Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

On a GORGEOUS spring day last week – yes, spring does eventually reach Vermont – The Book Jam traveled to Vermont’s amazing Northeast Kingdom. We love to visit this region to bike, camp, ski and to simply enjoy the magnificent views.  This time, though, we were there to chat about books, to learn what librarians and booksellers in this more remote part of our state are recommending for summer reading, and to raise some money for Vermont libraries. (We also spent a bit too much in the Whistle Emporium, a superb gift/art/kitchen/just fun stuff store, located next to Claire’s.)  Thank you to the Vermont Community Foundation for making Pages in the Pub in Hardwick possible.

Our presenters to a packed pub at Claire’s Restaurant and Bar in Hardwick, Vermont included:

  • Linda Ramsdell, owner and founder of Galaxy Bookshop since 1988.  Linda considers herself extraordinarily fortunate to have spent half of her life in a place where books, people, ideas and imagination meet.
  • Lisa Sammet, library director of Jeudevine Memorial Library in Hardwick. She’s been a librarian, youth librarian, English teacher, farmer, and a Peace Corps volunteer. She also has been a professional storyteller in schools and libraries for over 30 years.
  • Rachel Hexter Fried, retired attorney and current Chair of the Stannard Selectboard. She supports independent bookstores and loves having the Galaxy in Hardwick. She is a voracious reader.
  • Lisa Christie, co-founder and co-blogger of The Book Jam Blog. Formerly the Executive Director of Everybody Wins! Vermont and USA; currently, a nonprofit consultant and mom who reads whenever she can find time.

We limited their written reviews to six words (those in the audience were able to hear a 2 minute review). So, although the list of books in this post is longer than our usual, we hope the brevity of the reviews helps you think about each, and helps you decide whether they should make your summer 2013 reading list.  Enjoy!

Non-fiction or reference book – For people who like to ponder large tomes during summer vacations

Former People by Douglas Smith. Selected by Rachel Hexter Fried. Bolshevik Revolution’s destruction of aristocratic Russia.


Memoirs – For people who enjoy living vicariously through other people’s memories

Elsewhere by Richard Russo. Selected by Rachel Hexter Fried. Russo’s life with his compulsive mother.

Prague Winter by Madeleine Albright. Selected by Lisa Sammet. Remarkable WWII story of courage tragedy.

North of Hope by Shannon Huffman Polson. Selected by Lisa Christie. Bear kills. Daughter grieves, grows, loves.


Adult Fiction – For a woman who only has time for the best fiction

John Saturnall’s Feast by Lawrence Norfolk. Selected by Rachel Hexter Fried. Poor boy’s rise to Manor master chef.

Sweet Toothby Ian McEwan.  Selected by Lisa Sammet. Cold war espionage, clever, love and truth.

Juliet in August by Dianne Warren. Selected by Linda Ramsdell. 1 horse, great characters, nothing terrible happens.

Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi. Selected by Lisa Christie.  Father Dies. Family Gathers. Gorgeous Prose.


Adult fiction – For a man who has enough camping equipment, but not enough good fiction

Canada by Richard Ford. Selected by Rachel Hexter Fried. Exquisitely written story. Parents rob bank.

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. Selected by Lisa Sammet. Post-apocalyptic suspense, savage and tender.

Truth in Advertising by John Kenney. Selected by Lisa Christie. “Ad-man” matures late in life.                                      


 Cookbooks or coffee table books or reference books – For your mom/grad/dad

Vermont Farm Table by Tracey Medeiros. Selected by Linda Ramsdell. Inspired photos, approachable recipes, neighbors, friends.

Saved: How I Quit Worrying about Money and became the Richest Guy in the World by Ben Hewitt. Selected by Linda Ramsdell.  Much to ponder at any point in life.

Picture Books (zero to 7) – books for youngsters to peruse under trees and in tree houses

The Princess and the Pig by Jonathan Emmet. Selected by Lisa Sammet. Fractured fairy tale with wry humor.

