Posts Tagged ‘The Mindful Reader’

Here’s my May column. It ran in today’s Concord Monitor, minus the last sentence for some reason (probably space, although they made room in the layout of the print edition for photos of each of the book covers). Here it is in its entirety.

The Woman Who Helped Shape the New Deal

Phillips Exeter Academy history teacher Michael Golay’s new book, America 1933:The Great Depression, Lorena Hickok, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Shaping of the New Deal is the story of Lorena Hickok’s exhaustive reporting in 1933-34 for Harry Hopkins at the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. Hickock was an intrepid traveler, visiting relief and work programs and talking to “people from all walks of life” all over the country. Her work is “. . . an incomparable narrative record . . . of America in the depths of the Great Depression.”

Golay explains Hickok and Eleanor Roosevelt were “close.” Hickok even lived in Eleanor’s quarters at the White House. Quotes from letters between Eleanor and Hickock portray a talented, assertive reporter whose intimate friendship with the First Lady brought relief from the travails of her work. Golay speculates that publicity surrounding their attempt to take a quiet vacation together in 1934 may have cooled Eleanor’s feelings. But the focus of America 1933 is “Hickok’s historical legacy . . . her influence on Hopkins’s welfare and jobs policies in a time when, for millions of ordinary people, a little help from the larger community meant the difference between hunger and subsistence, numb despair and a stirring of hope.”

Golay notes “it would be an exaggeration to portray Hickok as an observer gifted with keen political insight,”  but he clearly admires her determination and “astonishing capacity for work.” America 1933  illuminates her vivid reporting and its importance to policy makers. Golay offers a highly detailed, richly referenced portrait of a terrible moment in American history and the woman whose contributions helped get the country back on its feet.

Too many books: local history, doughboys, and terrific fiction

When I picked up Massachusetts author Julie Wu’s delightful debut novel, The Third Son, I thought it looked daunting: a protagonist with more than one name, foreign politics, tragedy. But I didn’t set it down again until I’d reached the end. The Third Son is the perfect fusion of great storytelling, evocative settings, interesting characters, and compelling ideas. The book opens in 1943 in Japanese occupied Taiwan during an American bombing raid. We meet Saburo, an eight year old who helps a girl take cover that chaotic afternoon; I loved him immediately. Wu draws readers into Saburo’s world as he grows up, navigates his unhappy family life, finds the girl again, and makes his own way in America. But beneath this book’s lovely surface there is so much more to enjoy. The Third Son is about the power of the human spirit to persevere and transcend hardship. The complexity of the relationships; the political, cultural and historical backdrop of the story; the characters who don’t act in perfectly mapped out ways but rise or fail in the face of challenges as real people do, all make for a rich, highly satisfying read, ripe for discussion.

Cathie Pelletier’s eye for detail enlivens The One-Way Bridge, a novel about fictional Mattagash, Maine and its residents. It’s a warm, humorous read, but subtle, too. Retired teacher Florence Henderson appears late in the book, but I felt like I knew her already because of her  vocabulary lesson yard sign. I also loved Billy Thunder, a drug dealer willing to sell his most prized possession to save a dog from being put down. And Harry Plunkett, a Vietnam vet whose brash  t-shirts and lifelong feud with local mailman Orville Craft hide a very emotional interior life. What all of her characters share is heart, but Pelletier isn’t shy about exploring their flaws. She portrays the complexity of living in a place where everyone thinks they know everyone else’s business, creating a very empathetic novel without sugar-coating life in rural Maine. You might not want to move there when you’re done reading, but you’ll have new respect for the people who do, like Pelletier herself.

Larry Sullivan’s Educators and Agitators: Selected Works of 19th Century Women Writers from a Small New Hampshire Town is published by the Warner Historical Society. Sullivan researched fifteen women and selected sixty of their works, including poetry, essays , children’s stories, and opinion pieces. His introductions paint a vivid picture of what women in 1800’s New Hampshire cared about and how they lived. They accomplished a great deal besides writing, becoming teachers, “agitators” for a variety of social causes, home economists, journalists, editors, librarians, and community organizers. They traveled around New England, across America and even abroad, wrote about a world that was changing quickly, and contributed to those changes. Vintage photos and Mimi Wiggin’s beautiful artwork enhance the anthology’s peek into the past.

