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Intoxicating Tales

December 2016 | view this story as a .pdf

Indulge in a cache of great Maine books for the New Year.

books-dec16The team at Longfellow Books invites you to delve between the pages of some of their favorite books from the past year. So settle in and grab a copy. You’re in good hands. 

By Ari Gersen & The Staff of Longfellow Books

The State We’re In

by Anne Beattie

“…A seagull swooped up the bouquet and dropped it, but too far out over the rocks for anybody to retrieve it, although the best man tried. But that—real life—you couldn’t write. You had to write Magical

Realism, in which no doubt the seagull could recite Latin proverbs while it was being philosophical about the flowers not being fish.”

Ann Beattie’s long-awaited new short story collection, her first since 2005, arrives in paperback this year. The fifteen short stories are all set in Maine. Beattie’s gift with language and the wit personified by her work are on perfect display throughout. Included are three tales centered on a teenage visitor to the state, Jocelyn, whose struggles with finding her place in the world could easily translate into a full novel. Also included are a touching story of an IRS agent who comes to an important life change after visiting an elderly woman; a group of kids who stumbles upon a room full of Elvis Presley busts; and many other unique and poignant tales. The common thread running though all of these stories is not only their location, but also Beattie’s innate gift of understanding how people relate to each other. She conjures unique and touching relationships in this highly engaging collection of short stories.

224 pages | Scribner | paperback $15

American Character
by Colin Woodard

“…Liberal democracy requires balancing two essential aspects of human freedom: individual liberty and the freedom of the community. Sacrifice one, and you are on the road to oligarchy or anarchy; lose the other, and the shadow of collectivist dictatorship looms.”

The award-winning journalist for the Portland Press Herald explores how to best reconcile the epic struggle in American politics between individual liberty and the good of the community as a whole, beginning with the first colonies through to the present day. He asserts that this struggle can be linked to nearly every major disagreement in U.S. history, right up to and including the present political divisiveness. Woodard asserts that sustaining liberal democracy requires balancing those two essential aspects of human freedom. Discover a pertinent and thought-provoking read.

320 pages | Viking | Hardcover $29.99

Some Writer! The Story of
E.B. White

by Melissa Sweet

Treat yourself to an illustrated biography of E.B. White, author of such classics as Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, by award-winning children’s book illustrator Melissa Sweet. Using White’s letters, photographs, and mementos, as well as her original collaged art, Sweet tells the story of one of the most beloved authors of all time.

176 pages | HMH Books for Young Readers

Paperback $18.99

Written on My Heart
by Morgan Callan Rogers

Darkness had settled in as we’d been talking, but millions of stars had leaked through it.”

For anyone who enjoyed Ruby Red Heart in a Cold Blue Sea, you’ll love being transported back to The Point. Picking up seven years from where the first novel left off, Written on My Heart brings this coastal Maine community—with all of the hardship and joy to be found—to life. As an unsolved murder winds its way throughout the novel, Rogers’s characters wrestle with the limitations of a shrinking community and a changing way of life, the transition from child to adult, and the life-altering power of love and loss.

384 pages | Plume | Paperback $17

My Name is Lucy Barton
by Elizabeth Strout

“Every time a nurse offered to bring her a cot, she shook her head. After a while, the nurses stopped asking. My mother stayed with me five nights, and she never slept but in her chair.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and part-time Maine resident Elizabeth Strout has crafted an honest and often heartbreaking story with My Name is Lucy Barton. A young mother of two, Barton is recovering from surgery complications when her own mother, to whom she had not spoken in many years, comes to keep her company for five days. Everything seems to be ticking along well until Lucy reveals to us in small ways the poverty of her upbringing, her hunger for her mother’s love, and their difficult and at times abusive relationship.

208 pages | Random House | HardCOver $26

Barkskins
by Annie Proulx

…It is the forest of the world. It is infinite. It twists around as a snake swallows its own tail and has no end and no beginning.“

At 736 pages and spanning over 300 years, Barkskins is about as good an option as one can find for a stormy Maine winter weekend. From the arrival of woodcutting French settlers in Canada in 1693 through an eyewitness account of melting glaciers in 2013, this monumental undertaking weaves Proulx’s ability to develop characters in striking form while continuously bringing readers back to the destruction and savagery of the seemingly ceaseless endeavor to “tame nature.” Though the environmental message is clear, it’s her vivid characters that make this one a page-turner.

736 pages | Scribner HardCover $32

Anna Get Your Pen

Many of the vignettes written by Portland native Anna Kendrick in her memoir Scrappy Little Nobody (Touchstone, $26.99, 2016) touch on her growing up here, going to Lincoln Middle School, and inspirations at Deering High.

The Oscar-nominated actress (for 2009’s Up In The Air) and star of Twilight, Into the Woods, The Accountant, and the Pitch Perfect movie series (with Pitch Perfect 3 soon to be shot) dares to shock with a conversational mix of candor, irony, irreverence, anger, and innocence.

Scrappy Little Nobody has charming end papers with a repeating motif of lighthouses, the state of Maine, lightning bolts, ballet shoes, and princess poses. At press time, it was No. 25 in books on amazon.com. FYI, The King James version of the Bible is No. 3,078. 

304 pages | Touchstone
Hardcover $26.99