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Every year, we start January with a few picks of great books to really dig into after the relatives have left. While Covid again changed the hustle and bustle of the holidays for many, we still hope January offers some quiet time to sit and really enjoy a very good book. To help you do this, we once again offer a selection of three books (fiction, memoir/cooking, and kids) to read after the relatives have left. Enjoy and Happy New Year!
SIDE NOTE from Lisa Christie: I am thrilled by the book Lisa Cadow chose to review today. It totally made my day to read how much she enjoyed this gift Christmas gift from me. I share this merely to remind you that January can be bleak; we've heard calls to divorce lawyers and therapist have increased dramatically of late. So, maybe we can all remember that giving the gift of a good book can elevate your mood just as much as the recipient's; and you can support a local indie bookstore at the same time -- further spreading the joy of just one gifted book.
Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci (2021). If you've been missing gathering around the table with family and friends during the pandemic as much as I have, here is an antidote: sit down with actor, writer, and director Stanley Tucci's new memoir Taste to evoke those special feelings of camaraderie. Tucci's new book takes the reader back to a childhood spent in 1960's in Westchester surrounded by Italian relatives who bottled their own wine from oak casks in the basement and roasted goats in their backyard, through a lifetime of cooking with friends (often famous) and visiting restaurants across the globe, then all the way back to present-day London where much of his time, when he's not filming on location, is spent shopping and cooking classics like Spaghetti Carbonara for his children and wife. Tucci is an energetic, hilarious, and creative writer who tells a great story and shares wit as well as wisdom. Parts of his book are written like pages torn from a movie script full of dialogue and direction, which makes sense, given that he's spent his entire adult life acting from and even composing scripts. (Some may not realize that Tucci was not only one of the actors in the cult classic 1996 film "Big Night" about two brothers struggling to save an Italian restaurant on the Jersey Shore, but he was also a coauthor.) An unexpectedly poignant part of the memoir chronicles his recent treatment for and recovery from oral cancer, which only served to deepen his already very serious relationship with food. As he explains, "I must say that years ago I never thought that my passion and interest in food would come close to eclipsing how I felt about my chosen profession. Acting, directing, cinema, and the theater had always defined me. But after my diagnosis I discovered that eating, drinking, the kitchen, and the table now play those roles. Food not only feeds me, it enriches me. All of me. Mind, body, and soul. It is nothing more than everything. Cook Smell. Taste Eat Drink Share. Repeat as necessary." Turning the last page of Taste I yearned for just one more bite, one more laugh, one more chapter, and a little more time in Tucci's brilliant company. I'll have to make due with the smattering of simple recipes from the book that I plan to try and the slab of Kerrygold butter that now sits on our kitchen counter after learning that it's what the Tucci family enjoys with their bread. This is the perfect read to fill yourself up with after the relatives have left. ~Lisa Cadow
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead (2021). I still remember how I felt while reading Ms. Shipstead's Seating Arrangements years ago - completely entertained by what most would consider a 'beach read" and also caring about the fates of the characters inhabiting her imagined New England Island as a high society wedding unfolded. This time, with the impressively sweeping novel Great Circle, I cared about the the fates of her two major characters -- Marian, a girl determined to be an aviator in prohibition-era Montana, and Hadley, a "Twilight-like" movie star in the process of self destructing over her romantic and social media choices. The link between the two? Hadley's selection to play Marian in a biopic picture years after Marian's plane disappears into the ocean. I also cared about the secondary characters: Jamie - Marian's twin a talented painter, Caleb, Jamie's and Marian's wild childhood friend, Hadley's eminent neighbor Sir Hugo, and Wallace, their drunken well intentioned, talented artist uncle who took Marian and Jamie in after their father was jailed for abandoning his duty as captain of a sinking ship in order to rescue them. (Their mother's death from suicide, seen in retrospect, induced by post-partum depression, plays a role throughout this tale.)
That is a lot to tackle and it is all laid out for readers in the first 100 pages, allowing the next 400 pages to pull readers along while revealing the unique fates of each character. Even so, it's still a lot to take in, so don't worry if you are not always on task, keep going and let her re-engage you with compelling characters, plot twists, and oodles of research. When completed, readers are left with with a sweeping saga of life in the USA during the 20th century, and/or a great distraction from the quiet after the relatives have left.
