Just because you are vacationing in your own backyard doesn’t mean you can’t use this summer to explore the world.The humble book may seem like a primitive technology, but it’s unsurpassed in taking the mind on trips abroad. No matter how many gizmos you carry around, your most powerful search engine with the best broadband is still right between your ears, and all you need to log in is to open the covers and turn a page.
New Hampshire Higher Education Assistance Foundation and New Hampshire Magazine have put their heads together (with a little help from some local independent booksellers) to bring you this list of books, all by local authors, and each one designed to take you somewhere you will never forget and still get you home in time for bed. Have a great trip and send us a postcard.
All the Clouds’ll Roll Awayby Taylor Morris
Gap Mountain Press, 2008, 436 pages,$19.95
“Early on there is the dream,” Taylor Morris says of his autobiographical novel, “All the Clouds’ll Roll Away.” The dream, told as a trilogy (volume one contains two parts), is that of a boy growing up in old New Orleans with his sights set on being a pilot — and, of course, a hero. Will Vairins gets his chance to fulfill what he sees as his destiny shortly after Pearl Harbor, when he leaves college and wins his wings in the Naval Air Corps.
There is a college love interest — Leyla Herndon — that unfolds into a great love story set against the backdrop of World War II. Will’s Huck Finn-ish early years in New Orleans are beautifully rendered, the mystery and mystique of the place aptly conveyed. Read the third part of the trilogy, “Dreams to Life,” to find out how it ends.
We Went to War: New Hampshire Remembersby Meg Heckman and Mike Pride
Monitor Publishing Co., 2008, 317 pages, $29.95
Filmmaker Ken Burns, who produced a celebrated PBS documentary about World War II, has words of praise for this book about the war — “the real stuff,” “wonderful, moving,” he says. Meg Heckman and Mike Pride of the Concord Monitor set out to record the memories of members of the World War II generation still living in New Hampshire six decades after the war ended — both on the battlefront and the homefront. The oral histories touch on the well-known — D-Day, the Bataan Death March, the Japanese surrender — but there are also stories not heard before that paint a picture of a time that changed the people who experienced it in profound ways. Readers will meet courageous people like Edward Mulcahy, who volunteered to be a tailgunner on a heavy bomber despite being told the average life span of a tailgunner in combat is about six and a half minutes; Ruth White, who was 8 years old when her father went to Europe as a chaplain and never came back; and many others as well.
Dead Sand, A Lewis Cole Mysteryby Brendan DuBois
Plaidswede Publishing, 1994, 266 pages, $18.95
Lewis Cole, a Department-of-Defense-research-analyst-turned-sleuth, has investigated mysterious goings-on in New Hampshire in five of Brendan DuBois’ books. “Dead Sand” was his first, published in 1994, and now re-published with the aim of keeping in print what publisher George Geers describes as “the most well-known detective mystery series set in the state of New Hampshire.” Critics have compared DuBois’ sleuth Cole to Robert B. Parker’s Spenser — both, one reviewer said, “rugged, clever, ethical, erudite and lovable.”
Five Finger Fictionby Brooks Sigler
Publishing Works Inc., 2008, 209 pages, $21.95
“Five Finger Fiction” is an edgy, coming-of-age story — chick lit in the style of David Sedaris; rude, unabashed, in your face, laugh-out-loud funny and so true. Lila O’Farrell has a large, extended Irish Catholic family. Her mother is a force of nature, something between a flash flood and a frightening televangelist, her father is a peeping Tom and her sister is simply oblivious, Kleptomania is the only thing that gives Lila comfort from her overbearing mother. She takes jewelry, tongue depressors, a friend’s brassiere. But breaking the law and casting aside social mores (the day she stole Sister Blandina Joan’s rosary she knew she had crossed “some strange line in the universe”) are nothing compared to overthrowing her mother Lynette’s authority. Lila’s not sure she can grow up and move on if her mother doesn’t give her permission.
The Night Battlesby M.F. Bloxam
The Permanent Press, 2008, 240 pages, $28
Nominated for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize
M.F. Bloxam’s “The Night Battles” is a gorgeously written novel set in Italy and centered around an American historian who has her own internal battles to deal with. Joan Severance gets in trouble as a professor at Brown University, and she relocates to Valparuta in Italy to conduct research in the archives. Once there, she discovers the town has as complex a history as her own, and she becomes entrenched in the life of the mysterious archivist, Chiesa. The sexual tension between the two is mixed with some ritualistic paranormal activity, and Bloxam deftly creates a chilling, detailed atmosphere that will keep you turning the pages.
— Recommended and written by Michele Filgate of RiverRun Books, Portsmouth
Following the Water: A Hydromancer’s Notebookby David M. Carroll
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009, 208 pages, $24
Dictionary.com defines “hydromancy” as divination by means of the motions and appearance of water. If there is anyone who could rightly claim to practice it, it is David Carroll. “As a boy,” he says in this, his latest book, “I entered waters that, if not alive themselves, were so filled with light and life that my binding with them was as much metaphysical as physical.” Carroll has spent much of his life by the water near his home, observing intensely what was happening in and around it, especially with his beloved turtles. He describes his watery encounters in the kind of luminous detail (the chapter called “Interval with a Deer” is a fine example) that only a quiet, contemplative mind can fathom. Annie Dillard, the internationally celebrated naturalist writer, calls Carroll “a genius.” Not long ago Carroll won a MacArthur “Genius” Award for his work. It must be so.