Finally Maine author Richard Rubin’s curiosity, humor, and zest for his subject enlivens The Last of the Doughboys: the Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War. In 2003, after hearing a story about WWII veterans, Rubin wondered whether any WWI doughboys were still alive. He discovered the French government had been searching for every living American WWI veteran to award each the Legion d’Honneur. This “French List” helped Rubin locate and interview several dozen, ages 101-113. Both these carefully recorded conversations and the fascinating details he weaves into their stories  — about WWI monuments, battlefield souvenirs, Tin Pan Alley, cultural shifts on the home front and “Over There,” French and British views of America’s WWI contributions, talking with the very old — kept me turning pages. Rubin writes with a journalist’s attentiveness, immersing readers in the lives and experiences of those who “. . . set off for a world war, and came back with a world.” 

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I’m on the gazillionth (ok, twelfth) draft of my column and thought I’d take a break to let you know what I’ll be reviewing in the Mindful Reader, which will run on Sunday, May 12 in the Concord Monitor.

America 1933: The Great Depression, Lorena Hicock, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Shaping of the New Deal  by Michael Golay

The Third Son by Julie Wu (Facebook friends, this is the book I raved about the week of the Boston bombings)

The One-Way Bridge by Cathy Pelletier

Educators and Agitators: Selected Works of 19th Century Women Writers from a Small New Hampshire Town by Larry Sullivan with artwork by Mimi Wiggin

The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and their Forgotten World War by Richard Rubin

Phew. Back to work.


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April’s column appeared in yesterday’s Concord Monitor and also on the paper’s website. I reviewed David Blistein‘s David’s Inferno:My Journey through the Dark Wood of DepressionLinda Greenlaw‘s Lifesaving LessonsHenriette Lazaridis Power‘s The Clover Houseand Eric Masterson’s Birdwatching in New Hampshire.  A sidebar ran with the print version (and I’ve pasted it below) with details about Blistein’s and Power’s author events here in Concord.

Whenever I see the column in print, even though I’ve read it dozens of times and gone through at least a dozen drafts, it feels like I’ve never seen it before (plus the never-satisfied part of my writer brain finds fault with it). I’m wondering if that has anything to do with seeing it on a page for the first time instead of a screen? New Hampshire Library Association posted this very interesting Scientific American article on their Facebook page, which discusses research into the differences in our brains’ activities when we e-read rather than reading the old-fashioned way. It’s a good piece in that it doesn’t demonize e-reading, but points out why it’s different and how we process what we read digitally in a different way. The article also explains why paper reading may be better in many if not most cases, and also notes certain kinds of publications, like comics, that might benefit from digital publishing.

For anyone who can’t access the Monitor link (if you can, there are photos), here is the full  text of the column:

Many Monitor readers were moved by the newspaper’s recent series on mental health, including Annmarie Timmins’ concluding story. She shared her struggles to give a personal, familiar voice to the mostly anonymous 26% living with mental illness, and so does Vermont author David Blistein. In the forward to Blistein’s memoir his friend Ken Burns writes that the book “takes us deep into the mysteries of depression.”

In the notes to  David’s Inferno: My Journey through the Dark Wood of Depression, Blistein explains that while “The Divine Comedy is the journey of one man, it is also the journey of everyman.” He draws parallels between his own journey through depression and Dante’s great work with open-heartedness, intelligence, humor, and gentleness. For Blistein, the medieval Italian poet is “a guy who so deeply understands the struggle to simply be human on earth, a guy who knows both depths of despair and manic visions of rapture. . . .”

Blistein writes plainly about everything from facing his own depths and visions to parsing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, understanding the science behind common pharmaceutical treatments, and exploring the way depression impacts relationships and day to day life. Like Timmins, he writes about the difficulty of finding and remaining with mental health practitioners, and about the love and support of his spouse.  In a passage about creating a labyrinth in the woods near his house Blistein writes, “When people talk about being heartbroken, it’s usually because they’ve lost something outside themselves. . . . My heart was broken. But the only thing I’d lost was inside.” He notes that the best books on mental illness “make the experience so human it’s no longer necessary for you to hold it at . . . arm’s length.” Blistein has accomplished that here, in a moving, beautiful, and important book.

Powerful family stories

Linda Greenlaw’s seafaring exploits are well documented. Her new memoir, Lifesaving Lessons, is about even harder, braver work: becoming the guardian of a sexually abused fifteen year old. Greenlaw’s humor remains intact and she spins a few yarns. But you’ve probably never broken down in tears while reading her past work, and you may this time. She’s as forthright as ever, admitting, “Guardianship and all things maternal fit neatly into the category of things about which I am clueless.” And she is unsparing in her descriptions of both the horrors her daughter went through and the tightknit community that helped them find their way to being a family. Greenlaw is frank about the impact abuse has on Isle Au Haut: “Many of us were in shock that abuse had gone on undetected and unsuspected right under our noses . . . . we started looking for signs of trouble everywhere.” But she also shares the small moments of grace that led to healing. A moving testament to resilience and to familial bonds that need no biological ties to prevail in the human heart.

