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Best Of: Holiday Book Show 2017

The Exchange
Dan Chartrand of Water Street Bookstore (near right) and Michael Herrmann of Gibson's Bookstore discuss the top books of 2017.

Our popular holiday tradition takes place on Monday, December 11, with Dan Chartrand, owner of Water Street Bookstore in Exeter and Michael Herrmann, owner of Gibson's Bookstorein Concord.  We look at the top books of 2017 and discuss best books for gift-giving...and receiving.  And scroll down to click on the photos below for a look at what some NHPR folks are hoping for this year!

Here are our booksellers favorite books of the year: 

Grant, by Ron Chernow  Dan Chartrand likens Chernow to an oil painter, where every dab of paint adds detail. "There's a depth of his characters...he allows us to see historical figures in a much fuller and deeper way."

My Absolute Darling  Michael Herrman enjoyed this debut novel by Gabriel Tallent, calling it "a hillbilly Lolita" about a young woman struggling to escape emotional and physical abuse.  Although it's a tough read, he said it's also exciting, and he enjoyed turning every page.

Autumn, by Ali Smith  Dan Chartrand would not be limited to just one favorite book.  He also recommended this book about a young woman and an old man near the end of his life.  Dan says there are elements of Shakespeare's "The Tempest" woven into it.  "It's about our time and the apocalyptic feel, and new things being created in this time of incredible's a gorgeous meditation."

Top Fiction titles from Gibson's Bookstore:

Books mentioned on the show are in bold.

The Power, by Naomi Alderman  
Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan
Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
My Absolute Darling, by Gabriel Tallent

Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee

Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward – Dan Chartrand says the author has taken a tragedy and transmuted it into an amazing novel.   Michael Herrman says “fans of Faulkner and Toni Morrison will love it.  That’s good company.”

Strange Weather, by Joe Hill  Both booksellers raved about this author as one of their favorites. Listen to this conversationwith NHPR's Peter Biello on The Bookshelf. 

Water Street Books Fiction Top 12:

The City of Brass: A Novel by S.A. Chakraborty

Manhattan Beach: A Novel by Jennifer Egan

Future Home of the Living God: A Novel by Louise Erdrich

The Broken Earth Book Three: The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

The Luster of Lost Things: A Novel by Sophie Chen Keller

Forest Dark: A Novel by Nicole Krauss

Her Body and Other Parties: Stories by Carmen Maria Machado

Hiddensee: A Novel by Gregory Maguire

The Ninth Hour: A Novel by Alice McDermott

Little Fires Everywhere: A Novel by Celeste Ng

Autumn: A Novel by Ali Smith

Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

Gibson's Bookstore Top Nonfiction Books:

Vacationland, by John Hodgman 

The Future is History, by Masha Gessen

Great Halifax Explosion, John U. Bacon

Never Caught, by Erica Armstrong Dunbar  - This book was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award.  Listen to The Exchange’s interview with the author.

Grant, by Ron Chernow

Leonardo da Vinci, by Walter isaacson

Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery, by Scott Kelly


Fantasyland, by Kurt Anderson

What Happened, by Hillary Clinton 

Obama, an Intimate Portrait, by Pete Souza  - Dan Chartrand recommends pairing this coffee table book with ta-Nehisi Coates social commentary,  We Were Eight Years in Power, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Enduring Vietnam, by James Wright  - Listen to the conversation with James Wrighton The Exchange.

Vietnam War, by Burns and Ward 

Let Trump be Trump, by Corey Lewandowski

Top 12 Nonfiction Books from Water Street Books:

Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship by Gregory Boyle

Grant by Ron Chernow

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches by John Hodgman

Summer Over Autumn: A Small Book of Small-Town Life by Howard Mansfield

Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process by John McPhee

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy - one of the booksellers at Water Street Books enjoyed this book and noted that it showed that women have been involved in STEM fields for years. 

