Home Grown Summer Escapes For Your Mind

The Granite State has a rock-solid reputation as home to many of the world’s best writers. If you’re lounging at Hampton Beach, you wouldn’t eat a lobster roll imported from New York — so why not make your summer reading list just as fresh and local? Here is a baker’s dozen of great books, picked by our editors and by the managers of some of the state’s best independent book shops (which just happen to be the best place to purchase all your summer reading supplies). HornsBy Joe Hill
William Morrow, 2010“Go to hell, it’s more fun.” That’s the inscription Joe Hill wrote in my copy of “Horns,” his darkly humorous follow-up to “Heart-Shaped Box.” The book opens when Ignatius Perrish wakes up after a particularly bad night. He doesn’t remember much and he’s got a splitting headache — possibly the result of the horns growing out of his head. Yes, big red horns. A little background – Ig was once a young up-and-comer, until his girlfriend was found murdered. Everyone thinks Ig did it, but they can’t prove it, so he lives the life of a pariah. And now he’s got horns.Ig reels from the power of the horns, trying to hold on to the last shreds of his humanity. Everyone he comes in contact with tells him their deepest darkest secrets, and that’s just a little too much information for Ig. But in order to find out who murdered his girlfriend, Ig has to embrace the horns even if it means he’s going to the devil.In addition to his two novels, Hill has also written a collection of short stories, “20th Century Ghosts,” and a comic book series, “Locke & Key.” Hill’s parents are authors Stephen and Tabitha King.Recommended by
Laura Lucy
White Birch Books, N. Conway
www.whitebirchbooks.comBirdologyBy Sy Montgomery
Free Press, 2010Sy Montgomery, who lives in Hancock with her husband, another fine New Hampshire writer named Howard Mansfield, recently hit the bestseller list with her charming memoir “The Good Good Pig.” But Montgomery has always deserved a wide readership. To gather material for her books she has been stalked by tigers in India, she has swum with the dolphins of the Amazon and she has hiked in search of snow leopards and golden moon bears. She is adventurous as a naturalist and as a writer; and as a writer she is lyrical and precise. In her new book, “Birdology,” Montgomery catalogues her lifelong fascination with birds, those fascinating creatures all around us which we rarely truly see. Each of seven species teaches a lesson: chickens show how Birds are Individuals (smart and social); the cassowary reveals that Birds are Dinosaurs; pigeons, crows, hawks, hummingbirds, and parrots impart lessons of their own. Throughout, Montgomery proves once again her preeminence in the flock of New Hampshire writers.Recommended by
Michael Herrmann
Gibson’s Bookstore, Concord
www.gibsonsbookstore.comThe BedwetterBy Sarah Silverman
Harper, 2010If you’re expecting crude jokes, profanity and generally offensive language to fill the pages of N.H. comedian Sarah Silverman’s memoir, you’re not wrong. She has, after all, built a successful career by cracking the rudest jokes she could imagine, all while maintaining a cute, innocent — and even naive — image. That’s the joke; no one expects the cute girl to spill such (hilarious) filth.And, I would imagine, no one really expected that between the book’s raunchy humor there would be moments of real sincerity, but there they are.At first glance the title is just funny (“The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption and Pee”), but it’s tinged with sadness. Silverman wet the bed well into her teenage years, and much of the book deals with the severe emotional impact of the constant humiliation she felt.Silverman also reveals (and riffs on) everything from her struggles with depression to the death of the infant brother she never met and the painful experience of getting fired from SNL.As a comedian, Silverman deals in shock, and she’s done it again. Here is a surprisingly moving memoir, just with a fart joke or two.Recommended by
Erica Thoits
New Hampshire MagazineOur Little SecretBy Kevin Flynn and Rebecca Lavoie
Penquin Group, 2010Who shot Danny Paquette? Was it a homicide or a random accident? The alleged molester and troubled Hooksett resident had more than a few prospects who might want him dead.Authors Kevin Flynn and Rebecca Lavoie researched, unraveled and rewove the history surrounding the 1985 death, going back to the death of Paquette’s own mother and the Pamela Mason murder that rocked Manchester in 1964.Without significant evidence the case went cold. There were a handful of people who knew from the beginning who killed Paquette, but it took a private investigator and interviews across the country to wring out the final justice.The team brings alive the anxiety, fear and loathing that surrounded the case. The past and present from a variety of sources are expertly woven together to help complete the who and why of the murder.The book reads like a real whodunit, especially for those readers who know nothing of the case. It’s too bad the authors fingered the killer on the cover.Recommended by
Cynthia Centaur
New Hampshire MagazineThe Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother’s MemoirBy Katrina Kenison
Springboard Press, 2009Katrina Kenison finds the times she treasures most are the ordinary unremarkable moments of everyday life. Her new book is an intimate memoir of a family in transition — boys becoming teenagers, careers ending and new ones opening up, all while moving and building a new house in Peterborough. It is a thoughtful story of mid-life longings and discoveries mixed with the tumult of life with adolescents while holding on and letting go.Recommended by
Willard Williams
The Toadstool Bookshop
www.toadbooks.comViolence, Veils and BloodlinesBy Louis J. Salome