 The Clover House is Boston writer Henriette Lazaridis Power’s debut novel.  It’s the story of Calliope Notaris Brown, a busy young Boston professional estranged from her Greek mother and keeping her emotional distance from everyone including her fiancée, whose cousin calls from Greece to say their Uncle Nestor has died and left Calli his houseful of memorabilia. When she arrives in Patras during Carnival, she finds much more than vials of sand from various beaches, boxes of film and childhood keepsakes at Nestor’s house. In an attempt to resolve family mysteries and understand her mother’s aloofness, Calli begins to shed her own detachment. The Clover House probes secrets and loyalties, betrayals and revelations, and the role of culture, memory, and storytelling in family and personal identity. Power has a light touch with the ending, leaving plenty for readers to ponder. Assonance and consonance and a chorus-like repetition of words in some passages create sound and rhythm in Power’s prose that’s often striking, perhaps because she is founding editor of an audio literary magazine, The Drum.

Birding in the Granite State

New Hampshire birder and author Eric Masterson’s Birdwatching in New Hampshire  is a  thoroughly informative book for birders of all skill levels and experience. Masterson writes in the  introduction, “this is not a guide to everywhere, but to the best birding events” around the state. By event he means “location, time and weather” that “must align in the right order to produce the most memorable birding moments.” Masterson discusses birding gear, tips, and ethics,  provides a monthly guide to spotting various species, and divides the state into six regions to explore, with maps and plentiful information about birding in each. One chapter covers all birds “of roughly annual occurrence in New Hampshire or its offshore waters,” but in the rest of the book Masterson “focuses on the less well-known, the spectacular, the secretive, the rare, the good bird,” and goes on to say, “this will mean different things to different people.”

SIDEBAR (this appeared in print but is not online)

Henriette Lazaridis Power will be in Concord on May 2, reading from The Clover House at Gibson’s Bookstore, 27 S. Main St, at 7pm.

David Blistein will be in Concord on June 6th, reading from David’s Inferno at Gibson’s Bookstore at 7 p.m.

Call 224-0562 or go to www.gibsonsbookstore.com for more information.

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I have blogged about books for nearly eight years. I’m a voracious reader, a librarian and a book reviewer with a monthly newspaper column. I was an English major, I write poetry, and I like thinking about, discussing, and writing about books. But I hit a philosophical wall a couple of weeks ago: does what I think about what I’m reading really matter? Or more specifically, what is the point of blogging about it?

In the midst of this existential mid-life angst I was pining a bit for my old “citizen blogger” gig at New Hampshire Public Radio’s Word of Mouth. From December 2008-September 2011 I wrote 61 posts on new ideas in science, culture, the arts, and society. (If you’re curious, I think the pieces are archived on the NHPR website). It was a terrific gig. I wrote about whatever caught my eye as long as it fit the show’s editorial focus. That tended to be things that gave me hope.

Two stories I can’t get out of my head are the opposite of hopeful. First, teacher and author Peter Brown Hoffmeister spoke out about Huffington Post ignoring and dismissing him. What he’d done was submit a piece suggesting it would be a good idea to study the effect of violent video games on isolated teens who exhibit other risk factors for violence, and to offer socially disaffected kids an alternative to fantasy violence, such as getting outside.

Hoffmeister was himself a teen with violent tendencies and says, “the outdoors helped saved my life.” He writes with uncommon humbleness and uncertainty, unafraid to admit what he personally and we as a society don’t know about what makes shooters act. He doesn’t demonize guns, video games, or teens.

Second, yesterday I read Emily Bazelon’s piece on Slate about Rehtaeh Parsons and Steubenville, and today learned the hacker group Anonymous solved the Parsons case in 2 hours despite the police saying there was “no evidence” of rape. Every part of this story makes me churn.

Last week I read about Desmond Tutu receiving the Templeton Prize. I cherish his wisdom, and I turn to him when I am heartsick over the news. He’s a model for experiencing joy in the midst of our hurting world, for reconciling the broken pieces to find wholeness whether it’s in a form we recognize and understand or not.