NOTE: Throughout Great Circle, I felt a longing to re-read Beryl Markham's terrific memoir West with the Night, and hope I make time to do so. If you have not yet read West with the Night -- please do so; you will not regret it. You might also wish to try Seating Arrangements for a shorter and completely different take of Ms. Shipstead's gifted writing. ~ Lisa Christie
Black Boy Joy by assorted authors and edited by Kwame Mbalia (2021). This collection of 17 short stories about black boys in the USA provides the perfect book to pick up if your attention span just can't handle a saga. I truly loved my time with the boys in these pieces as they imagined traveling outer space, participated in cooking contests, and debated the best super hero ever. Because 17 authors weigh in during this collection, there is lovely variety in tone and style: some are funny, some are happy-sad, all are compelling. The shorter length of the stories makes them ideal for discussion - teachers everywhere take note. For everyone -- the boys' joy is contagious. As Booklist said in their review -- "Pick up Black Boy Joy for a heavy dose of happiness." NOTE: I listened to this via audiobooks, and it was a superb way to spend time commuting to high school hockey games. ~ Lisa Christie
Once again, Norwich, Vermont ushered Pages in the Pub into our holiday plans, and for a second time due to the pandemic we met via Zoom. And once again, the presenters - this time presenting as pairs - Vermont librarians Lucinda Walker and Peter Money; booksellers Emma Nichols and Sam Kass; and cartoonists Emma Husinger and Tillie Walden, did an incredible job of raising a lot of money for our beloved Norwich Public Library (thanks to the generosity of the Norwich Bookstore), confining their Zoom 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).
Presenter bios are listed below the presenters' recommendations so that you can know a little bit more about the amazing and accomplished people who gave us all such great recommendations and six-word reviews. We thank them all! For ease of shopping from an indie bookstore, just use the Norwich Bookstore's online ordering page for this event.
Baking with Dorie: Sweet, Salty & Simple by Dorie Greenspan (2021). Deliciously easy & always yummy bakes! ~ Selected by Lucinda
Well Fed Weeknights by Melissa Joulwan (2016). Paleo-ish, easy dinners, under 30 minutes! ~ Selected by Tillie & Emma H.
Gastro Obscura by Cecily Wong (2021). Fun facts, Delicious dishes, tantalizing travels.
~ Selected by Sam & Emma N.
PICTURE BOOKS FOR KIDS (UNDER 8) – FOR FAMILIES TO READ TOGETHER DURING THE FIRST SNOW STORM
Professional Crocodile by Giovanni Zoboli (2017). Dreamy with few words, ode to routine. ~ Selected by Tillie & Emma H.
The Creature of Habit by Jennifer E. Smith (2021). Careful creature takes chance on chaos. ~ Selected by Sam & Emma N.
EARLY CHAPTER BOOKS (3-8) BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU WANT TO BE A BIG KID, EVEN IF YOU AREN’T
Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon (2015): Pirates! chickens! fairy queens! walkie-talkies! friends! nemeses!). ~ Selected by Sam & Emma N.
POETRY FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT BEAUTY AND TRUTH
Summer Snow by Robert Hass (2020). Sage, smart, tender, vital timely observations. ~ Selected by Peter
BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS (AGES 8-12) – THOSE BEYOND TONKA TRUCKS AND TEA PARTIES BUT NOT YET READY FOR TEEN TOPICS
The List of Things that Will Not Change by Becca Stead (2020). Heart-warming story + authentic voice = excellent read!. ~ Selected by Lucinda
Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy by Anne Ursu (2021): Daring 'delinquents' undaunted by the patriarchy. ~ Selected by Sam & Emma N.
Jukebox by Nidhi Chanani (2021). Colorful musical adventure through time. ~ Selected by Tillie & Emma H.
BOOKS FOR YOUR FAVORITE HIGH SCHOOLER
A-Okay by Jarad Greene (2021). Acne and asexuality in middle school! ~ Selected by Tillie & Emma H.
Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado (2021). Smart. Wry. Ambitious. Loved. Fat. Charlie. ~ Selected by Lisa
NON-FICTION OR REFERENCE BOOKS FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE TO THINK AND CHAT WHILE SITTING BY THE WOODSTOVE
New England's Roadside Ecology by Tom Wessels (2021). Indispensable reference for our region's hikers. ~ Selected by Sam & Emma N.
A Little Devil In America by Hanif Abdurraqib (2021). Black art shapes our whole culture. ~ Selected by Sam & Emma N.
A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman (1987). In which the medieval feels ... modern. ~ Selected by Sam & Emma N.
GRAPHIC BOOKS BECAUSE PICTURES ADD 1,000 WORDS
Here by Richard McGuire (2014). A brilliant time-traveling graphic novel. ~ Selected by Tillie & Emma H.
MEMOIRS/BIOGRAPHIES FOR PEOPLE WHO ENJOY LIVING VICARIOUSLY THROUGH OTHERS
Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson (2015): Author famous for gothic horror also makes a mean pudding. ~ Selected by Sam & Emma N.
