Book of the Week (1/16/2017)

Live Free or Ride edited by Elaine Isaak (Concord, NH: Plaidswede, 2016).

Live Free or Ride is the fifth book in Plaidswede’s New Hampshire Pulp Fiction series. This collection of stories features the legacy of the Concord Coach, which was made in Concord, NH.

The Toadstool Bookshop in Keene will host a reading and discussion on Saturday, 1/21/17 at 2 pm from a group of authors of the anthology, including Elaine Isaak writing as Leah Brent, James Isaak, E. Christopher Clark, Kevin Barrett, S. J. Cahill, and Margery Harrison.
NH Pulp Fiction is a series of anthologies of short-form fiction (typically less than 8,000 word per story) that takes the themes, genres, styles and attitudes of the pulp era of magazine and book publishing (i.e. quick and dirty and sensational) and applies them to the locales, myths, people and landmarks of the Granite State. The goal of the series is to produce highly readable and enjoyable books, professionally designed, that provide a platform for a mix of established writers and new voices. We hope to encourage and preserve the short story medium while showcasing New Hampshire as a place where just about anything can and does happen. -- NH Pulp Fiction blog


Book of the Week (1/9/2017)

American Luthier by Quincy Whitney (Lebanon, N.H. ForeEdge, 2016.)

New Hampshire author, Quincy Whitney brings us the biography of Carleen Maley Hutchins; an innovator in violin-making, when it was predominantly an all male profession. 

From the time of Stradivari, the mysterious craft of violin-making has been a closely guarded, lucrative, and entirely masculine preserve. In the 1950s Carleen Maley Hutchins was a grade school science teacher, amateur trumpet player, and New Jersey housewife. When musical friends asked her to trade a trumpet for a $75 viola, she decided to try making one, thus setting in motion a surprising career. A self-taught genius who went head to head with a closed and ancient guild, Hutchins carved nearly 500 stringed instruments over the course of half a century and collaborated on more than 100 experiments in violin acoustics. In answer to a challenge from a composer, she built the first violin octet—a family of eight violins ranging in size from an eleven-inch treble to a seven-foot contrabass, and in register across the gamut of the piano keyboard. She wrote more than 100 technical papers—including two benchmark Scientific American cover articles—founded an international society devoted to violin acoustics, and became the only American and the only woman to be honored in Cremona, Italy, the birthplace of Stradivari.

Hutchins died in 2009 at the age of ninety-eight. The most innovative violin-maker of the modern age, she set out to explore two worlds she knew virtually nothing about—violins and acoustical physics. American Luthier chronicles the life of this unsung woman who altered everything in a world that had changed little in three centuries. --Author's website.


Book of the Week (1/2/2017)

The Penny Poet of Portsmouth: A Memoir of  Place, Solitude, and Friendship by Katherine Towler (Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint Press, 2016).

I'll admit it - I was initially drawn to this book solely because of its cover! It is the perfect image that captures the essence of this beautiful memoir.
Around town, it was said that he lived on air, though he really lived on coffee and cigarettes. He was a union of unlikely opposites – one of the strangest and loveliest of people, one of the poorest and richest, one of the most sardonic and serious. He could be brilliant and intentionally obtuse, or quietly contained and defiant, all in the same moment.

The Penny Poet of Portsmouth is a memoir of the author’s friendship with Robert Dunn, a brilliant poet who spent most of his life off the grid in downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire, renting a room in a house without owning a phone, car, computer, or television. The book is as well an elegy for a time and a place rougher around the edges than it is today – the New England seaport city of the early 1990s that has been lost to development and gentrification. It is a meditation on what writing asks of those who practice it and on the nature of solitude in a culture filled with noise and clutter. And it is, finally, the story of a rare individual who charted an entirely unorthodox path that challenged the status quo in every way. More than a memoir or a biography, The Penny Poet of Portsmouth is the fable of a shared journey and a portrait of an abiding friendship. --Publisher's blurb


Book of the Week (12/26/2016)

Winter by Patricia Fargnoli (Brookline, NH: Hobblebush Books, 2013).

Now that the winter season is settling in (as I write this, it is below freezing with wind gusts and snow squalls here in NH!), I'm in the mood for some books about winter to curl up with under warm blankets while sipping a hot cup of tea. Past NH poet laureate Patricia Fargnoli's latest volume of poetry, Winter, fulfills this need perfectly.
“There is a prologue to the articulate—that is the silence,” said Derek Wolcott. “When that silence arrives, it can be the beginning of art.” As a prologue to her poems, Pat Fargnoli has listened deeply to the silence of winter, and the result is a collection of poems that capture the flame of the fox, the hunger of horses, and the solitude of snow—“ the flakes settling on your parka / like the dust from just-born stars.” What is articulated through these poems stems not from reticence, but from quiet observation and wisdom. Such great attention teaches us “the natural world comes to join you / if you go out to meet it,” and so we come to understand that “truth is found in silence.”- Meg Kearney


Book of the Week (12/19/2016)

The birds of Bethlehem by Tomie dePaola (New York : Nancy Paulsen Books, 2012.)

What better way to celebrate the holiday season, than to read a Christmas themed Tomie dePaola book! Tomie is a long beloved children's book author and illustrator who has lived in the Granite State for decades. His beautiful, vibrant illustrations add to his wonderful children's stories and easily demonstrate why he is such a treasure to our state.
"This inventive and fresh Nativity story is told from a bird's-eye view. On the morning of the first Christmas, the birds of Bethlehem gather in the fields--not only to eat but to share the exciting news. People from all over have descended on Bethlehem and an angel has appeared in the night sky. Something extraordinary is coming! The birds agree that they must find this wondrous thing, and off they fly to the stable where a child has been born. In simple language and dazzling pictures, beloved author-illustrator Tomie dePaola shares the awe and anticipation of the first Christmas. His cast of brightly colored, curious birds will appeal to young children, making this a perfect introduction to the story of Christmas." --Publisher's blurb