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Santa thinks you should add some Vermont-related books to your holiday wish list

John Steinbeck knew what he was talking about. The Nobel Prize-winning author of “Grapes of Wrath,” “Of Mice and Men” and “East of Eden” famously said, “I guess there are never enough books.”

As far as avid readers are concerned, simpler and truer words were never spoken. No matter how many books you buy on your own or receive as birthday or holiday gifts, more are always welcome. It doesn’t matter if the vast majority of those books sit on shelves waiting to be read while you’re poring over one of the dozens of titles in your on-deck queue; one day, you figure, you’ll have time to read them all.

With so many authors based in Vermont and stories real and imagined set in the state, there’s a pretty good chance that copious collection includes some books with Vermont connections. Here are a few more works to consider adding to your bounty of books, all of which have been published in the past few months.

Santa Claus is dismayed to read of the dangers of sugar as he reads "The Sweet Tooth Dilemma" by Vermont author Andrea Grayson as a plate of cookies sits atop a pile of Vermont-related books in the entryway of the Homeport store Nov. 24, 2023 on the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington.
Santa Claus is dismayed to read of the dangers of sugar as he reads “The Sweet Tooth Dilemma” by Vermont author Andrea Grayson as a plate of cookies sits atop a pile of Vermont-related books in the entryway of the Homeport store Nov. 24, 2023 on the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington.

Fiction

Daniel Hecht, “The Body Below” – The eighth novel by this author who lives in Montpelier focuses on a journalist who makes a stunning discovery while swimming in a Vermont lake. “The Body Below” was inspired in part by Hecht’s own experiences with long-distance open-water swimming in Vermont lakes, which he started in 1980.

Lloyd Devereux Richards, “Maidens of the Cave” – Another Montpelier author, Richards is about as improbable success story as there is in the publishing world. His first novel, the 2012 thriller “Stone Maidens,” shot to the top of bestseller lists this year after his daughter made a TikTok video touting his little-known book. His second novel, “Maidens of the Cave,” is the sequel, published 11 years later.

Heather Dixon, “Burlington” – Dixon is from Burlington – Burlington, Ontario, that is. But the author wanted to set her new suspense novel in a place reminiscent of her Canadian hometown, so she selected Burlington, Vermont, one of 27 like-named communities in the U.S. “Burlington could be anywhere and everywhere,” Dixon says in promotional material for “Burlington.”

"The Body Below" by Montpelier author Daniel Hecht
“The Body Below” by Montpelier author Daniel Hecht

Jon Clinch, “The General and Julia” – The general in question is Ulysses S. Grant, and the Vermont author’s work of historical fiction considers the Civil War hero’s final days spent writing his memoirs not far from the Vermont border in upstate New York.

Molly McGhee, “Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind” – An alum of Champlain College in Burlington, McGhee has written her first novel , which is set in an office. The Washington Post says the book is marked by McGhee’s “canny, often bittersweetly hilarious prose.”

Amber Roberts, “Text Appeal” – Like McGhee, Roberts has just published her debut novel. The author who grew up in central Vermont and now lives in Arlington set “Text Appeal” in Burlington. In an email to the Burlington Free Press, Roberts called the novel “a comedic romp about what would happen if a woman had to send risqué texts for cash to pay the bills.”

Mike Magluilo, “A Reason to Run” – The Cornwall resident tells a tale set in 1980s suburban Chicago about a teenage boy who runs track after he was nearly killed in a bicycle accident. Magluilo, on his website, calls “A Reason to Run” “a vivid take on the confusion, potential and music of a generation left to figure out adolescence on its own.”

Cornwall author Mike Magluilo
Cornwall author Mike Magluilo

Paula Munier, “Home at Night” – Part of the author’s “Mercy Carr Mystery” series, “Home at Night” is set in Vermont at Halloween. Carr and her crew are trying to track down a murderer during a season of foliage viewing and Halloween reveling in Vermont.

Jeffrey M. Freeman, “The Nashville Connection” – As the title suggests, this spy story is set partly in Tennessee. The author, though, is a Brattleboro native who attended the University of Vermont in the 1960s and ‘70s.

Christine Corrigan Mendez, “Clementine Gets Unstuck!” – Mendez is a licensed counselor who has a home in Burlington. “Clementine Gets Unstuck!” is a children’s book featuring a third-grade student struggling to wade through her complicated thoughts.

