One thing that we can count on when we head into a new year is year-end best of lists. For books, there are always the best-selling lists, the critic’s lists and, of course, the White Birch Books Local Top Ten list. Let’s dig right in!
Holding the top spot this year is The Finest Hours by Michael Tougias and Casey Sherman. Although not a local book per se, it was our community read selection this year. White Birch Books partnered with local libraries across the Valley to promote and discuss this book, ending with a grand finale event with the author that was attended by more than 150 people. The story of a near impossible Coast Guard rescue resonated with readers as they compared it to the amazing work our local rescuers do time and again. A great read AND a great movie!
A perennial favorite and annual chart topper, Following Atticus by Tom Ryan, sits up high again this year. For a book that was originally published five years ago, this is a pretty amazing feat. For those who do not know the book, it is the story of Tom, an unlikely hiker, and Atticus, a miniature schnauzer, and their attempt to climb all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4000-foot peaks twice in one winter while raising money for charity. We are very much looking forward to the continuing this story when Will’s Red Coat comes out in late April.
Our next author is always in the annual top ten, too. Lisa Gardner has the number three spot for 2016 with Find Her, a thriller where we enter the world of a young woman who was abducted and terrorized for 472 days. Gardner gives us an inside look at the FBI and the victim advocate’s role. This is a thriller in the truest sense. Gardner’s next book is Right Behind You. White Birch Books will once again collaborate with Horsefeathers for the debut book event. This year it is scheduled for Monday January 30, starting at 7 p.m. I suspect we will see Lisa Gardner on the list next year, too.
Desperate Steps: Life, Death, and Choices Made in the Mountains of the Northeast, written by Peter Kick, was also a late addition to last year’s list and kept the momentum to reach again this year. The book recounts 20 true tales of backcountry misadventure and misfortune, including incidents along the Appalachian Trail, and seeks the lessons to be learned. Weather is unpredictable and even the best laid plans go awry – sometimes, the best decision is to just read the book!
Other popular outdoor books, and basically staples of our local book section, are AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the White Mountains by Robert Buchsbaum and the White Mountain Guide by Steve Smith, also published by the Appalachian Mountain Club. Both books are must-haves for the region. Together they offer almost all of the hiking advice, trail descriptions and suggestions that any local or visitor might need to fully enjoy the area.
A newcomer to the list this year is Not Just A Recipe: Celebrating People, Places and Food by Pat Altomare. Pat was a guest of the Cold River Radio Show and made an appearance at the bookstore. Her cookbook is full of recipes from her family, as well as from her travels all over the world.
Another book on our list is Death at the Day Lily Cafe, set on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. We can’t even pretend that’s local, but it makes our list because the author, Wendy Sand Eckel, is related to one of our former employees. This is the second book in the series and features recipes as well as sleuthing and was given the thumbs up by our Mystery Book Club.
Two novels round out our local top ten list. The first is The Major’s Daughter by J.P. Francis (also known as N.H. author Joe Monninger). This novel is based on the true story of German prisoners of war held in Stark, N.H., during World War II. It’s a great bit of mostly unknown history and Joe has turned it into a wonderful little novel.
Breaking Wild by Diane LesBecquets takes the final spot. The book is set out west, but Diane is from New Hampshire. It tells the story of two women, one lost in the wilderness and the other working to find her. They are both complicated and strong – fantastic women characters who work and play in the great outdoors.
So that’s it!– the second annual White Birch Books Local Top Ten List for 2016. What will 2017 bring in the way of local favorites? Only time will tell!
Laura Cummings owns and operates White Birch Books, an independent full service bookstore serving the Mt. Washington Valley – and beyond – for 24 years and counting.
By Laura Cummings
When you think of love, do you think of books? I do. There are books that I have loved over the years. Books that contain great love stories. And books that I love to read because they are just that good. As it is February, home to Valentine’s Day, let’s discuss books to love.
For some reason, I have the idea in my head that I will be sent to a deserted island with the option of bringing only ten books. Over the years, I have honed this list of possible ten books. It changes greatly depending on mood, circumstances or my memory, but there are always a few constants – the books I truly love.
The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay is always on the list. Peekay is born in 1939 South Africa, under the shadow of apartheid and Hitler, and embarks on an epic journey through a land of tribal superstition and modern prejudice. I read this for the first time decades ago, but I would read it again in a heartbeat. It combines my favorite hallmarks – a fascinating character, a rich history and an epic sweep. It’s definitely coming to the island.
Another island mainstay is The Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. A Pulitzer Prize-winner, this book is so bizarre that it is hard to describe. The main character is Ignatius J. Reilly, a huge, obese, selfish, domineering, deluded and tragic character. Set in New Orleans, the story bursts with ridiculously original characters and comic adventures. I insisted that the store book group read this one a while back. Some of them were very thankful. Others, not so much. Ignatius can be very hard to love, but well worth the time and effort.
Pocketful of Names by Joe Coomer, with a beautiful black lab on the cover, is a very easy book to be drawn to. Hannah, an artist, lives a solitary life on an island of the coast of Maine who is rudely interrupted when a dog appears on the tide, matted with feathers and seaweed. The dog is not so bad in itself, but he opens the door and soon there are more unexpected visitors, including a runaway teenager, a half-sister, a mainland family and a forlorn trapped whale. All of a sudden Hannah’s solitary life is gone, and it’s not really the worst thing. There are several other books that have this theme – a loner forced against their will to endure other people. A couple recent favorites are A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman and Heft by Lorrie Moore.
