Best & Overlooked Books of the Year: Our Annual Recommendations for Good Reads

Jan 1, 2020

Credit Mauricio Sepulveda / Flickr/Creative Commons

This is a rebroadcast of an earlier show (original air date December 6, 2019); no calls will be taken.

Our panelists discuss the books that got people reading this year, those that should have received more attention, and the classics they chose to revisit. And we'll hear from listeners and local authors about books that they enjoyed the most in the past year.


Gary Lawless, co-owner, Gulf of Maine Books

“Olive Again,” by Elizabeth Strout, with the return of Olive Kittridge. Oprah Winfrey sent her film crew to film Liz reading from the book in our bookstore — it is Oprah’s December book choice, but also Gulf of Maine’s.

Non-fiction:

“Erosion: Essays of Undoing,” by Terry Tempest Williams

Paperback fiction:

“The Overstory,” by Richard Powers

Maine-related:

“Home Now: How 6,000 Refugees Transformed An American Town,” by Cynthia Anderson, the story of the Somali families coming to Lewiston

“Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom For Living Spirit-based Change,” by Sherry Mitchell, Penobscot author, lawyer and activist

“A Dangerous New World: Maine Voices on the Climate Crisis,” an anthology published by Littoral Press featuring 65 Maine writers, a dozen Maine artists and an introduction by Gov. Janet Mills

“Apples and the Art of Detection,” by John Bunker, a frequent Maine Calling guest and the man to go to on apples in Maine

“Hermit: The Mysterious Life Of Jim Whyte,” by Jeffrey Ryan, about an early 20th century hermit in Monson, Maine

“Trips: Rock Life in the 60s,” by Ellen Sander of Belfast, of whom Rolling Stone magazine recently said, “name an iconic Sixties moment and Ellen Sander was probably there”

“Sisters’ Entrance: A Book Of Poetry,” by Emtithal Mahmoud, originally from Darfur and now living in the U.S.; Portland’s Justice for Women Series will bring her to Maine for a week in March

Ari Gersen, owner, Longfellow Books

Favorites:

"This is How You Lose the Time War," by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

“Dear Mr. You,” by Mary Louise Parker

“Sing To It,” by Amy Hempel

“Mitz,” by Sigrid Nunez

“Indian-ish,” a cookbook by Priya Krishna

“The Familiars,” by Stacey Halls

“Organs of Sense,” by Adam Sacks

“Why We Fight,” by Josh Rosenblatt

Overlooked:

“The Nickel Boys,” by Colson Whitehead

“Solitary,” by Albert Woodfox

“How to Be an Anti-Racist,” by Ibram X. Kendi

“Last Witnesses,” by Svetlana Alexievich

“Rules for Visiting,” by Jessica Francis Kane

“Archive of Alternate Endings,” by Lindsey Drager

“Man-Eaters,” by Chelsea Cain

“The River,” by Peter Heller

Children:

“The Silver Nutmeg,” by Palmer Brown

“I Can Only Draw Worms,” by Will Mabbitt

“Saving Fable,” by Scott Reintgen

“The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown,” by Mac Barnett

“Kai and the Monkey King,” by Joe Todd Stanton

“Most Marshmallows,” by Rowboat Watkins

Meredith Charest, Falmouth Memorial Library

“Rough Magic,” by Lara Prior Palmer

“The Sun is a Compass,” by Caroline Van Hemert

“If You Want to Make God Laugh,” by Bianca Marais

“The Confessions of Frannie Langton,” by Sara Collins

“Tell Me More,” by Kelly Corrigan

“The Dutch House,” by Ann Patchett

“First: Sandra Day O’Connor,” by Evan Thomas

“Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law,” by Haben Girma

Emily Connelly, editorial assistant, AudioFile Magazine

Margaret Atwood’s “The Testaments”

Rick Atkinson’s “The British Are Coming”

Aaron Bobrow-Strain’s “The Life And Death Of Aida Hernandez”

Jason Reynold’s “Look Both Ways”

Tembi Locke’s “From Scratch”

Traci Sorell’s “We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga”

Jacqueline Woodson’s “Red At The Bone”

(more picks at AudioFile's site)

Also discussed

Chris Van Dusen

"Blueberries for Sal," by Robert McCloskey

"Roughhouse Friday: A Memoir," by Jaed Coffin

"Dumpty: The Age of Trump in Verse," by John Lithgow

"Three Steps to the Making of an Assassin," by Jack Cashman

"Lot: Stories," by Bryan Washington

"The Turn Of The Key," by Ruth Weare

"The Scent Keeper: A Novel," by Erica Bauermeister

"Green Seas and White Ice: Far North with Captain Mac," by Miriam MacMillan

"The In-Betweens: The Spiritualists, Mediums, and Legends of Camp Etna," by Mira Ptacin

"Grace Coffin and the Badly-Sewn Corpse," by Winter Fox

"Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine, by Alan Lightman

“The Gems of Inverness: A Father’s Odyssey Through a World of Disabilities,” by Len Gulino

“Leadership: In Turbulent Times,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin

“Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth,” by Rachel Maddow

“Trudge: A Midlife Crisis on the John Muir Trail,” Lori Oliver-Tierney

“Say Nothing,” by Patrick Radden Keefe

“Where the Crawdads Sing,” by Delia Owens

“Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine,” by Gail Honeyman

“A Gentleman in Moscow,” by Amor Towles

“Maybe Tomorrow?” by Charlotte Agell

“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” by Ocean Vuong

"Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore," by Elizabeth Rush

“This Tender Land: A Novel,” by William Kent Krueger

“The Guest Book: A Novel,” by Sarah Blake

“Underground Airlines,” by Ben Winters

“Permanent Record,” by Edward Snowden

Robert P. Tristram Coffin

“The Ledge,” Lawrence Sargent Hall

“Becoming,” by Michelle Obama

“Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life,” by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush

“Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for America’s Future,” by Pete Buttigieg

“The Beneficiary: Fortune, Misfortune, and the Story of My Father,” by Janny Scott

“Charlotte’s Web,” by E.B. White, read by Meryl Streep

“Stuart Little,” by E.B. White

“The Trumpet of the Swan,” by E.B. White

“On Democracy,” by E.B. White, introduction by Jon Meacham

“Disappearing Earth,” by Julia Phillips

“Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead,” by Olga Tokarczuk

“The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: A Novel,” by Kim Michele Richardson

“Ridge Runner: The Story of a Maine Woodsman,” by Gerald Averill