The book "True Crime Stories of Burlington, Vermont" by Thea Lewis
The book “True Crime Stories of Burlington, Vermont” by Thea Lewis

Nonfiction

Andrea Grayson, “The Sweet Tooth Dilemma” – Grayson, who teaches at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, is the bearer of bad if not surprising news with this book that spells out how sugar is dangerous. “My goal is raise awareness about this critical link to disease, and offer a path for quitting,” Grayson wrote in an email to the Burlington Free Press.

Thea Lewis, “True Crime Stories of Burlington, Vermont” – The guide who leads Queen City Ghost Walks and other tours through Burlington explores more deeply one of the topics of her walks. “True Crime Stories of Burlington, Vermont” dives into chapters with enticing titles such as “The Case of the Book-Loving Butcher,” “Don’t Blame It on Bundy” and “The Christmas Party Killer.”

Nikhil Goyal, “Live to See the Day: Coming of Age in American Poverty” – The author lives in Vermont and served as a senior policy advisor on education and children for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. “Live to See the Day” follows three young people in Philadelphia for whom, as the book’s dust jacket describes, “the odds of making it out (of poverty) are ever slighter” than they once might have been.

"Live to See the Day" by Vermont author Nikhil Goyal
“Live to See the Day” by Vermont author Nikhil Goyal

Mercedes de Guardiola, “’Vermont for the Vermonters’: The History of Eugenics in the Green Mountain State” – This book from the Vermont Historical Society delves into one of the bleakest stories in state history. The eugenics movement, de Guardiola told the Burlington Free Press for an October article, “led a number of leading Vermonters to believe that the people sent (to asylums and poor farms) were incurable and had poor heredity, and that eugenics offered a scientific and humane solution.”

Roxie Zwicker, “Vermont Book of the Dead: Graveyard Legends and Lore” – New England and its dark and brooding fall skies is prime territory for spooky stories. The back cover of “Vermont Book of the Dead” explains that “Haunting stories and wandering ghosts are found in numerous burial places from the Riverside Cemetery in Burlington to the Green Mount Cemetery in Montpelier.”

"Vermont Book of the Dead" by Roxie Zwicker
“Vermont Book of the Dead” by Roxie Zwicker

Anastasia L. Pratt, “Lake Champlain Monuments and Memorials” – Not dedicated solely to Vermont, this book explores the more than 8,000 square miles of Lake Champlain touching upon the shores of  Vermont, New York and Quebec. The stories within highlight the ways monuments and memorials commemorate life and history in the Champlain Valley.

Joe Roman, “Eat, Poop, Die: How Animals Make Our World” – A wildlife expert at the University of Vermont, Roman studies the benefits whales, birds and other animals provide to our ecosystem. “We often think of plants as the lungs of the planet, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen,” the conservation biologist says on the website for UVM’s Gund Institute for Environment. “We can think of animals as the circulatory system.”

Greg Overacker, “The Hunt for Brianna Maitland: The Relentless Pursuit of Answers to One of Vermont’s Biggest Mysteries” – Overacker is a private investigator and former bounty hunter retained by the Maitland family in 2006 to help in the search for the young woman who disappeared two years earlier after working at an inn in Montgomery. Maitland’s father, Bruce Maitland, wrote the foreword for the book.

DJ Disciple and Henry Kronk, “The Beat, the Scene, the Sound” – Kronk, a former Burlington Free Press intern, worked with DJ Disciple to tell the story of, as the book’s subtitle divulges, “A DJ’s Journey Through the Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of House Music in New York City.” “While we approach the story through Disciple’s point-of-view,” Kronk told the Free Press in an email, “we also include over 60 interviews with groundbreaking DJs of their day.”

Greg Guma, “Prisoners of the Real” and “Into the Mystic” – Guma, of Burlington, has been publishing books in Vermont since the 1980s, and recently released a pair of works. “Into the Mystic” explores spiritualism and theosophy in the 1800s. “Prisoners of the Real” tackles what the subtitle refers to as “World Disorder, Rational Management and Dionysian Leadership.”

The book "Mayan Spirit Animals Unleashed" by University of Vermont alum John Heinz
The book “Mayan Spirit Animals Unleashed” by University of Vermont alum John Heinz

John Heinz, “Mayan Spirit Animals Unleashed” – The longtime Vermont resident and University of Vermont graduate explained in an email to the Free Press that his book “takes readers on a transformative journey into the heart of Mayan spirituality, offering a unique resource that celebrates the rich indigenous heritage, environmental stewardship, and the transformative power of nature.”