McFarland Publishing, 2010As much as we claim to despise and fear the violence of war, its constant presence throughout history suggests that humanity is somehow suited to it. Louis Salome spent decades on various battlelines of Middle Eastern conflicts and what he learned puts concepts of endless war and jihad into perspective. We are tribal creatures, with ancestral ties and grudges that are imbedded in our views of the world and of ourselves. Salome’s book is a potent distillation of the hard truths earned as an eye-witness to history. He applies keen journalistic discipline and poetic introspection to the task of answering the question that still burns like a sabotaged Kuwaiti oil well here in the 21st century: What is your tribe?Recommended by
Rick Broussard
New Hampshire MagazinePerleyBy Sheila Swett Thompson
Old Mountain Press through the Historical Society of Cheshire County, 2008Perley Swett was born in Stoddard N.H., in 1888 and gained notoriety as the “hermit of Taylor Pond.” This fascinating book written by his granddaughter has sold more than 675 copies in our stores — probably more copies than there are residents in the small town where he lived — and proof enough that the story of his life is also a vivid and eye-opening portrayal of backwoods life throughout late 19th- and early 20th-century New England and as such deserves a wide readership.Recommended by
Willard Williams
The Toadstool Bookshop
www.toadbooks.comLast Night in Twisted RiverBy John Irving
Random House, 2009In the first few pages of “Last Night in Twisted River” a young boy drowns, a horrific and disfiguring accident is described, an illegitimate pregnancy is revealed and a region of New Hampshire is lovingly portrayed — in other words, John Irving is up to his old tricks.“Twisted River” begins at a ’50s-era logging camp in the northern woods of New Hampshire, where a chain of Irvingesque tragedies exiles camp cook Dominic Baciagalupo and his young son Danny to a life on the run.No one writes about the rippling effects of sudden (usually accidental) tragedy like Irving, and “Twisted River” is a study in how such events can influence lives for years to come.Set aside a good chunk of time for this book — it’s no exception to the Irving rule of in-depth story-telling peppered with symbols, sweeping themes and plot twists that all lead to the usual surprising dénouement.Recommended by
Erica Thoits
New Hampshire MagazineThe War That Killed AchillesBy Caroline Alexander
Penquin Group, 2009One of my favorite non-fiction titles of this past year is Caroline Alexander’s narrative history title “The War That Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer’s Iliad and the Trojan War.” In this remarkable and insightful book Alexander dons her scholarly detective cap to dig beneath all the layers of myth built up over the centuries on top of Homer’s epic poem. What she reveals is nothing less than Homer’s breathtaking struggle to find a meaning within the meaningless of war — whether that war is his Trojan War or the wars that have plagued our species from before the dawn of history right down to our struggle in Afghanistan today.In this book’s 225 pages, Alexander breathes new life into Homer’s “Iliad” for the contemporary reader. And don’t forget to check out the author’s marvelous previous books, “The Endurance” and “The Bounty.” Caroline Alexander is a quiet giant amidst New Hampshire’s local author scene.Recommended by
Dan Chartrand
Water Street Bookstore, Exeter
www.waterstreetbooks.comStark DecencyBy Allen V. Koop
University Press of New England, 1988It’s a testament to the global reach of World War II that an abandoned CCC Camp in Stark, N.H., operated as a POW camp where some 200 German soldiers were interned.Professor Koop’s book describes the effort and tribulations involved in producing a cord of pulpwood a day by each prisoner, despite internal clashes, language barriers and, of course, the famously intemperate weather of the region. (A crew of inmates and guards was sent to clear the road to Mt. Washington’s summit in a fierce storm; the men were reduced to sitting on each other, guard and prisoner, to try to stay warm.)The book moves beyond a history of a curious footnote to the War, though, in its focus on the relationship that developed between the captured Germans and the northern New Hampshire community in which they found themselves.This book is an enduring best seller for us: it reflects the quirks and character that make N.H. the place it is.Recommended by
Village Book Store, Littleton
www.booksmusictoys.comUnpacking the Boxes: A Memoir of a Life in PoetryBy Donald Hall
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009This is the book that Donald Hall wrote after serving as the 14th Poet Laureate of the United States in 2006. He explores how the many places, experiences and friendships of his life were shaped by his love of poetry in this lively, richly told memoir that focuses on his childhood and old age. It was in childhood that he made the intriguing discovery that would mould his life, that poetry is “secret, dangerous, wicked and delicious.” And it was in old age, “the planet of antiquity,” after the loss of his beloved wife and mother, that he began the overwhelming task of unpacking a mountain of boxes from which memories that defined his life rose “like a smoke of moths.”Recommended by
Morgan Hill Bookstore
New London
www.morganhillbookstore.comIn Good CompanyBy Fritz Wetherbee
Plaidswede Publishing, 2010New Hampshire’s most famous voice is probably that of Fritz Wetherbee, host of “New Hampshire Chronicle.” This is the fifth volume in his collected stories destined to soon include at least one thousand often forgotten tales from New Hampshire’s history. In this book you’ll learn about the real first battle of the American Revolution, a gruesome grave robbery in Hopkinton, the Henniker Shakers who were hustled out of town and many more of our state’s forgotten legends and historical incidents resurrected for your enjoyment.Recommended by
Willard Williams
The Toadstool Bookshop
www.toadbooks.comDark TigerBy William G. Tapply
Minotaur Books, 2009This is the third in the Stoney Calhoun mystery series featuring the Maine guide and is a fast-paced thriller set deep in the Maine woods. Tapply, who died last year, lived in Hancock, N.H., and was the prolific author of over 25 mysteries as well as non-fiction books about his passion, fishing.Recommended by Willard Williams
The Toadstool Bookshop

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