“A person is a person through other persons,” Tutu says. I can’t stop thinking that therefore I am me through Rehtaeh Parsons, and her mother, and the Anonymous hackers who said she deserved justice, and Peter Brown Hoffmeister, caring for the boys in the school where he teaches who compare notes on their virtual killing. But if this is so I am somehow also me through the boys who would dehumanize and wreck a girl so heartlessly and the investigators who were complicit in that heartlessness, the editor who refused to let a story of vulnerability and healing appear on a popular website likely supported by corporations that profit from violent media, and the shooters who kill innocent victims.

And I am me though the authors I read and write about. I’ll probably still write about books. But I’m going to try to write some posts on the conscious side of bookconscious. I am a strong believer in the power of literature to connect and transform us as individuals and sometimes as a culture. But in the mire of media that saturates our lives, there are also stories, hopeful or not, that remind me we are persons through other persons. And I hope to write about those as well.

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My column ran this past Sunday. I reviewed  Megan Marshall‘s Margaret Fuller: a New American LifeAbi Maxwell‘s debut novel Lake PeopleJack Gray‘s memoir-in-essays Pigeon In a Crosswalk: Tales of Anxiety & Accidental Glamour and Brett Markham‘s The MiniFarming Guide to Composting.

It seems like the Monitor has worked out the paywall issues it was having so here’s the link.

If I hear anyone is having trouble reading it, I’ll post the whole column here.

Heard from someone that indeed they could not take the above link so here is the column:

The Feminist Transcendentalist

Massachusetts author Megan Marshall’s (The Peabody Sisters) new biography, Margaret Fuller: a New American Life, is a thorough and sympathetic treatment of the famed feminist. Even for readers familiar with Fuller, Marshall’s account is engaging. She covers not only the biographical details of Fuller’s life that forged an intellect nearly unmatched in her time, but also Fuller’s relationships – as daughter and sister devoted to pleasing a difficult father and keeping her financially challenged family afloat; friend and colleague to dozens of thinkers, reformers, and writers; teacher and mentor; wife and mother in revolutionary Italy – that made Fuller the complex, fascinating woman that she was.

Though she was often misunderstood, maligned or even mocked in reviews and in private correspondence (even by some of her closest friends and relatives, whom Marshall quotes extensively), Fuller is, in Marshall’s view, a heroine. She influenced history through her groundbreaking feminist work Women in the Nineteenth Century, her series of “Conversations” for women in Boston, and her prolific journalism, which brought observations and ideas from Transcendental New England; the newly settled American West; the prisons, workhouses, factories and slums of New York and industrial England; and Europe’s 1848 revolutions to a wide national audience. With copious quotes and excerpts from Fuller’s books, journals, letters, essays, poems, and articles in The Dial and in New Hampshire native Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune, Marshall presents Fuller in her own words whenever possible.

Marshall believes Fuller was neither as scandalous as some accounts of her life imply, nor as personally free – from childhood to her death at age 40, Fuller was constantly caring and providing for family members, often sacrificing her own health, well-being and happiness to ensure that of others. As Marshall explains, Fuller’s “own writings in the last year of her life show persistent resolve in the face of danger, not recklessness or fatalism, and an immunity to public censure.” You can meet the resolute yet tender Margaret Fuller in the pages of Marshall’s excellent biography.

A novel, a memoir, and all you ever need to know about compost

Gilford assistant librarian Abi Maxwell’s novel is set in the Lakes Region, where she grew up. Lake People is a haunting tale of identity, ancestry, family and belonging. Told from many characters’ points of view over several decades, it’s the life and family story of Alice Thornton, who was found in a canoe as an infant. Like Alice Hoffman, Maxwell’s writing has a fairy tale quality, perhaps meant to make readers comfortable with the improbable number of extraordinary events that happen to Alice as a descendent of the mysterious lake people. The small New England town and its deeply held secrets are reminiscent of Peyton Place, as are the contrast between characters’ public stoicism and private passion and the impact balancing the two has on their psyches. An interesting debut.

Jack Gray grew up visiting his grandparents in Barnstead and first produced “news” in their living room. After UNH he produced news programs in New Hampshire and Boston before landing his current job as a producer for “Anderson Cooper 360” on CNN. His memoir-in-essays Pigeon In a Crosswalk: Tales of Anxiety and Accidental Glamour is an irreverent, profanity-laced look at his career and family, including stories of meeting celebrities, becoming a Twitter star, observing the media, and coming out. The title comes from one of the last pieces in the book. Gray was walking his dog Sammy on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and angsting about his life when he noticed a pigeon crossing the street. He notes, “I’m losing sleep over whether . . . I can sustain a life for myself in New York and there’s a . . . pigeon out here using the crosswalk. A pigeon that seems pretty happy with himself. I am clearly doing something wrong. At that moment I decide Sammy and I will be fine. If that pigeon can adapt and succeed in the big, complicated city, I can too. The bar has been set by a pigeon in crosswalk . . . .” Wise, warm, and often hilarious.