There are some newer books that might make the island list. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George has all the right ingredients. It is set in Paris, has a bookshop and has a twenty year love story. Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary – from his floating barge, he prescribes novels for the hardships in life. Using his intuition, he mends broken hearts and souls with just the right books. He can help anyone, except himself. Twenty years ago, the love of his life left him, and he has never recovered or tried to find out what happened. He shut that door and never intended to open it again. When forced by circumstance to examine his history, he embarks on a journey, with a motley cast of characters and a cat, and comes face to face with his past, while also opening himself up to a new future.
All the Winters After by Sere Prince Halverson is a brand new, slightly more complicated love story. Kachemak left Alaska twenty years ago when his parents and brother died in a plane crash. By a bizarre twist of fate, he was not on the plane, and as the sole family survivor, he has not been able to face going back. Finally, at his aunt’s insistence, he travels back, expecting to find his family’s homestead decayed into a pile of logs. To his surprise, he finds Nadia, a troubled Russian woman with her own secrets, hiding out there. She has kept the hose exactly the same – a haunting museum of life before the crash. These two tortured souls meet and heal and fall in love. But the book doesn’t end all tied up in a bow. That’s what makes it such a great read.
And finally, Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, is another new book that is making a strong bid for the island. It is winter 1945 and four teenagers, from four different backgrounds, carrying four different secrets converge in Gotenhafen, trying to book passage on a ship that promises safety and freedom from the advancing Soviet army. This book beautifully captures a little-known piece of history – the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, the single greatest tragedy in maritime history – while interweaving personal stories that are heartbreaking and beautiful. Marketed as a young adult novel, this is a book that all ages will read and love.
Enjoy your chocolates, flowers and romance, but don’t forget a good book. And start working on your list. What will you bring to your deserted island?
Laura Cummings owns and operates White Birch Books, an independent full service bookstore serving the Mt. Washington Valley – and beyond – for 23 years and counting.
By Laura Cummings
One thing that we can count on when we head into a new year is year-end best of lists. For books, there are always the best-selling lists, the critic’s lists and now, the White Birch Books Local Top Ten list. Let’s dig right in!
A perennial favorite and annual chart topper, Following Atticus by Tom Ryan, holds the top spot again this year. For a book that was originally published four years ago, this is a pretty amazing feat. For those who do not know the book, it is the story of Tom, an unlikely hiker, and Atticus, a miniature schnauzer, and their attempt to climb all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4000-foot peaks twice in one winter while raising money for charity. I’m sure Following Atticus will always sit at one of our top spots, but we are expecting it to be bumped in 2016 when Tom’s second book comes out.
Our next author is always in the annual top ten, too. Lisa Gardner has the number two spot for 2015 with Crash & Burn, a thriller where memory cannot be trusted. Is Nicole Frank a grieving mother or does she suffer from a rare brain injury that causes delusions? This a fast-paced page turner that keeps you guessing until the final page, which is kind of a Gardner trait. Gardner’s next book is Find Her. White Birch Books will once again collaborate with Horsefeathers for the debut book event. This year it is scheduled for Monday, February 8, starting at 7 p.m. I suspect we will see Lisa Gardner on the list next year, too.
Further down our list we find a couple books that are not really local, but they sure feel like it. God’s Kingdom by Howard Frank Mosher is a look at Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom as told by young Jim Kinneson. The book is a family history, as well as the history of the place, as told by a master storyteller. Although Mosher is a Vermonter through and through, I think we have adopted him and consider him one of our own.
Another book on our list is The Murder at Barclay Meadow, set on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. We can’t even pretend that’s local, but it makes our list because the author, Wendy Sand Eckel, is related to one of our former employees. This debut murder mystery, which features sleuthing by facebook, was given the thumbs up by our Mystery Book Club. We are all patiently awaiting the second book in the series, Death at the Day Lily Café, which is due this July.
A surprise fourth-quarter bestseller was Cats on the Job by Lisa Rogak. We consider this on the local list because the book came to our attention because it featured Marty, the hard-working cat atop Mount Washington. After seeing the popularity of this book, I have learned to never underestimate cats!
Desperate Steps: Life, Death, and Choices Made in the Mountains of the Northeast, written by Peter Kick, was also a late addition to the list. The book only hit our shelves in December, but it was so popular we sold out of it many times. Desperate Steps recounts 20 true tales of backcountry misadventure and misfortune, including incidents along the Appalachian Trail, and seeks the lessons to be learned. Weather is unpredictable and even the best laid plans go awry – sometimes, the best decision is to just read the book!
The hot book from 2014, Retro-Ski by Greg Morrill, shows its staying power by remaining in the top ten this year. This nostalgic look back at skiing is a collection of 50 Retro-Ski columns and will have readers remembering the early days of skiing – wooden skis, leather boots, knickers, wind shirts and poma lifts. Are you a retro-skier?
White Mountain Poems by Jeffrey Zygmont was another surprise addition to the list this year. A slim and attractive book, it combines Zygmont’s poetry with beautiful photography from all over the White Mountains. The book follows a seasonal path and makes a great keepsake of the area, as well as a nice reminder of how lucky we are to live here.
Rounding out our top ten list are two of the staples of the local book section – Tom Eastman’s The History of Cranmore Mountain and Not Without Peril by Nicholas Howe. These books may not be new, but if you haven’t read them, then they are new to you. Plus they are the mainstay of our collection and I would expect them to hit this list every year.
So that’s it – the first annual White Birch Books Local Top Ten List for 2015. What will 2016 bring in the way of local favorites? Only time will tell!