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Relaxed Reads
A look at this summer’s chillest books

06/30/16
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



The days are longer, the weather’s warmer and your lounge chair is ready for hours of reading — on the beach, in a backyard, on your porch or even during your break in your workplace parking lot, if that’s how you roll.

For this year’s list of titles, we reached out to a handful of New Hampshire novelists and writers, who told us about their newest pieces and what they’ve been reading, from kids books to thrillers, and also the state’s librarians and booksellers about their favorite picks published since last summer.
 
What local writers are reading
 
E.C. Ambrose
My most recently published book: Elisha Rex (July 2015), Book 3 in The Dark Apostle series, about a 14th-century barber surgeon who finds he has an unnatural affinity with death.
Best book I read this past year: “My favorite book of the last year is Touch by Claire North (February 2015). It’s a beautifully written, surprisingly moving supernatural thriller that makes you think hard about who you are and why.”
I keep recommending to friends: “I constantly recommend Doc by Mary Doria Russell (2011). Doc tells the story of Doc Holliday before the O.K. Corral — it is deeply human, with rich relationships, and interweaves the mystery as it is uncovered.”
 
Erin Bowman
My most recently published book: Vengeance Road (September 2015), set in 1877 Arizona and inspired by a true legend: A young girl sets out to avenge her father’s murder, only to find herself entangled in a blood quest for lost gold.
Best book I read this past year: The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski (March 2016). “The gorgeously written Winner’s Trilogy has become one of my favorites, and this final installment had my heart pounding. Huge stakes, epic battles, and an unforgettable pair of star-crossed lovers.”
I keep recommending to friends: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (2006). “This coming-of-age-story set in a world of dark, fractured fairy tales has been my go-to recommendation for years. Timeless and moving.”
 
Richard Adams Carey
My most recently published book: In the Evil Day: Violence Comes to One Small Town (August 2015), about the real-life 1997 shootings in Colebrook, New Hampshire.
Best book I read this past year: Breaking Wild by Diane Les Becquets (February 2016). “This is a quest-and-survival tale that sends you on a virtual-reality immersion into the Colorado wilderness and also the psyches of its two troubled and resourceful protagonists — buckle up.”
I keep recommending to friends: The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery (May 2015), which was a finalist for the National Book Award. “Sy has devoted a lifetime to describing to her readers the intelligence, emotions, and yes, even the souls of other animals besides humans, and she has found her most impressive (and strangest) avatar of all of the above in the octopus.”
 
Maryann Cocca-Leffler
My most recently published book: Janine. (March 2015), a picture book about a little girl who marches to the beat of her own drum and isn’t invited to a party the rest of her classmates are. Its sequel, Janine and the Field Day Finish, is slated to come out October 2016. Both are inspired by the author’s daughter.
Best book I read this past year: Cascade by Maryanne O’Hara (2012). “Set in the 1930s in a town which will soon be flooded to make a reservoir, a talented young artist struggles to save her town, her  father’s business and her marriage.”
I keep recommending to friends: The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro (2012). “I love this book, as it’s a fictional mystery about the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist and the secrets of art forgery.”
 
Brendan DuBois
My most recently published book: He has two books coming out later this year, Storm Cell (November 2016), the tenth book in the Lewis Cole mystery series, and The End (January 2017), co-written with James Patterson.
Best book I read this past year: The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (April 2015, winner of 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction). “It takes place in South Vietnam at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, and the following years in southern California. It’s a thriller, an espionage novel, and also an insight of the Vietnamese experience during wartime and afterwards.”
I keep recommending to friends: “Although I’ve not read the entire work yet, I’d be recommending The Fireman by Joe Hill (May 2016). Not only because he’s a local boy, but he has a unique and imaginative apocalyptic tale that takes place worldwide, but with many scenes here in New Hampshire and Maine.”
 
Paul Durham
My most recently published book: The Luck Uglies #3: Rise of the Ragged Clover (March 2016), the third and final title in the Luck Uglies children’s trilogy.
Best book I read this past year: The Nest by Kenneth Oppel (September 2015). “A dark, atmospheric little novel that reads quick and evokes chills without violence or gore.”
I keep recommending to friends: “I always recommend The Graveyard Book (2008) by Neil Gaiman when visiting schools and talking to young readers who like their books a little on the scary side. I happen to think that Gaiman’s children’s books are better than his adult work.”
 