Memoir

Marilyn Webb Neagley, “Attic of Dreams: A Memoir” – Neagley, who lives in Shelburne, served as president of Shelburne Farms in the 1970s. Her book, according to Rootstock Publishing in Montpelier, “is a lyrical memoir tracing a life of healing from family dysfunction and jumping headlong into a life of natural curiosity, art, and activism.”

Doris J. Sumner, “Life at Camp: Combatting the Sexism We Tolerate” – Sumner, of Milton, retired from the Vermont Army National Guard in 2019 after a 36-year career in uniform. Her memoir, Sumner explained in an email to the Free Press, “is a call to action to equalize gender and maximize the talent pool.”

Anna Nasset, “Now I Speak: From Stalked to Standing Up” – The Waitsfield author tells of her experience of being stalked for a decade and ways to identify and respond to stalking. Nasset is a speaker and owner of Stand Up Resources, which works with law enforcement, universities and other agencies to educate people on the topic.

"Attic of Dreams," a memoir by Shelburne author Marilyn Webb Neagley
“Attic of Dreams,” a memoir by Shelburne author Marilyn Webb Neagley

Travel

Sam Brakeley, “Tramping Te Araroa, A Journey Through New Zealand with Captain Cook” – Brakeley, owner of Hermit Woods Trailbuilders in Sharon, hiked the South Island of New Zealand along the Te Araroa long-distance pathway. He told the Free Press in an email that his book tells “of my 21st century backpacking trip alongside the 18th century story of Captain James Cook, the first European explorer to set foot in New Zealand.”

Jacquelyn Lenox Tuxill, “Whispers from the Valley of the Yak: A Memoir of Coming Full Circle” – The Lincoln author straddles the travel and memoir genres for this book that follows Tuxill on two journeys to her Chinese birthplace – one in 1980 with her parents, the other in 2007 with her own adult children to follow in her parents’ footsteps and find peace with her past.

Kathy Elkind, “To Walk It Is to See It: 1 Couple, 98 Days, 1400 Miles on Europe’s GR5” – Like Brakeley’s book above, Elkind writes about a long-distance path, the 1,400-mile-long GR5 through The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France. The Vermont author took that trek as an opportunity to connect with her husband of nearly 30 years.

Williston writer and artist Nancy Stone
Williston writer and artist Nancy Stone

Poetry

Madeleine May Kunin, “Walk With Me” – Her resume is impressive: three-term Vermont governor, former U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and, now, two-time published poet. Kunin’s second book, in the words of its publisher, Brattleboro-based Green Writers Press, “is a beautifully crafted illustration of not only what it means to be a woman on the eve of ninety years of life, but a feminist, a politician, an immigrant, a mother, a lover, a companion and a living thing in the midst of an ever-turbulent world.”

James Crews, “The Wonder of Small Things: Poems of Peace & Renewal” – The prolific author and editor from southern Vermont just published his third anthology in his “Poetry for Life” series, gathering works by writers including Wendell Berry, Joy Harjo, Naomi Shihab Nye and U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limon.

Nancy Stone, “Indigo Hours: Healing Haiku” – Stone, a painter and book artist who lives in Willison, taught art at Williston Central School. “Indigo Hours” resulted from the author’s husband being diagnosed with dementia in 2018. “Caregiving interrupted my life as an artist,” Stone told her publisher, Rootstock Publishing in Montpelier, “but writing haiku became a creative outlet… a healthy way of coping and preserving one’s self.”

Erika Nichols-Frazer, “Staring Too Closely” – The Waitsfield author published a memoir last year. Her latest book, a poetry collection, “spans the personal, showing my journey of healing and recovery from trauma and mental illness to global issues and current events,” she wrote in an email to the Burlington Free Press.

Crow Bookshop on the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, shown Nov. 24, 2023.
Crow Bookshop on the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, shown Nov. 24, 2023.

If you go

For that old-fashioned kind of holiday shopping – going into a store rather than buying presents online – here’s a list of bookstores in Chittenden County:

Phoenix Books in Burlington, shown Nov. 24, 2023.
Phoenix Books in Burlington, shown Nov. 24, 2023.

Contact Brent Hallenbeck at bhallenbeck@freepressmedia.com.

This article originally appeared on Burlington Free Press: Vermont books, newly published, make for good holiday gifts


Special thanks to Burlington Free Press for allowing us to reprint this article. Original article available here.

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