New Ipswich famer, engineer, and author Brett Markham has written The MiniFarming ™ Guide to Composting, part of his series on small scale — as little as 1/4 acre — farming. I’ve looked at other composting books, and this is both a more serious (think equations, formulas, and building plans) and a more accessible guide than any I’ve dipped into. For someone like me, an English major and haphazard gardener, he covers the most basic methods of composting, including my favorite, “lasagna gardening.” For the serious gardening geek or farmer, Markham’s thorough analyses of soil science, anaerobic, aerobic, mesophilic, and vermiculture composting, and biochar are sure to supply answers to the most technical questions. Students and teachers interested in hands-on science would also enjoy this book. Markham believes “. . . composting is accessible to everyone,” and with this book as a guide, that should be true.


Sidebar: Abi Maxwell will read from Lake People at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord on March 21 at 7pm. Call 224-0562 or visit www.gibsonsbookstore.com for more information.

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My column got pushed back a week, but I’m turning it in soon and it will appear in the Concord Monitor on March 17th. I’m reviewing Megan Marshall‘s Margaret Fuller: a New American Life, Abi Maxwell‘s debut novel Lake PeopleJack Gray‘s memoir-in-essays Pigeon In a Crosswalk: Tales of Anxiety & Accidental Glamour and Brett Markham‘s The MiniFarming Guide to Composting.


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Here’s the link to February’s column in the Concord Monitor (the books I reviewed are listed here.) My editor decided that after a few months of trying an “also noted” section where I mention books of local interest that I didn’t review, the column is going back to just what I have the time and inclination to read. The novels under the heading “self-published” in this column were “also noted.”

I think the Monitor has worked through it’s pay wall issues, but if the link doesn’t work for you, let me know and I’ll post the full text.

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Here’s what I’m reviewing for The Mindful Reader column that will run on 2/10/13 in the Concord Monitor.

Back of the House:the Secret Life of a Kitchen  by Cambridge food writer and psychologist Scott Haas

with shorter reviews of

The Truth About Death by Northwood, New Hampshire poet Grace Mattern.

The Promise of Stardust by Maine native Priscille Sibley.


When Doctors Don’t Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnosis and Unnecessary Tests by doctors Leana Wen and Joshua Kosowsky

“Also noted” this month are two self-published books:

Vivian’s Window by Concord author and lawyer Jason Dennis

and Split Thirty by Concord criminal defense attorney and former Concord Monitor Board of Contributors writer Michael Davidow.


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Here’s the link** to the Mindful Reader in Sunday’s edition of the Concord Monitor with reviews of Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment by New Hampshire author Katrina KenisonVanity Fare: a Novel of Lattes, Literature, and Love by New Hampshire native Megan Caldwell, and Good Kids, a novel by Benjamin Nugent, who is Director of Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University. I also give a shout out to Dartmouth professor Charles Wheelan‘s Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data.

In the print edition I pointed out that three authors recently reviewed in The Mindful Reader will visit Gibson’s Bookstore at 27 S. Main Street in Concord this month: Katrina Kenison reads from Magical Journey on January 23, Wesley McNair reads from The Words I Chose on January 24, and Joseph Monniger reads from Margaret From Maine on January 31. All three events start at 7pm. Call 603-224-0562 or visit www.gibsonsbookstore.com for further information.

Old habits die hard — I used to be the events coordinator at Gibson’s, so I know those events need all the publicity they can get. I invited Katrina to the store for her last book, and I am looking forward to seeing her again. The other events are while I am working at the library, so I will not get to see Joe Monninger or Wes McNair again but I recommend you go if you live in the area. Hearing an author read, asking what they are reading, listening to them talk about writing, is great fun and I’ve learned so much attending events like these. If you’re far away (and many of my readers are!) contact your local bookstore to ask about upcoming events.