David Elliott
My most recently published book: There are three coming out next year: In the Past, the last in the Candlewick poetry series, dinosaurs this time around; THIS ORQ. (He #1!), the third in the caveboy series; and BULL, an older YA novel in verse, retelling the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.
Best book I read this past year: “I couldn’t put down The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann (2009). This nonfiction narrative focuses on larger-than-life Victorian explorer Peter Fawcett’s search for the fabled and elusive city of El Dorado and is as thrilling as any book of fiction I’ve ever read. I also loved — and for similar reasons — White Eskimo by Stephen R. Bown (November 2015).”
I keep recommending to friends: The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham (1919) and The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham (1944). “I admire in both books the way the narrator remains completely honest about his two rather difficult protagonists but refrains from passing judgment on them, a good lesson for all of us, I think.”
 
Kevin Flynn
My most recently published book: Dark Heart: A True Story of Sex, Manipulation, and Murder by Kevin Flynn and Rebecca Lavoie (March 2016), about the real-life murder of UNH student Lizzi Marriott.
Best book I read this past year: Dead Presidents: An American Adventure into the Strange Deaths and Surprising Afterlives of Our Nation’s Leaders by Brady Carlson (February 2016). “You know him from NHPR, but this local guy traveled the country to visit the grave sites of every U.S. president. His style is funny — like Dave Barry — but informative at the same time.”
I keep recommending to friends: You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott (July 2016). “She is the queen of deconstructing noir and recasting it in tales of adolescence. Megan is about to blow up, with her last two books, Dare Me (2012) and The Fever (2014), coming to TV as [a] series shortly.”
 
Marie Harris
My most recently published book: The Girl Who Heard Colors (September 2013). A picture book with illustrations by Vanessa Brantley Newton that introduces readers to the five senses and to synesthesia, a condition in which one sense triggers another. 
Best book I read this past year: The Penny Poet of Portsmouth: A Memoir of Place, Solitude, and Friendship by Katherine Towler (March 2016). “This wonderful book weaves the story of a brilliant and eccentric poet into the fabric of a Seacoast town at a turning point.”
I keep recommending to friends: One of Us is Lost: Selected Poems of Robert Dunn (April 2016). “Here are poems to read over and over — witty, lyrical, and full of heart.”
 
Marty Kelley
My most recently published book: Albert’s Almost Amazing Adventure (March 2016), about a boy whose friends don’t seem to think the story of his Maine vacation is as exciting as he does.
Best book I read this past year: Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor (October 2015). “It’s based on the podcast of the same name and is creepy and funny and wonderfully written.”
I keep recommending to friends: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore (2002). “This is, without question, one of the funniest books I have ever read.”
 
Diane Les Becquets
My most recently published book: Breaking Wild (February 2016), which tells the story of a female bow hunter who goes missing in the Colorado wilderness, and a female ranger who sets out to find her.
Best book I read this past year: “My favorite book that I read this past year was In the Evil Day: Violence Comes to One Small Town by Richard Adams Carey (August 2015). This true account of murder in a small town in New Hampshire ... and how the town healed and put itself back together was both haunting and captivating, beautifully written, and felt personable given the fact that it takes place in one of our own neighborhoods.”
I keep recommending to friends: “A book I most like recommending to friends, because I am such a dog lover, would be Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond Between People and Dogs by Caroline Knapp (1998). This memoir is a beautiful exploration of the wonderful and complex relationship between [a] woman and her dog, and is written by a young writer who died far too young from the clutches of cancer.”
 
Joseph Monninger
My most recently published book: Whippoorwill (September 2015), about a girl and a dog and life in northern New Hampshire.
Best book I read this past year: Searching for Wallenberg by Alan Lelchuk (April 2015). “He’s a great novelist and a New Hampshire guy! An old friend.”
I keep recommending to friends: “It depends on the person, of course, but recently I’ve been recommending Great Heart: The History of a Labrador Adventure by James West Davidson and John Rugge (1988). Superb book about two canoe trips through rough country. Historical and fascinating.”  
 
