation, being apart from loved ones, reckoning with past mistakes, the amazing possibilities forgiveness and love offer, and being newcomers in small towns - offering an opportunity to explore how differing social classes experienced covid-19. While this is probably not the greatest of Strout's works (the Kirkus review was not very kind), by the end, as the New York Times review stated, "Lucy’s done the hard work of transformation. May we do the same." The novel is short and reads very quickly. You will be reminded of aspects of the pandemic that you forgot; and, if you wish, offered an opportunity to process what happened to you as the world locked down.
So sorry, we forgot to let you know we are on our annual end of summer/beginning of autumn "gone reading" break.
We look forward to sharing what we found with you at some point in mid- to late September. Meantime, all of our recommendations are available on this site; so, click away, explore a bit, and find your next great read.
See you in Autumn.
Years ago, the Book Jam began as a dare and became a podcast recorded on a simple digital recorder purchased from somewhere we can't remember at this point. We recorded in the basement of our beloved Norwich Public Library; lucky for us, we both ended up on the board there and organizing their first ever special event/fundraiser as part of this "rental agreement".
The podcasting dropped off due to crazy schedules and other jobs; we began to blog and organize live events to raise money for libraries and other literacy organizations across New England instead.
Well, what comes around goes around or something like that. We have jumped back on the podcasting bandwagon with a new, delightfully fun podcast called Shelf Help. The Book Jam serves as the organizer and host. Our local cable media service - CATV serves as our terrific and much needed moral and technical support (particular thanks to Samantha Davidson Green, Chico Eastridge, and David Eric). Shelf Help's fabulous, smart, funny, and sincere stars are the owners of our three superb local independent bookstores - Kari Muetsch of Yankee Bookshop in Woodstock, Vermont (her co-owner Kristian Preloswki is our silent partner, but we hope to coax him on air soon); Sam Kaas and Emma Nichols of the Norwich Bookstore in our hometown of Norwich, Vermont; and Allie Levy of Still North Books and Bar in Hanover, New Hampshire. Truly -- they are amazing individuals, extremely well read (even if, as listeners learn, they are not reading as much as they'd like), and always recommend a wide range of great books to read.
On Shelf Help each week, these terrific booksellers answer real questions from listeners who need help finding the perfect book - or as we would say - needing help getting out of a Book Jam. To add your questions, just contact them on the social media platform of your choice, or email email@example.com.
To help you find this stupendous resource, today we highlight and link to each Shelf Help episode and list the books recommended thusfar. We are thrilled to inform you all episodes can be found at CATV, Apple podcasts, Spotify, IHeartRadio, Stitcher, buzzsprout and other sites. We hope you enjoy listening as much as we enjoy organizing and hosting these brilliant booksellers. And, we hope you subscribe using your favorite podcasting platform.
So without further ado, an introduction to some of the books recently recommended on Shelf Help.
The fabulous booksellers - Kari, Sam, Emma, and Allie - introduce themselves in Episode One by picking ONE (this is more difficult than it appears) book that is representative of them. Their picks include:
The question for Episode Two was to select and describe just one book the booksellers can recommend to anyone. Their picks are:
Episode Three honors April’s poetry month with a selection of poetry from each bookseller. We hope you will be inspired to read each recommendation.
Episode Four discussed gardening as a means to help us all fully embrace spring and summer and beyond.
May’s Mental Health Awareness Month provides the inspiration for Episode Five. We promise it is not depressing, but instead filled with hope, help, and healing. And one of the bookstore owners - hi Kari - snuck in a second selection.
In Episode Six, each bookseller reviews a short book for those phases when you have a limited amount of time, or when your book club just needs a very quick read. In this episode, three of the bookstore owners had a hard time limiting their selections to one book, and they somehow independently picked two different books by the same author, implying Mr. Delillo is an expert with the short novel.
In Episode Seven, each bookseller describes one book that is either funny and/or "provides a superb balance between fun and thought" based on an instagram question from Karen.
For Episode Eight, each bookseller channels our inner Sam (whose enthusiasm over this question caused him to mention three books) as we discuss a question left for us on Instagram: "please discuss 'Ottessa Moshfegh-ish' literary fiction. Something grotesque and damaged but beautiful."
Episode Nine originates with an email from Cindy, “I am a first grade teacher and want to teach a unit on graphic novels. I have some graphic novels, but it is hard to find ones that are appropriate for little ones and that the reading level is not too challenging. Help!!" To assist Cindy, each bookseller discusses one book, ok maybe two or three. As a bonus, we highlighted the Center for Cartoon Studies located within a baseball throw from where we record.
Episode Ten means we had a chance to help our good friend Shari Altman, from a great book resource - Literary North. She posed the question -- "I am looking for strange and beautiful novels about middle age." We note that Shari is nowhere near approaching middle age; we then debate what defines middle age. Allie, Sam, Emma, and Kari recommend a few books in response to her query, including:
In Episode Eleven, booksellers answer an anonymous question from instagram in which one desperate listener asks for the "best ways to get out of a reading slump". For this question, Lisa adds an idea for the first time - Hunting and Gathering, a "fun to read" gem by France's best-selling author Ana Gavalda that Lisa Cadow recommended to her years ago to get out of a reading slump. And the bookstore owners spend a bit more time than in previous episodes offering general advice. Kari suggests reading short stories is a great way to get reading again. Emma reminds listeners that they don't have to finish a book; stop reading if you don't like it and feel no guilt. She also suggests that reading from a genre out of your comfort zone or rereading a favorite book can help end a reading slump. Sam adds when he is in a slump he often looks for "something where I know I'm going to get"; in his case it would mean picking up a mystery or fast paced nonfiction about things he is interest in learning more about. Allie was last to speak and just seconded everything everyone said before her.
Episode Twelve emerged when Tom used FB to ask the longest question we've received thusfar, "So I could use some advice! I sorta fell out of reading regularly for fun. Due to the events of the world, I've focused more on reading educational topics. I used to read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy. Some of my favorite novels are the Dune series (and prequels), and growing up I LOVED the Lost Years of Merlin. I got the book series The Magicians a few years ago and worked through that and really liked it. I'd like to get back into reading for pleasure again, but nothing has really gotten me super excited. Unfortunately, with the rise of streaming on TV it can be hard to get motivated to sit down and read. I'm trying to re-ignite my love of reading. Can you help?" Of course we can help. Discussed selections include:
In our final Episode Thirteen before taking a summer "gone reading" break, the booksellers tackle a question about great books for younger readers when the instagram handle courtpilling asked for "Middle Grade historical fiction set in 1700s-1800s".
We hope you enjoy Shelf Help!