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Best Books For The Holidays, 2014

Faith Meixell

This time of year, bibliophiles of all stripes - from the editors at the New York Times to the staff at your local library - are putting out their picks for the best books of 2014.  And while every year has its standout authors and dominant themes, one trend this year is just how long some of these lists are. (digital post by Faith Meixell)


  • Michael Herrmann - Owner of Gibson's Bookstore in Concord
  • Dan Chartrand - Owner of Water Street Bookstore in Exeter

Top Picks:

  • Eat – Nigel Slater: “A chubby, fabric bound collection of 600 easy recipes and ideas for midweek dinners. The recipes are short, precise and easy to use. Each recipe is just 5-12 lines long, has a quickly referenced shopping list under the title, and a photograph of the finished dish. Most are accompanied by ideas and inspirations and room for your own notes.” (Harper Collins)

  • The Boston Girl - Anita Diamant:Addie Baum was "the other one"— an afterthought — the youngest of three sisters, born in 1900 in Boston's North End to Jewish immigrant parents. It was a time when most women didn't finish school, couldn't vote, and worked at low-level jobs just until they were married, to men they likely didn't choose for themselves.” (NPR)
  • Dept. of Speculation - Jenny Offill:Each fragment is satisfying or not, and exists unto itself but also, clearly, as part of something bigger. “Dept. of Speculation” moves quickly, but it is also joyously demanding because you will want to keep trying to understand the why of each fragment and how it fits with the others.” (New York Times)
  • Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads - Bob Shea: “Then hope rides into town. Sheriff Ryan might only be seven years old, and he might not know much about shooting and roping. But he knows a lot about dinosaurs. Yes, dinosaurs. And it turns out that knowing a thing or two about paleontology can come in handy when it comes to hoodwinking and rounding up a few no-good bandits.” (Macmillan)
  • The Science of Interstellar - Kip Thorne: “Thorne shares his experiences working as the science adviser on the film and then moves on to the science itself. In chapters on wormholes, black holes, interstellar travel, and much more, Thorne’s scientific insights—many of them triggered during the actual scripting and shooting of Interstellar—describe the physical laws that govern our universe and the truly astounding phenomena that those laws make possible.” (Norton)

Complete List of Books Mentioned During Show:

  • Hermione Lee, Penelope Fitzgerald: A Lifeliterary biography
  • John Cleese, So Anyway - great British writer, comedy legend
  • Amy Poehler, Yes Pleasevery funny, reminiscent of Tina Fey’s Bossypants.
  • Richard Preston, The Hot Zonea 20-yr-old bestseller about Ebola, popular again
  • Phil Klay, Redeploymenta fiction book by an Iraq veteran. Gets to the truth of on-the-ground Mideast wars in a way that non-fiction often doesn’t.
  • Lily King, Euphoriastory of anthropologist Margaret Mead in the 1930s; Maine writer
  • Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Can’t Seelyrical episodic novel at the end of WWII. No breakout books this year like Donna Tartt’s Goldfinch, but this one comes close. Popular among book groups.
  • Michel Faber, Book of Strange New Things – pastor sent to another planet as a missionary for aliens. Sci-fi book that's about a crisis of faith, and what it means to be in a marriage.
    • similar to Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow - about a Jesuit missionary
  • Tana French, The Secret Place - fifth novel about the Dublin murder squad, recommended by emailer
  • Megan Abbott, The Feveremailer recommendation
  • Holly George-Warren, A Man Called Destructionmusic biography about Alex Chilton, emailer recommendation.
  • Tom Doyle, Man on the Runbio about Paul McCartney in the 1970s.
  • Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation -  well-written book that follows the course of a woman’s life
  • Anita Daimant, Boston Girl - by the author of Red Tent, about a woman born and raised in the North End of Boston who becomes involved in the women’s suffrage movement
  • Great New England storytellers with new books out: Stephen King, John Grisham, Jodi Picoult, Chris Bohjalian (newest is about a nuclear meltdown in Vermont)
  • Colm Toibin, Nora Websterspare, intense narrative about a widow in her 60s
  • Neil Patrick Harris, Choose Your Own Autobiographyfun autobiography, caller recommendation
  • Bob Ryan, Scribe - great strong sports book, New England
  • Ben Winters, The Last Policeman series - set in Concord; about an asteroid heading toward earth.
  • Malala Yousafzai, I Am Malalacaller recommendation, author is a girl from Pakistan who stood up to the Taliban, won the Nobel Peace Prize this year
  • Roz Chast, Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? - very funny, the graphic novel format makes a difficult topic much more readable. Parents and author are quirky characters.
  • Atul Gawande, Being Mortalabout the shift in thinking about end of life care
  • Jon Keller, Of Sea and Cloudlistener recommendation; about the life of a lobstering family in Maine
  • Abi Maxwell, Lake People author is sister of Jon Keller; another great New England read
  • Donald Hall, Essays After Eightymaybe the best book from a N.H. author this year; essays about old age, poetry, reminiscences
  • Dennis Robinson, Mystery on the Isles of Shoals - less about the Smuttynose murders than 19th century Seacoast history.  
  • Leslie Jamison, Empathy Examscollection of essays: great gift for college students, intellectual types. One essay is about the author’s experience as a medical actor.
    • Charles D’Ambrosio, Loiteringanother book of essays
  • Andy Weir, The Martian - recommendation from manager of UNH observatory for great scifi. Really practical and believable from a science perspective.
  • Kip Thorne, Science of Interstellar - a look at the science behind the movie, by the scientist who advised director Christopher Nolan
  • Concord-based AP food editor J.M. Hirsh’s list of best books of the year
  • Nigel Slater, Eatcookbook designed to use, practical.
  • Michelle Knudsen, Evil Librariangreat young adult book for reluctant readers
  • Bob Shea, Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toadsfunny picture book
  • Rebecca Prince Bergeron, The Worry Tree is Waitingpicture book by local elementary school teacher, published through a Kickstarter campaign
  • Tomie dePaola, Jackabout Jack's adventures, very nursery tale-oriented

Another recommendation from Michael: Lissa Warren’s Good Luck Cat

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