Sy Montgomery
My most recently published book: The Great White Shark Scientist (June 2016), a book for young readers about whether Cape Cod’s waters are serving as a breeding ground for the great white sharks, part of the Scientists in the Field series.
Best book I read this past year: Dreaming of Lions: My Life in the Wild Places by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas (February 2016). “It’s the story of a life lived with courage and joy among some of the most interesting animals and people on the planet.”
I keep recommending to friends: Dwelling in Possibility: Searching for the Soul of Shelter by Howard Mansfield (her husband, published 2013). “He writes about what makes some places feel welcoming, and why others don’t, and why this matters. …  Inviting friends to read it is like inviting them into our home, and making them feel welcome.”
 
Erin E. Moulton
My most recently published book: Keepers of the Labyrinth (August 2015), about a young girl, Lilith Bennette, who’s invited to attend a Future Leaders International conference in Crete, the same her mother attended years ago. Lil has been trying to follow in her mother’s footsteps for years in attempt to solve the mystery of her death; everyone says it was suicide, but Lil won’t believe it.
Best book I read this past year: Bone Gap by Laura Ruby (March 2015). “Ruby creates an extremely eerie read with this fast-paced surreal mystery full of oddball, but familiar, characters.”
I keep recommending to friends: “The book I usually recommend to friends is the latest Jon Ronson book — So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed (March 2015). Jon’s anxiety-riddled narrative and investigative journalist adventures make it a fast-paced, unique and enlightening read.”
 
Eric Pinder
My most recently published book: How to Share with a Bear (October 2015), a picture book with illustrations by Stephanie Graegin about sharing — with siblings or stuffed bears. 
Best book I read this past year: The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex (2007). “It’s a funny book for kids, with layers that adult readers also will enjoy. The movie Home is based on it, but the humor and satire are so much stronger in the book. It’s one of those stories that made me think, ‘I wish I’d written that!’”
I keep recommending to friends: Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn (2001). “A clever novel about how language affects how we think, set on an island where authorities ban the use of certain letters of the alphabet. I seem to always be recommending or lending it to friends and students, especially writers, crossword fans, and Scrabble players.”
 
Adi Rule
My most recently published book: The Hidden Twin (March 2016). Rule’s second novel is about a girl, Redwing, who has spent 18 years living in a small attic room while her identical sister Jey has lived a public life as an only child. Her life away has been an attempt to hide her secret, but it unravels one day when she and her sister trade places.
Best book I read this past year: Twilight Robbery by Frances Hardinge (2010). “This sequel to Fly By Night (2005) follows the further adventures of plucky Mosca Mye and her dangerous goose, and is just as strange and wonderful as the first.”
I keep recommending to friends: The Murder of Bindy MacKenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty (2006). “Immersive, funny, suspenseful, and masterfully written, this novel keeps readers wondering whether the smartest girl at Ashbury High is the victim of her own social shortcomings or a real murder plot.”
 
Librarian and bookseller picks
 
Fiction
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Published:  January 2016
Plot: Apocalyptic novel about two childhood friends who are brought together again as adults with the chance to help save the world.
Suggested by: Mat Bose, Hooksett Public Library. “Strange in all the right ways. This apocalyptic novel will appeal to general fiction readers as well as fantasy and sci-fi lovers.”
 
Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg
Published: August 2015
Plot: On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, a disaster takes the lives of June Reid’s daughter, her daughter’s fiance, her ex-husband and boyfriend. A community emerges from the disaster, weaving connections through shared heartbreak.
Suggested by: Martha Simmons, Hooksett Public Library. “With beautiful and spare language, Clegg delves into the different ways people deal with grief and secrets, regret and responsibility, and how they move beyond them and find ways to live. You may not like or agree with all of the characters, but you may recognize some of them even in yourself.”
 
Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
Published: July 2016
Plot: Margot and her mother Delores know that the youngest, Thandi, has the brains to make it out of their Jamaican squalor, and the time to get out is now, when plans for a new hotel threaten their village.
Suggested by: Alice Ahn, Water Street Bookstore. “This debut book [is] about gender, race, class, sexuality and colonialism, and what you have to do to survive it all.”
 
Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley
Published: June 2016
Plot: About a man whose best friend is his aging dog Lily.
Suggested by: Cheryl Carbone-Robichaud, Barnes & Noble, Nashua. “You will laugh, you will cry, you will fall in love with Lily!”
 
Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo
Published: May 2016
Plot: Sully from Nobody’s Fool is back 10 years later, and he’s hard at work keeping the news of his limited time — his cardiologist estimates he has just a year or two left to live — from the most important people in his life.
Suggested by: Michael Herrmann, Gibson’s Bookstore. “Both novels feature one of the funniest and most vivid characters in modern fiction, the immortal Sully.”
 
Historical fiction
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Published: June 2016
Plot: An epic, multi-generational novel of a family in Ghana that begins with two sisters — one who is sent as a slave to America and one who stays in her village.
Suggested by: Stef Schmidt, Water Street Bookstore. “It’s a beautifully written, heartbreaking story and a history that is vital for us to know and remember.”
 
Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
Published: July 2015
Plot: Beryl is raised by her English father in Kenya in the 1920s as a bold, wild child, and when she grows up, she becomes a horse trainer before realizing her real dream: to fly.
Suggested by: Bev Newton, Innisfree Bookshop. “A great read for anyone who loved Out of Africa (by Isak Dinesen, Karen Blixen, 1937).”
 
The Lake House by Kate Morton
Published: October 2015
Plot: An 11-month-old child vanishes during a party on a large estate in Cornwall, England. It’s a tragedy that remains unsolved for generations, until the case is opened up again decades later.
Suggested by: Pru Wells, Toadstool Bookshop, Milford. “Kate Morton has … once again created characters you care about, and their story, as it expands over generations.”
 
Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear
Published: March 2016
Plot: Maisie Dobbs is recovering from the trauma of being a nurse on the front lines of England during World War II but is sent to Nazi Germany for a mission with the British Secret Service.
Suggested by: Katharine Nevins, MainStreet BookEnds. “If you haven’t gotten hooked yet on the Maisie Dobbs mysteries, this is the summer for you.  Read them in order, starting with Maisie Dobbs, and then you have 12 wonderful books until you get to her latest, Journey to Munich.”
 
Children’s and young adult novels
Roses and Rot by Kat Howard
Published: May 2016
Plot: Two sisters attend a prestigious post-grad arts program and soon discover they may have to give up more than they intended to realize their artistic desires. 
Suggested by: Jill Sweeney-Bosa, Water Street Bookstore
 
The Lightning Queen by Laura Resau 
Published: October 2015
Plot: A young boy visits his grandfather in Mexico and hears about the old man’s life as a young boy and about his lifelong friend Esma, a.k.a. the Gypsy Queen of Lightning.
Suggested by: Grace Larochelle, Hooksett Public Library. “A fantastic story. … of a young man and his best friend, a gypsy girl, and their impossible fate of being friends forever.”
 
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Published: October 2015
Plot: The book is essentially the fanfiction piece Rowell’s protagonist Cath wrote in her book Fangirl. It’s about a magician who can’t enjoy his last year as a student at the Watford School of Magicks because he’s supposed to save the world. It’s a love story, ghost story, mystery and melodrama.
Suggested by: Stephanie Loiselle, Wilton Public and Gregg Free Library. “For those who yearn for a return to Hogwarts, Rainbow Rowell has created a new wizardly world to explore. … Mystery, romance, beautifully flawed characters, and all the fuzzy feel-good moments. … I liked it so much that I hit the last word and just started over because I didn’t want it to end!”
 
Suspense/mystery
The Precipice by Paul Doiron
Published: June 2015
Plot: Two female hikers disappear along the Appalachian Trail in Maine, and the Maine game warden searches to find them.
Suggested by: Brian Woodbury, Toadstool Bookshop, Milford
 
Redemption Road by John Hart
Published: May 2016
Plot: A town is on the brink of redemption, while a boy with a gun waits for the man who killed his mother; a detective confronts her past in the aftermath in a brutal shooting; and after 13 years in prison, a good cop walks free. 
Suggested by: Michael Herrmann, Gibson’s Bookstore
 
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
Published: May 2016
Plot: Ten privileged people and one painter depart Martha’s Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York, and 16 minutes later, the plane plunges into the ocean. The painter and a four-year-old boy are the only survivors. Odd coincidences point to conspiracy, resulting in media outrage and accusations.
Suggested by: Michael Herrmann, Gibson’s Bookstore. “Both [Redemption Road and Before the Fall] represent the best in summer reading, as they grab your attention right away, are fast-paced but intelligent, and have very satisfying payoffs. They are perfect to take to the beach for about one week of vacation each!”
 