— Recommended by Michael Herrmann, Gibson’s Books, Concord.
Return to Peyton Placeby Grace Metalious, with forward by Ardis Cameron
University Press of New England, 2007, 275 pages, $15.95
This is a book that author Grace Metalious did not want to write. It was 1959 — three years after her then-very-shocking story of “Peyton Place” had hit the American scene like a meteor — and all she wanted was escape from the world her success and notoriety had created. But finally she was persuaded to write the sizzling, semi-autobiographical sequel, “Return to Peyton Place.” In this edition you get both the sequel and an essay written by Ardis Cameron that expertly tells the story behind the story of “Return.” Cameron’s essay, part of a larger work-in-progress on the Peyton Place phenomenon, draws a complex and insightful picture of the much-acclaimed and much-maligned Metalious.
Everyday Mattersby Nardi Reeder Campion
University Press of New England, 2004, 252 page, $25.95
In one of Nardi Reeder Campion’s rich recountings of her life in “Everyday Matters,” she goes to see “Our Town” with her soon-to-be husband Tom and hears the now-familiar question, “Do any human beings ever realize life when they live it — every, every minute?” It seems that Campion, like the saints and poets, has come close to it. Her book, which spans most of the 20th century, is filled with stories of times and relationships so deeply experienced and now so delightfully written about that you feel you’re living alongside her. If you are of a certain age, you’ll enjoy her introduction where she writes of her pre-plastic, pre-pizza, pre-pantyhose, pre-penicillin growing up, and of how she and Tom became “unstuck in time” — not wanting to rock around the clock.Why?by Tomie DePaola
G.P. Putnams, 2007, $14.99
Known mostly for his iconic illustrations and characters such as Strega Nona and Big Anthony, Tomie DePaola is at heart a great story teller. He reveals the depth of this talent in his 26 Fairmont Avenue chapter book series which blends his vivid memories of growing up during the WWII years with the joys, fears and puzzlement that every child experiences. The current book, “Why?” is seventh in the series. His next, “For The Duration,” is due out in July. The series is suitable for kids, though it doesn’t coddle them, and adults will find plenty to love at 26 Fairmont Avenue.Murder on Mount Monadnockby J.S. Winter Surry Cottage Books, 2009, 285 pages, $12.99
This whodunit is set on New
Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock in the summer of 1910. The daughter of vaudeville star Lillie Langtry is found dead at the bottom of the mountain’s Black Precipice. Is it an unfortunate accident, as the local police say? Or has there been foul play? Enter Boston detective Robert de La Tour. Along with his brother Eugene, a Boston reporter, they investigate the clues found at the Halfway House, a summer resort on the mountain, and beyond. Intertwined in the plot is a historical aspect (with some literary license taken) that involves Franklin Roosevelt, Robert Frost, Willa Cather, Mark Twain and other famous visitors to the area. After taking the reader down one blind alley after the other, the investigators satisfyingly solve the mystery. — Recommended by Willard Williams, Toadstool Bookshop, Peterborough I’m Hosting as Fast as I Can!by Tom Bergeron, Harper One, 2009, 226 pages, $25.99
From his humble beginnings to his numerous humiliations along the path to fame and fortune, Tom Bergeron takes stock of his life and his world in this breezy and irresistible memoir. It’s infused with the kind of charm and humor-enriched wisdom that makes him the “host with the most” for millions of Americans. The book opens with a retelling of the moment that Marie Osmond passed out on live TV as Bergeron was hosting “Dancing with the Stars” and then time travels through his “Gumpian” career bumping into just about every cultural icon, from The Three Stooges to Star Trek along the way.Writer on the RiseAuthor Richard Farrell
Former addict pulls no punches in an explosive memoir
Memoirs of self-destruction and redemption can make fascinating reading, though the genre has taken a hit recently with the public exposure of fabrications in James Frey’s best selling “Million Little Pieces.” But Richard Farrell’s “What’s Left of Us,” while fantastic in its raw tales of human excess and exploitation, rings true in every gritty detail.
First of all, Farrell has credentials as something of an expert on the subject of drug abuse and its toll. He produced and directed the HBO documentary “High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell.” In his new work, Farrell recounts seven life-changing days in a hellish rehab facility. As his prospects dim, his past scrolls before his eyes like a Biblical fever dream in a pornographic wasteland. Fortunately for us, he survives to share his visions.
Farrell hopes to turn his autobiography into a feature film and has been hammering out the screenplay as the book is prepared for its June release. Hollywood is paying attention and Oscar-winning actor Chris Cooper is among the fans (and a likely actor for the film). Interviewed in his Milford home, Farrell says that whether this book breaks big or not, he’ll keep writing. “It’s the only thing that keeps these ghosts away,” he says.
What’s Left of Us
by Richard Farrell
Citadel Press, 2009, $13.95
This article appears in the June 2009 issue of New Hampshire Magazine