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Recommendations from readers and writers for the best & overlooked books of the year

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NPR
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We talk with readers, writers and book lovers to hear their recommendations for the best and overlooked books of the year. We’ll cover a range of genres—and we invite our listeners to suggest titles and authors to read or give as gifts this season.

Panelists:
Lily King, best-selling author of five novels, including Writers & Lovers and Euphoria; her newest book, Five Tuesdays in Winter, is a collection of short stories
Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, poet, writer, teacher; executive director, Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance; his latest book of poems is Deke Dangle Dive
Melissa Orth, adjunct instructor of Teen Services at the University of Maine at Augusta; former teen librarian at Curtis Library in Brunswick,; currently working with students at Bowdoin College Library

VIP Callers:
Heidi Carter, owner, Bogan Books in Fort Kent
Christopher Packard, author, Mythical Creatures of Maine: Fantastic Beasts from Legend and Folklore

BEST & OVERLOOKED BOOKS 2021

MENTIONED ON THE SHOW (in order of mention):

Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King

Deke Dangle Dive by Gibson Fay-LeBlanc

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Landslide by Susan Conley

Oh William! by Elizabeth Stout

The Lowering Days by Gregory Brown

Hazards of Nature: Stories by Brandon Dudley

North by Northeast 2: New Short Fiction by Maine Writers (collection)

Mythical Creatures of Maine: Fantastic Beasts from Legend and Folklore by Christopher Packard

The Winter House: A Season of Sharing by Joan MacCracken

A Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey

Black Heroes of the Wild West: Featuring Stagecoach Mary, Bass Reeves and Bob Lemmons: A Toon Graphic by James Otis Smith

Children’s books by Maine writers – Cindy Ward, Maria Padian, Kate Egan, Charlotte Agell

Magic Like That by Samara Cole Doyon and Geneva Bowers

The First Blade of Sweetgrass by Suzanne Greenlaw, Gabriel Frey, Nancy Baker

Skywatcher by Jamie Hogan

On Corruption in America—And What Is At Stake by Sarah Chayes

Notes on a Lost Flute: A Field Guide to the Wabanaki by Kerry Hardy

What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism by Dan Rather

Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws that Affect Us Today by Cynthia Levinson & Sanford Levinson

The Fight for Free Speech: Ten Cases That Define Our First Amendment Freedoms by Ian Rosenberg

Cold War Correspondent: A Korean War Tale Book 11 of Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales by Nathan Hale

Hard Landings: Looking Into the Future for a Child With Autism by Cammie McGovern

These Precious Days by Ann Patchett

Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe

White Magic by Elissa Washuta

Who’s Your Daddy by Arisa White

7 Days by Deborah Colby

Twig and Turtle: Big Move to a Tiny House by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

Unbound: The Life and Art of Judith Scott by Joyce Scott, Brie Spangler, Melissa Sweet

Twenty-Five Cups of Coffee: Mastering On-Line Dating by Julianna Acheson

Turtle in a Tree by Neesha Hudson

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Fossil Men: The Quest for the Oldest Skeleton and the Origins of Humankind by Kermit Pattison

Hustle & Mime: And Other Really Good Short Stories by Nathan Oliver

Dirty Birds by Morgan Murray

The Carrying: Poems by Ada Limón

Be Holding: A Poem by Ross Gay

Things Seemed to be Breaking by Stuart Kestenbaum

Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel by Carl Safina

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law by Mary Roach

Love for a Ghost by Deborah Bechtel

Useful Delusions: The Power and Paradox of the Self-Deceiving Brain by Shankar Vedantam

“Just One” – a board game

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Books by Jane Austen (“comfort” reading, suggested by Lily King)

Sigh, Gone: A Misfit's Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In by Phuc Tran

Maybe Tomorrow? by Charlotte Agell and Ana Ramírez González

SUGGESTIONS FROM HEIDI CARTER, OWNER OF BOGAN BOOKS

True North: Finding the Essence of Aroostook by Kathryn Olmstead—a collection of stories from interviews and articles Kathryn wrote while editor-in-chief at Echoes magazine as well as her time writing for the Bangor Daily News

Popular books:

Landslide by Susan Conley

Dead by Dawn by Paul Doiron

The Lost Kitchen by Erin French

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

Go Tell the Bees That I am Gone by Diana Gabaldon

And with the movie coming out, the Dune series has had re-engaged interest

Rabbits by Terry Miles is a clever gaming sci-fi /fantasy read with parallel world building and complex character relationships.