You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar (2021). Racism. Education with Humor. Engaging sisters. ~ Selected by Lisa
FICTION FOR ANYONE WHO NEEDS AN ENGROSSING NOVEL TO RECOVER FROM THE NEWS
When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky by Margaret Verble (2021). Beautiful story of a Cherokee horse-diver. ~ Selected by Lucinda
I Was Never The First Lady by Wendy Guerra (2021). Daughter/mother coping in dream[e]scape Cuba. ~ Selected by Peter
The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld (2020). Three women, three histories, daring prose. ~ Selected by Tillie & Emma H.
SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED A QUICK FIX
Sarahland by Sam Cohen (2021). Hilarious, queer, short stories; very 2021. ~ Selected by Tillie & Emma H.
MYSTERIES / THRILLERS FOR ANYONE WHO LOVES TO GUESS THE ENDING
Falling by T. J. Newman (2021). “Speed” on a plane - heart pounding! ~ Selected by Lucinda
Northern Spy by Flynn Berry (2021). Sisters' relationship tested by IRA resurgence ~ Selected by Lucinda
Lucinda Walker is the Director of the Norwich Public Library. In the words of Eloise, she “loves, loves, loves” her job, her colleagues and the Norwich community. She is addicted to podcasts (Brave Little State, Ear Hustle & Mortified are current favorites), a daily walk or run and dark-roasted coffee. Lucinda lives in Brownsville with her writer/librarian husband Peter Money (see below) and two kids, Hartley & Lily.
Tillie Walden is a cartoonist and illustrator from Austin, TX. She is a graduate of the Center for Cartoon Studies, where she now teaches. As of 2022, she has published three graphic novellas with the London based Avery Hill Publishing and three with First Second Books, including her Eisner Award-winning books Spinning and Are You Listening?. She currently lives in Norwich, Vermont with her wife Emma Hunsinger (see below) and two cats Stan and Tatiana.
Emma Nichols wanted to grow up to become either a librarian or a witch, but she's delighted to be co-owner of the Norwich Bookstore instead (close enough, right?). Her first, and only, tattoo is a quote from a story by Kelly Link, and she wishes more people would ask her for short story recommendations. If she's not at the bookstore, you'll most likely find her reading, baking bread, or tinkering with spreadsheets.
Peter Money is currently the Mary L. Blood Memorial Library librarian in Brownsville (West Windsor), Vermont, where Civil War artifacts and taxidermy --named Olivia, Newton, and John--keep him company. Married to "big city" librarian Lucinda Walker (see above), Peter is firstly a poet, novelist, and teacher who performs with the poetry band Los Lorcas. In 2019, his novel Oh When the Saints--set in Dublin--was launched in Ireland by Nuala O'Connor (the author of 2021 Best Seller Nora) and praised by Peter Orner. Peter's other books include American Drone: New & Select Poems, Che: A Novella In Three Parts, and translations of Saadi Youssef with Sinan Antoon, Nostalgia, My Enemy. In addition to Last Night In America with Los Lorcas, Peter's spoken word album Blue Square is available on Apple Music. RTE aired his streamable radio essay, "Loves: Silence and the music of JS Bach." When not "booking," Peter may be found painting, mowing, or wide-eyed at something his grown son and daughter have done. Some version of himself is found at petermoney.com, @poetpetermoney (I), @petermoneyhere (T).
Sam Kaas has been a bookseller for most of his adult life, and still thinks it's just about the best gig a person could have. He is the co-owner, with his partner Emma Nichols (see above), of the Norwich Bookstore. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, he has a fondness for strong coffee and dark, rainy days. He knows more than you might expect about classic cars, off-brand guitars, and the Drive-By Truckers discography.
Emma Hunsinger is a cartoonist from Connecticut. She started her career making New Yorker gags before getting her MFA at the Center for Cartoon Studies. Her short comic "How To Draw a Horse" appeared in pages of the New Yorker and was nominated for an Eisner. She currently lives in the Upper Valley where she spends most of her time trying to stay warm.
The Book Jam Lisas
Lisa Christie, co-founder of the Book Jam, was, in previous times, the Founder/Executive Director of Everybody Wins! Vermont and USA, literacy programs that help children love books. She currently works as a part-time non-profit consultant, school board member (who is ever grateful to our teachers, administrators, staff, students, and parents/guardians), and all-the-time believer in the power of books. She lives in Norwich with her musician/podcasting husband, two superb teenage sons (well only when the oldest is home from college), and a very large dog. She often dreams of travel.
Lisa Cadow is the co-founder of the Book Jam. When not reading or experimenting in her kitchen, she is a full time student of counseling at the University of Vermont. She fervently believes that health outcomes would improve if doctors could prescribe books to patients as well as medicine. Lisa lives in Norwich with her husband, three cats, and a fun border collie and loves it when her three adult children visit.