** A reader let me know that the column is behind a paywall, so here it is for those of you who couldn’t get to it (formatting, headline, and subheadings are the newspaper’s):

The Mindful Reader: Another existential journey close to home

In Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment, New Hampshire author Katrina Kenison seeks the same answers for her generation that Daniel Klein did for his in Travels With Epicurus, which I reviewed last month. Klein examined living a fulfilling old age by reading philosophy in Greece. Kenison considers how best to live a “second adulthood” after children are grown at the bedside of a dying friend, on a yoga mat, at a college reunion, in Reiki training, on hikes and walks, and in ordinary days with her husband of 25 years.

Like Klein, Kenison realizes that accepting imperfection and being aware of the gifts of the present moment in all its messiness (and possibly pain) are the way forward. Facing loss, questioning her path, she writes, “Making sense of my life has meant, in part, releasing my desire for permanence.”

As in her earlier books, Mitten Strings for God and The Gift of an Ordinary Day, Kenison writes beautifully and humbly about the discomfort change brings and the growth she experiences.

Magical Journey is even more open-hearted than her previous soul-baring memoirs. Which makes sense, given the revelations she shares: “A year ago, I yearned to undertake an exploration that might lead to some new sense of purpose for the second half of my life. . . . Now I see that the journey was never meant to lead to some new and improved version of me; that it has always been about coming home to who I already am. . . . Learning how to be at ease in the shadows of uncertainty and trusting the path to reveal itself.”

Her other books are about lessons gleaned from everyday experience. This one relates a personal quest; a quest readers join as she comforts friends, mothers grown sons, faces physical and emotional changes in herself and the tender evolution of long marriage, as she struggles to understand that her purpose might not be flashy or grand but could be as simple as being present, loving and being loved. With clarity, honesty, and spirit, Kenison allows readers into the intimate work of self-discovery and renewal.

Two novels

 Author Megan Caldwell grew up in Lyme Center. She’s written Regency period romance novels and is the community manager for the “Heroes and Heartbreakers” website. Her new book Vanity Fare: a Novel of Lattes, Literature, and Love is contemporary fiction. Molly Hagan is a newly single Brooklyn mom whose own mother moves in after losing everything day trading. Her ex is with a “younger, blonder woman” and claims he’s broke, even though Molly suspects he hid money before leaving her. She also has an energetic 6-year-old son, fiercely loyal friends and a freelance job writing copy for a book-themed bakery, Vanity Fare, near the New York Public Library. The bakery’s British celebrity chef pursues Molly, but she’s intrigued by his stern business partner.

If you like chick or hen lit (for younger and older women, respectively), this is somewhere in between, a novel about a mom learning to rely on the one person who will never let her down: herself.

The book includes recipes by Emily Isaac of Trois Pommes Patisserie in Brooklyn for Tart of Darkness, Lord of the Tea Rings, and several other goodies from the fictional bakery.

Benjamin Nugent is the director of creative writing at Southern New Hampshire University. His debut novel, Good Kids, opens in 1994 when two high school students, Josh and Khadijah, in a self-consciously funky Massachusetts college town find his dad and her mom enjoying an illicit kiss at the local health food store.

Josh and Khadijah’s friendship is brief but intense, then their families split and their lives diverge. A decade later, she’s an art historian in Boston creating miniatures of people’s houses for them to destroy and he’s the bassist of a defunct L.A. band, writing music and hoping to design home studios for other musicians.

Readers learn, from Josh’s point of view, what’s happened in between and how his adolescent observations of betrayal, loyalty, passion and responsibility continue to affect his life. Good Kids is an amusing, hipster-esque look at pop culture, family, love, commitment, and the way particular moments have the potential to shape our view of ourselves and our world.

Also noted

Dartmouth professor and author of Naked Economics, Charles Wheelan brings his skill at demystifying academic topics to a new book, Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from Data. From how to identify “deceptive statistics” to understanding probability and applying statistical information to life decisions, this book aims to help readers understand statistics with “wit, accessibility, and sheer fun.”

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I’m putting the finishing touches on my January column, with reviews of Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment by New Hampshire author Katrina Kenison, Vanity Fare: a Novel of Lattes, Literature, and Love by New Hampshire native Megan Caldwell, and Good Kids, a novel by Benjamin Nugent, who is Director of Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University. I also give a shout out to Dartmouth professor Charles Wheelan‘s Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data.

Why is it, by the way, that publishers feel the need to add “a novel” after fiction titles these days? Do they think we readers can’t figure out what kind of book we’re looking at? Is it backlash from all those semi-true memoirs?

Anyway, the column will appear on my usual 2nd Sunday of the month, January 13, 2013 in the Concord Monitor. I’ll post a link.


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