In 2010, our local authors distinguished themselves in several genres: memoir, New York state history, photography and adventure. Also, my friend Jack Brennan, author of “This Vet Has Tales,” asked me to help edit his manuscript.
The experience renewed my respect for the inspiration, painstaking work and persistence that author, editor and publisher bring to the process of advancing a book from vision to finished copy.
Here are my picks for the best books of the year by local authors.
“The Dirty Life” by Kristin Kimball — Kimball, who runs Essex Farm in the eastern Adirondacks with her husband, Mark, makes farming seem as dramatic as a tightly wound thriller. She vividly captures the joys, sorrow, challenges and opportunities of community-supported agriculture and, by extension, the experience that many family farms face.
“Excavating The Sutlers’ House: Artifacts of the British Armies in Fort Edward and Lake George” by David R. Starbuck — Not just another book about Colonial New York military history; Starbuck and book designer Kathy Kimball do a noteworthy job of weaving together well-written and carefully researched text and more than 150 color photographs of military artifacts, forts and present day re-enactors.
What we LOVED in 2010
“Horses in Living Color” by Barbara Livingston — From landscapes with snow-covered Oregon mountains to the Saratoga Flat Track, Livingston shows a dizzying variety of horse types and their coloring. In her many pictures of horses, famous and workaday, she captures the spirit of her equine subjects so capably that you think they will step off the page.
“The Man Who Saved New York” by Seymour Lachman — An engaging biography of High Carey, a congressman and governor of New York state. To put Carey in perspective, Lachman ably chronicles a tumultuous time, when Carey, the Legislature and New York’s work force prevailed over a fiscal crisis, addressed the need for new social services and overcame unexpected environmental challenges.
“The Smalbanac: An Opinionated Guide to New York’s Capital District” by Christine Garretson-Persans — If Mark Twain or William Least-Heat Moon wrote a guide to our region, it would sound an awful lot like this witty and informative volume. Garretson-Persans describes Albany and regional destinations that will appeal to every age, interest and budget.
“Feathers of Hope” by Barbara Chepaitis — In this short book, Chepaitis tells the fascinating story of how Grafton resident Pete Dubacher trained himself to be one of the nation’s best wildlife rehabilitators. She also explores the many influences that birds have on our lives and spirits.
“Hart’s Grove” by Dennis McFadden — In his first book, McFadden offers a beautifully written and moving collection of interlocking short stories. The stories are set in Hart’s Grove, a fictional village in northwest Pennsylvania, inspired by McFadden’s home town, Brookville.
“Walking to Gatlinsburg” by Howard Frank Mosher — This is a thoughtful examination of violence, the American Civil War and slavery, wrapped in a page-turning thriller.
This year the publishing industry continued to get strong sales from Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. Steig Larsson’s “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” the final book in his popular series, also was a must read, and nonfiction was well represented by books by Sarah Palin, Glen Beck and, in the past few months, George W. Bush.
As usual, there were many popular author appearances in the Capital District, primarily at the New York State Writers Institute.
The books selected below were chosen because of their link to the Capital Region and the quality of their writing.
Some of the authors are from this region or wrote about this region, and some authors were guest speakers in the area.
“Backing into Forward” by Jules Feiffer — An excellent memoir by the famous cartoonist. I loved his self-deprecating humor as he described his struggles to become a successful artist. An important book for all of us to read, especially young people, who will learn the importance of failure as a way to succeed.
“Eaarth” by Bill McKibben — A nonfiction book that’s impossible to put down as it describes how we now live on a new planet with melting poles and drying forests. I liked how McKibben offered some ways of living normal lives on this new planet that he calls Eaarth.
“The Imperfectionists” by Tom Rachman — This was my favorite book of fiction. It is a collection of stories following the daily struggles of reporters, editors and executives, over 50 years, at an English-language newspaper in Rome. I didn’t want this book to end, and I look forward to more work from this author.
“Listen to the Echoes” by Sam Weller — A series of interviews with 90-year-old author Ray Bradbury, and it felt like I was sitting at a party listening to Bradbury talk about science fiction, writing, politics, marriage and movies. It’s encouraging to know that Bradbury still has so many scintillating things to say.
“The Great Divorce” by Ilyon Woo — A nonfiction account of Eunice Chapman who, in the early 1800s, fought for five years to get her children back from the Shakers. The children had been brought there by Chapman’s alcoholic husband, a devoted follower of the religious society. Much of the story is set in Watervliet and the Shaker communities near what is now the Albany International Airport.
“Making Rounds with Oscar” by David Dosa — A well-written account of a cat with an uncanny ability to predict impending death at a nursing home in Providence, R.I. This book had a lot to say about the care of the elderly.
“The Surrendered” by Chang-rae Lee — Three characters interweave in a painful story about the ravages of the Korean War. Beautifully written and a book you will never forget.
“Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen — Another comic and tragic book by the author of “The Corrections,” once again focusing on a Midwestern dysfunctional family trying to survive and do good deeds in our modern world.