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
Published: July 2015
Plot: Nora receives an invitation from a friend she hasn’t talked to in 10 years to a weekend away in an eerie glass house deep in the English countryside. Forty-eight hours after the trip, she wakes up in a hospital bed injured but alive with the knowledge someone else is dead.
Suggested by: Emma Hall, The Book Cellar
 
Food
PornBurger: The Cookbook by Mathew Ramsey
Published: May 2016
Plot: Washington, D.C., chef Mathew Ramsey creates an ingredient-driven recipe book on how to make the perfect burger, from handcrafted buns and patties to boozy beverages to go with.
Suggested by: Nathan Robbins, Barnes & Noble, Manchester. “There are a lot of burger cookbooks. This one outshines them all by being vividly and humorously written, as well as [including] recipes that will leave you wanting to lick the pages!”
 
Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
Published: July 2015
Plot: A man is left to raise his daughter alone after his wife runs off, and is determined to pass on his love of food.
Suggested by: Sue Carita, Toadstool Bookshop, Milford 
 
Nonfiction
Lust & Wonder by Augusten Burroughs
Published: March 2016
Plot: In this memoir, Burroughs examines what it means to be in love, in lust, and figuring it all out.
Suggested by: Emma Hall, The Book Cellar
 
Brilliant Beacons: A History of the American Lighthouse by Eric Jay Dolin
Published: April 2016
Plot: An epic history of American lighthouses.
Suggested by: Katharine Nevins, MainStreet BookEnds. “Author of the best seller Leviathan (2007). … Meet the author for an evening presentation of this book … on July 9 at Warner Town Hall, part of the annual Tory Hill Author Series.”
 
In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi 
Published: June 2016
Plot: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Susan Faludi sets to investigate her father, someone she scarcely knew — only to learn the 76-year-old is living in Hungary and has undergone gender confirmation surgery. Her struggle to come to grips with her father’s metamorphosis takes her across borders and causes her to ponder the question: is identity something you choose or something you can’t escape?
Suggested by: Nathan Robbins, Barnes & Noble, Manchester. “This memoir reads like a movie. The reconnection of an estranged father and daughter grows complicated as he reveals that he is now a woman.”
 
Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life by Richard Louv
Published: April 2016
Plot: The New York Times Bestseller who defined nature deficit disorder has written a guide with tips and activities about how to get families and communities outside via “Vitamin N” (for “nature”).
Suggested by: Katharine Nevins, MainStreet BookEnds. “One of my favorite writers who launched the children-and-nature movement with Last Child in the Woods (2005), Louv is back with a practical manual to get the family outside. Over 50 activities, inspiring and thought-provoking essays, informational websites, and tons of down-to-earth advice for families who want children connected to the natural world.”
 
So Close to Home: A True Story of an American Family’s Fight for Survival During World War II  by Michael J. Tougias and Alison O’Leary
Published: May 2016
Plot: The true story of a U-boat in 1942, in the Gulf of Mexico. Tougias is also author of The Finest Hours (2007), which inspired the recent Disney movie, and visits the Warner Town Hall July 23 as part of the Tory Hill Author Series. 
Suggested by: Katharine Nevins, MainStreet BookEnds. “This book is destined to also be a bestseller.”
 
Poetry
Wait Till I’m Dead: Uncollected Poems by Allen Ginsberg, edited by Bill Morgan
Published: February 2016
Plot: The first new Ginsberg collection in more than 15 years, spanning Ginsberg’s long writing career, from the 1940s to the 1990s. It contains 104 previously uncollected poems and is accompanied by original photographs.
Suggested by: Andrew Marciello, The Book Cellar
 
The Selected Poems of Donald Hall by Donald Hall
Published: December 2015
Plot: The former U.S. Poet Laureate, now in his 80s, has looked back over his body of work and hand-picked poems for this final, concise volume of work.
Suggested by: Andrew Marciello, The Book Cellar 





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