Books for summer campers/ young reader (ages 8-12) – books for those beyond tonka trucks and tea parties but not yet ready for teen topics.

Hold Fast by Blue Balliet. Selected by Lisa Christie. Langston’s poems. Homeless Family. Books save.

Books for your favorite High Schooler – “not required” reading for teens to ponder during the long hours of summer vacation

Good Kings Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum. Selected by Linda Ramsdell. Rarely glimpsed window to a world.

Some bonus books mentioned by the presenters during their presentations:

Catherine the Great by Robert Massie. Mentioned by Rachel.

Atonement by Ian McEwan mentioned by Lisa S.

Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon mentioned by Linda

The Danger Box by Blue Balliet mentioned by Lisa C.

At the end of our chats, the four presenters were curious about what audience members were reading.  Some of their current reading includes:

Beautiful Ruins by Jesse Walters; Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand; Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwen; Freeman by Leonard Pitts; Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson; Slow Democracy: Rediscovering Community, bringing decision-making back home by Susan Clark and Woden Teachout; Seward: Lincoln’s  Indispensible Man, by Walter Stahr; My Beloved World by Sonya Sotomayor; Mysteries by Benjamin Black;  and  Same Ax, Twice by Howard Mansfield.

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Yes, another summer has passed and I read quite a few  books.  Challenged by the BookJam’s other Lisa to reflect upon my summer reading (would you guess she is married to a teacher?), I realized that I spent the summer with my sons, Harry PotterPercy Jackson  and random Super Heroes.

I’d love to be able to impress and report that with my non-kid reading time I dedicated my energies to the classics or to edgy modern literature, but alas I did not. Instead, I kept picking up mysteries. I blame this on the fact that I found two series that once started, I was driven to finish in one fell swoop.  And well, that basically filled the summer. But boy did that entail a lot of armchair travel! These two series took me to the ever entertaining French countryside and San Francisco.

The first of these series belongs to the author Martin Walker.  I read the initial book in this set  – Bruno, Chief of Police: a novel of the French countryside – years ago and enjoyed it, but I can’t say I loved it.

That opinion changed when someone put his second novel, The Dark Vineyard: a novel of the French Countryside, in my hands.  In this book, Mr. Walker hits his stride both with both his story telling capabilities and in developing the character of Bruno. I devoured it and then plunged right into reading his third and latest installment – Black Diamond: a mystery of the French Countryside.  In addition to spending part of his year in the south of France, Mr. Walker is the Senior Director of the Global Business Policy Council and as such appears both knowledgeable about the region and well, literate.

The second series of mysteries that kept me occupied – and traveling – was the “Dismas Hardy series” by John Lescroart.  As someone who was lucky enough to live in San Francisco in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I’ll try just about any book that takes place in that city by the bay.

I found this series because my husband reads thrillers.  He gave me one in an airport years ago; I read it and promptly forgot about it. This summer, though, he loaded a few onto my iPad and I was hooked.  As with Mr. Walker’s series, I read the first, then another and a third and kept plowing right on through the entire set.

And, while I often turn my nose down at the thought of a thriller, these thrillers are my new mind candy.  Why?  They allow me to live again in my old hometown, if only for the duration of the novel.  They have two interesting main characters – Dismas Hardy and his best friend, homicide detective Abe Glinsky, each supported by intelligent families.  And as a bonus, and possibly most importantly to me, each plot places you firmly in San Francisco and provides an enjoyable page turner.

My summary – Mr. Lescroart’s novels are great books for anyone missing San Francisco and/or wanting some escapist reading. Nothing But the Truth begins the series, but you can start just about anywhere.

For additional mysteries that transport you to interesting places, I recommend Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache novels set in the modern-day Quebec countryside, Jacqueline Winspear‘s Maisie Dobb’s series set in Post WWI London, Sarah Stewart Taylor’s Sweeney St. George series set in Boston/New England, and Archer Mayor’s Joe Gunther series set in our home state of Vermont.  Luckily, three of the four series have a 2011 installment for you to enjoy.

Happy reading and happy traveling! Lisa Christie

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