Just as I try to eat locally sourced food, I also like to give locally sourced books as gifts, especially in December, which begins with my husband’s birthday.
For the past twenty-six years, my friend and neighbor Archer Mayor has provided me with a Joe Gunther detective novel in time for Tim’s birthday. Not only are these books written a few miles down the road, but most of them take place in Vermont. Archer has a keen knowledge of local customs and politics with which he grounds these stories. By now, Joe Gunther is like an old friend, which only makes the suspense more thrilling when he’s on the trail of an elusive and dangerous criminal.
These novels combine deep knowledge of Vermont, savvy insight into human behavior, and inventive ways humans misbehave. I’ve learned to set aside a solid block of time so I can read these well-written stories in a single sitting, during which my heart races as I turn pages. It’s not just that I can’t put them down until I get to the end; I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t finish the book, I won’t sleep or get anything else done until I know how it ends.
Castle Freeman, Jr. lives up the hill from me, and he has a new novel just out, The Devil in the Valley. As Castle says, “Practically all the writing I have done – fiction, essays, history, journalism, and more – has been in one way or another about rural northern New England, in particular the State of Vermont, and the lies of its inhabitants, a source of unique and undiminishing interest, at least to me.”
Castle has a fine ear for the local vernacular, a clear eye for the local landscape, and a remarkable ability to tell a tale whose minute particulars reverberate with the human condition anywhere. After reading Castle’s splendid recent novels, Go With Me and All That I Have, I’m eager to read The Devil In the Valley – which is another reason for giving my husband a copy.
Our friend Peter Gould has a new young adult book out, which I’ve added to the pile. Marley, a Novella in One Voice is not just an unusual book – all one voice (and it’s not Marley’s) dialogue, no description – it’s been published locally, by Green Writers Press, a mission-driven publishing house that uses environmentally sustainable printing and distribution methods, publishes books that “incorporate and facilitate the gift of words to help foster a sustainable environment,” and donates a percentage of its profits to environmental causes. I can barely wait for Tim to unwrap this gift – so I can read it!
No birthday would be complete without a couple of volumes of poetry, and this year’s pick includes two. Sudden Eden by Verandah Porche came out in 2012 and sold out before I could buy a copy, so this is a long overdue purchase. Verandah is so remarkable: she breathes poetry so deeply she speaks it instead of prose. Both she and Peter were members of the famous Packers Corner commune in Guilford, where Verandah still resides. Her poems are filled with the nature that abounds here, including the poetry of ordinary lives, which of course are not ordinary at all. A tremendous example of her work can be found in Shedding Light on the Working Forest, in collaboration with the visual artist, Kathleen Kolb. This traveling exhibit of painting and poetry can be seen at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center through January 3, 2015 before moving on to other venues in Vermont and Connecticut.
I also picked up a copy of Interstate, the latest collection by local poet
Chard diNiord, who just recently became Vermont’s Poet Laureate. Tim’s a great fan of Chard’s work, and this volume brings his collection up to date. Tim will read it through, and then he’ll read the poems aloud to me.
I have two other books for Tim I’ve already purchased and read – on my Kindle. The Bonnie Road is by my friend and neighbor Suzanne d’Corsey. (Look here for a guest post by her soon.) The Bonnie Road is set in St. Andrews, Scotland, and draws on a dark, pagan undercurrent, spinning together mythology, archaeology, magic and love, all unleashed when American Rosalind Ehrhart arrives on the scene. In addition to a good story, the novel is filled with eccentric characters and lots of information, from how to brew a pot of tea to the mysterious interconnectedness of pagan rites, nature, history and culture. Reading The Bonnie Road completely drew me in to this credible, imaginary world.
And finally, our own J.A. Hennrikus, writing as Julianne
Holmes, has just come out with the first in a series of cozy mysteries, Just Killing Time. I don’t particularly care to travel, especially by air, so it’s a testament to how wonderfully entertaining this novel is that it helped me forget I was at 30,000 feet en route to spend ten days in California. Instead, I was in Orchard, Massachusetts, rooting for Ruth Clagan to solve the murder of her grandfather and fall in love with a new life: a perfect set up for the stories to come. I can hardly wait until next October, when the second in this series is due out.
Except for the two books I purchased for my Kindle, which is convenient for travel, I purchased all the other books at Everyone’s Books, my local, independent bookstore in Brattleboro, Vermont. Of course, I could have bought all these books on-line (and possibly even qualified for free shipping), but just as I like to read locally, I also like to shop locally.
Giving locally sourced books is my win-win-win formula for the holidays: it supports my writer friends, it supports my local economy, it pleases my loved ones, all of whom not only love to read, but who also generously share their books with me.
Deborah Lee Luskin‘s locally-sourced story is Into the Wilderness, a love story set in Vermont in 1964. Into the Wilderness was awarded the Independent Publishers Gold Medal for Regional Fiction and commended by the Vermont Library Association for its “Sense of Place.”