Best of 2014/Books: Work of novellas, Lincoln stories among year’s best

The publishing industry continues to redefine itself. Electronic books continue to be popular, but t

The publishing industry continues to redefine itself. Electronic books continue to be popular, but their growth slowed a bit this year.

Independent book publishers are booming, and the larger more traditional publishing companies have tried to fight back against the cost-cutting prices available at Amazon.

In our area, the independent bookstores continue to thrive. The Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs had some enormously popular author signings; visits by Hillary Clinton and Jeff Kinney brought in more than 800 customers each. The Open Door in Schenectady had a full program of author signings, including a wonderful trio of fishing writers in May at the beginning of fishing season.

On Aug. 30, author Joseph Persico died. A biographer and historian who lived in Guilderland, Persico covered a wide variety of subjects, from Gettysburg to Colin Powell, researched them carefully and wrote in a way that brought the people and times alive.

Book lovers once again had the opportunity this year to hear some of their favorite authors speak at local colleges and at the New York State Writers Institute in Albany.

Here are some of our favorite books of the year.


“Dirty Love” by Andre Dubus

This was my favorite work of fiction, four linked novellas with interconnected characters trying desperately to fall in love, stay in love or just figure out what love really is.

All the characters are flawed, but you can’t help but care about them even when they making all the wrong choices. The writing, especially the dialogue is first-rate.

“Long Mile Home” by Scott Helman and Jenna Russell

This is the definitive account of the Boston Marathon bombing by two Boston Globe writers. Even though you know what’s going to happen, the story unfolds like a great detective story. It’s emotionally moving and suspenseful at the same time.

“My Salinger Year” by Joanna Rakoff

A funny memoir about a young woman who gets a job at an agency that represents author J.D. Salinger. If you love Salinger and if you want to know what it’s like at a New York literary agency, then this book is for you. It’s well-written and poignant.

“Little Failure” by Gary Shteyngart

This felt like a Russian Woody Allen movie, but it’s a true story of the author’s first years as an immigrant from Leningrad as he tries to survive in Queens. It’s funny — I loved his descriptions of struggling with language, girls and American culture. It’s also a powerful story of growing up with difficult parents.

“On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller” by Richard Norton Smith

It took 14 years for Smith to write this definitive biography of Rockefeller. It’s well-researched and readable, but it’s also 808 pages long, so it takes a while to get through. When you’re done, you will feel you know Rockefeller perhaps better than yourself.


“The History of the Hudson River Valley,” by Vernon Benjamin

This large, sometimes frustrating and often fascinating book takes readers on a tour of the Hudson Valley from, pre-history to the Civil War. In the first of a multi-volume history on a great region, Benjamin considers a broad view of history, from glaciers, to Dutchmen inventing, golf to the swirl of military maneuvers and politics in the Civil War.

“The Sugarmaker’s Companion,” by Michael Farrell

Farrell, an Albany native, masterfully shows the joys and challenges that maple sugarmakers experience. With a combination of witty, well-organized and informative text and some of the most attractive and effective artwork seen in a how-to book in some time, Farrell will help commercial sugarmakers improve their business while informing readers where their maple syrup comes from.

“A Guide’s Guide to Fly-fishing Mistakes: Common Problems and How to Correct Them,” by Sara Low

In this well-illustrated, clearly written how-to, Low, a professional fishing guide, helps readers identify fishing mistakes and then take steps to correct them. And many of Low’s examples are drawn from nearby rivers, offering local.

“Bright Rivers: Celebrations of Rivers and Fly-fishing,” by Nick Lyons

This is a reprint of a book written in 1977, with a new introduction. Yet, Lyons’ essays on fishing and family are so insightful and witty that they read as if they were written last week. As with Low’s book, many essays are set on nearby trout streams. If you want more of Lyons, Skyhorse Publishing has just released another collection of his essays, titled “Fishing Stories: A Lifetime of Adventures and Misadventures on Rivers, Lakes and Seas.”

“Lincoln and the Power of the Press,” by Harold Holzer

Holzer uses the life and times of Abraham Lincoln to tell three amazing stories. He describes how newspapers came into existence and became influential. He uses Lincoln’s life to show how politicians and press barons partnered and dueled with each other in setting a national political agenda. And he retells Lincoln’s life story, using it as the book’s organizing structure.

Categories: Entertainment

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