Non-fiction:

Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection by Brené Brown

Finding the Mother Tre: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and The Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

The Gatherings: Reimagining Indigenous-Settler Relations by Shirley N Hagar & Mawopiyane (Mawopiyane is a name chosen to describe the full group of co-authors of the book. It means, in Passamaquoddy, “Let us sit together.” Not all co-authors are Indigenous.)

Poetry:

Just Us: An American Conversation by Claudia Rankine is an important collection of poetry essays and images discussing racial equality

Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman (release date December 7, 2021)

Children’s books

Our Table by Peter H. Reynolds

Norman Didn’t Do It! (Yes He Did) by Maine author and illustrator Ryan Higgins (well known for the Mother Bruce series)

Middle readers

Pax, Journey Home by Sara Pennypacker (second book to PAX); illustrator Jon Klassen

Young Adult fiction has really taken off in our store

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Assembling Ella by Maine author Emma G Rose, which takes a unique look at the effects of suicide on the people left behind.

Other big hits include various titles by

Holly Jackson

Alan Gratz

Sharon Cameron

RECOMMENDATIONS FROM MAINE CALLING LISTENERS:

The Name She Gave Me by Betty Culley (coming June 21, 2022)

The Fresh Eggs Daily Cookbook: Over 100 Fabulous Recipes to Use Eggs in Unexpected Ways by Lisa Steele

Lucky: Little Guy, BIG Mission, by Eileen Doyon with Christy Gardner, illustrated by Susan Spellman. It is a true story about Christy Gardner from Lewiston, Maine, an Army Veteran, double amputee, her service dog Moxie and a special little puppy named Lucky. The book has so many life lessons in it and is for ages 2-92.

Faron Goss by Diane Lechleitner—a novel set on a semi-fictional Maine island

Paper Things, Twig and Turtle, Crashing in Love , The Dollar Kids—by Jennifer Jacobsen, who lives in Maine, a wonderful author of books for ages 6 up to early teens. The books are also enjoyed by adults.

Apples and the Art of Detection: Tracking Down and Identifying and Preserving Rare Apples by John Bunker—great gift and a great read for anyone interested in Maine apples and apple trees

The True Meaning of Myrrh: Christmas Day by John Manderino—wonderful Christmas story for adults

The Ghosts of Walter Crockett by Ed Crockett, a resident of Portland—an important story about growing up on Munjoy Hill in Portland in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and coming to terms with alcoholism

The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson—the book will take you back to the 1940s and the creation of Princess Elizabeth's wedding dress and the society at that time

Every Moment of a Fall: A Memoir of Recovery Through EMDR Therapy by Carol Miller— a 2016 non-fiction book from 2016, but reads like a book of fiction; it is the story of trauma and recovery. Carol lived in California when this book was written, but has recently moved to Maine.

Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler—written in 1993 these are prescient novels about the world we live in today.

Honeymoon With My Brother: A Memoir by Franz Wisner—a wedding put off and a trip taken and the life changes that occurred. Made me smile!

Cold Harbor by Linda Titus—takes place in a small lobstering village on the Maine coast in the 1960s

Freedom Farm by Jennifer Neves (March 2021)—non-fiction collection of essays about growing up in Freedom Maine on a bean farm. It also follows my journey back to the area with my four children to raise a family with the same wild and free life I remembered from my youth.

Hollow Kingdom & Feral Creatures by Kira Jane Buxton—animal and bird characters help humans to recover from global pandemic. Very funny and imaginative. Somewhat profane.

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

Don’t Label Me: An Incredible Conversation for Divided Times by Irshad Manji—great book to help talk about our agonizing divisions

The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Please Read to Me (children’s board book) by Pam Lee

Hustle & Mime and Other Really Short Stories by Nathan Oliver

Sonnets to Orpheus (Rainer Maria Rilke) – new book of translations by Maine-based scholar John Rosenwald

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Jonathan was born in Monsey, New York. A field trip to Washington, DC when he was in 7th grade started him on his circuitous path to a career in public radio. The trip inspired a love of politics and led to his desire to one day call DC home. After graduating from Grinnell College, he worked on a couple of campaigns in Iowa (presidential and congressional) and moved to Washington, DC.