After the Eclipse: A Mother’s Murder, A Daughter’s Search by Sarah Perry

Revolution Song: A Story of American Freedom by Russell Shorto

Obama: An Intimate Portrait by Pete Souza

Stanton: Lincoln’s War Secretary by Walter Stahr

The Inner Life of Animals: Love, Grief, and Compassion by Peter Wohlleben

Recommended SF and Fantasy/YA

Book of Dust, by Philip Pullman – a prequel trilogy to the Golden Compass series, with Lyra having just been born.  Michael Herrman wished for more armored bears, less diaper changes, but loved the book.

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

YA    recommendations from Gibson's Bookstore:

  •  Last Namsara, by Kristen Ciccarelli
  • Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor
  • Renegades, by Marissa Meyer

YA recommendations from Water Street Books:

  • It Devours: A Welcome to Night Vale Novel by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
  • The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue: A Novel by Mackenzi Lee
  • War Cross: A Novel by Marie Lu
  • Mishadra by Iasmin Omar Ata
Recommended Local authors

Cog Days, by Joe McQuaid A  memoir of summers working at New Hampshire's world famous Mount Washington Cog Railway during the late 1960s. Book is authored by the longtime publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader, Joseph McQuaid.

Where You'll Find Me: Risk, Decisions, and the Last Climb of Kate Matrosova, by Ty Gagne  -  You can hear the author discuss this book, and Search and Rescue in the White Mountains, on The Exchange.

Summer Over Autumn, by Howard Mansfield   “A collection of essays in the tradition of Donald Hall.”

Kids Books

From Gibson's:  

Ages 5-8          

  • Bad Seed, by Jory John
  • After the Fall, by Dan Santat
  • Nanette’s Baguette, by Mo Willems

Ages 9-12      

  • Nevermoor, The Trials of Morrigan Crow ( Nevermoor #1), by Jessica Townsend
  •  Orphan Island, Laurel Snyder
  • War I Finally Won, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (sequel to War that Saved My Life)

From Water Street Books:
Picture Books:

  • Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers
  • Read the Book, Lemmings written by Ame Dyckman illustrated by Zachariah OHora
  • Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares

Middle Grades

  • The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell
  • Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Both booksellers wished they had had a chance to talk poetry on-air.  Here are their recommendations:

Gibson's Bookstore:

  • Half-Light, by Frank Bidart
  • Odyssey (Homer), translated by Emily Wilson
  • Christmas at Eagle Pond, by Donald Hall  - Both booksellers mentioned this book, not poetry but written by poet Donald Hall, continues to sell well.

Water Street Books:

  • Of Annunciations by Ewa Chrusciel - Chrusciel, interviewed on The Bookshelf, aims to return humanity and empathy to the discussion of that migrant crisis in particular, and to migrants everywhere facing similar struggles.
  • On the Edge of No Answer: Prose Poems by Joal Hetherington
  • Collected Poems by Galway Kinnell (former Vermont Poet Laureate)
  • Distant Mandate: Poems by Ange Mlinko
  • Starland by Jessica Purdy
Listener Recommendations

  •  Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
  • Radio-free Vermont, by Bill McKibben
  • Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City by Kate Winkler Dawson 
  • The New Human Rights Movement, by Peter Joseph
  • President McKinley, by Robert W. Merry
  • Melting Ice, Shifting Sands, by Marjorie Burke, who often writes in the Gibson's Bookstore cafe
  • Akata Witch, and Akata Warrior, both by Nnedi Okorafor
  • The Leavers, by Lisa Ko (a McDowell Colony resident)
  • Velveteen Daughter, by Laurel Davis Huber
  • Long Haul, A Trucker's Tales of Life on the Road, by Finn Murray
  • An Odyssey: A Father, A son and An Epic, by Daniel Mendelsohn
  • Will's Red Coat: the Odyssey of One Old Dog who Chose to Live Again, by Tim Ryan, a Conway NH author
  • Ginny Moon, by Benjamin Ludwig, a Dover NH author.  He wasinterviewed on The Bookshelf earlier this year

Click on the Images Below to See What NHPR Folks Are Wishing For this Holiday Season:

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