Gift Guide: New Hampshire's Best New Books

Opt for local gifts made by gifted literary locals

The season of giving is almost upon us, and, with it, the stress of trying to find a gift that’s both thoughtful, affordable and custom-selected for that friend or loved one. Books and records have been reliable go-to gifts for years, but, to add a special touch, one that shows the buyer to be not only cultured but also centered in time and space, why not focus on the works of writers and musicians who breathe the same clean New Hampshire air as you do? Quality is no problem. All the books on this page (and the CDs in our accompanying music gift guide) have been reviewed as top-notch products that will be appreciated and enjoyed. And, while you’re at it, buy an extra copy for yourself.

"Small Great Things," Jodi Picoult
Seems like New York Times best-selling author Jodi Picoult (of Hanover) has written a gazillion books, but each new one arrives with its own fresh buzz, tackling a timely societal issue in a provocative way. Such prescience is all the more remarkable when you consider that it takes quite a few months to write and produce a new novel, even when you are as prolific as she. Her latest, “Small Great Things,” weaves a storyteller’s spell around the hot-button topics of racial prejudice and justice. — Ballantine Books, $28.99

"The Sugar Mountain Snow Ball," Elizabeth Atkinson
Award-winning middle grade novelist Elizabeth Atkinson lives in Maine, but she sets “The Sugar Mountain Snow Ball” in the midst of recognizable Granite State places (with names altered) to tell the tale of two local girls with big dreams and a fortune teller who changes their lives with a “psychic reading.” The winter setting and mountain locales make this a great book for a teen or a book-loving tweenager to take along for a weekend of skiing. — Islandport Press, $18.95

"The Humorless Ladies of Border Control," Franz Nicolay
As pop music infected by commercial giantism begat punk, so travel writing extended into the dismal electricity of the punk music clubs of Eastern Europe and Russia begets this book. Part guidebook and part picaresque romp, THLoBC is full of seamy insights into the worldwide punk scene. It helps that the NH-born author once played keyboards in Brooklyn rock band The Hold Steady and performed in the Balkan-jazz quartet Guignol. — The New Press, $26.95

"Sheds," Howard Mansfield
William Blake wrote, “To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower.” A similar vision imbues local treasure Howard Mansfield’s latest book, “Sheds,” in which he extrapolates human nature and Western civilization from our most mundane forms of shelter. The book is illustrated with the luminous photos of Joanna Eldredge Morrissey of Peterborough. — Bauhan Publishing, $25

"The Above-Average Adventures of Nicholas Herriman," Ken Sheldon
Ken Sheldon has been spinning out imaginary worlds of one sort or another for as long as we’ve known him (or his alter ego, Fred Marple — see December's “Last Laugh"), so it was no surprise to see him channel his inner adolescent in this page-turning, middle-grade novel about a kid who finds a magic costume trunk. Don’t let the recommended age range fool you. Our editor stayed up late reading just to find out what happens. — Harmon House, $6.99

"Blood: Stories," Matthew Cheney
Matthew Cheney is currently crafting his PhD dissertation at the University of New Hampshire, but his literary works are found in venues ranging from the pulpish (Weird Tales) to the erudite (The Los Angeles Review of Books) and in a fascinating online magazine he co-creates called The Revelator. This collection reprints work originally published elsewhere, and includes four new stories that travel from contemporary New Hampshire to historical Prague to might-have-been Mexico to a future world where no reality stays real for long. — Black Lawrence Press, $18.95

"Live Free or Ride"
The latest volume of the popular NH Pulp Fiction series is sure to please anyone who loves cowboys, aliens, short fiction and/or Concord Coaches. Once again, the stories come from a variety of writers, new and well-known, but unlike previous editions in the series, these sharp-shooting stories are not all actually set in NH (conveniently, for the Western genre) but all involve the famous ride that helped tame (and populate) the frontier. — Plaidswede Publishing, $19.95

Categories: Book Reviews