Around the Writers’ Table: Books for the holidays

Build the perfect ‘Vineyard shelf’ with these Island-centric gems.


It has long been my belief that every bookcase on the Vineyard should have at least one shelf dedicated to Island authors. If you don’t already have a “Vineyard bookshelf,” it’s time to designate one to the ever-increasing number of extraordinary books written by writers who live, vacation, and visit the Vineyard. These books can, and should if at all possible, be purchased at one of our terrific local bookstores — Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven, and Edgartown Books in Edgartown. 

Every August at Islanders Write, The MV Times brings together writers and publishing professionals with ties to the Island to discuss the art, craft, and business of writing. The following list of recommended books for your holiday gift giving were written by authors who have spoken at this event. 

For children

“Believe in Yourself: What We Learned from Arthur,” by Marc Brown. Arthur is a household name for families with young children, and the latest book by bestselling author and illustrator Marc Brown is a collection of life lessons from Arthur and the gang that will resonate with children young and old. 

“S is for Sea Glass: A Beach Alphabet,” by Richard Michelson. The ideal gift for Vineyard kids who can apply what they learn onsite while enjoying Michelson’s delightful poems. 

“He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” is bestselling children’s book author Gregory Mone’s latest book in a busy year of books. This one is based on Mattel’s He-Man and the Netflix series. 

“Are You a Little Bird Like Me?” by Noel Foy is a picture book that celebrates community and courage.

Page-turners: The stories you won’t forget (fiction)

“Family of Liars,” by E. Lockart 

The bestselling prequel to the 2014 sensation “We Were Liars,” with scenes that take place on the Vineyard. It is a page-turner, and a psychological drama that is poetically written. 

“Horse,” by Geraldine Brooks 

“What is ‘Little Women’?” was the correct answer to this recent clue on the game show “Jeopardy”: “Geraldine Brooks’ ‘March’ is narrated by the father from this classic 1860s novel.” In the spirit of “Jeopardy,” we give you this answer: Brooks’ newest bestseller has been called “a sweeping story of spirit, obsession, and injustice across American history.” What’s the question? 

“The Moon Always Rising,” by Alice Early

Early set her powerful debut novel on another island. It’s a worthy getaway. 

“On the Same Page,” by Nicole Galland 

A perfect stocking stuffer of a book for anyone who’s ever spent a winter on the Vineyard. 

“Something Wild,” by Hanna Halperin

Halperin’s debut novel is an intense family drama that will stick with you. 

“The Sweetest Days,” by John Hough, Jr.

Hough digs deep into complicated emotional territory in this portrait of a marriage that spans decades.

“There You Are,” by Mathea Morais 

Remember record stores? Morais’ debut novel is a powerful coming-of-age story that will take you back.

“Leaving Coy’s Hill,” by Katherine A. Sherbrooke

If you haven’t heard of the suffragist Lucy Stone, Sherbrooke’s book is a must-read. And if you have, it’s also a must-read.

“The Italian Prisoner,” by Elisa Speranza 

Speranza’s debut novel takes readers to New Orleans during the final years of World War II, and introduces them to a young woman who finds forbidden love with a Sicilian POW and enters the war effort’s female-dominated labor force, which of course is controlled by men.

“What a Dog Knows,” by Susan Wilson

This is bestselling author Wilson’s latest, but honestly, if you’re a dog lover, or are shopping for one, you can’t go wrong with any of Wilson’s “dog” novels.

“Child Bride,” by Jennifer Smith Turner

A powerful story of a young woman in the segregated South who is forced into marriage at the age of 16, and brought by her new husband to Boston, where she finds illicit love and self-resolve.

Page-turners (nonfiction)

“My People: Five Decades of Writing About Black Lives,” by Charlayne Hunter-Gault

This collection of reporting and essays spanning five decades by groundbreaking journalist Hunter-Gault is an important read. 

“The Southernization of America: A Story of Democracy in the Balance,” by Frye Gaillard and Cynthia Tucker 

A series of essays focused on the role of the South in shaping America’s current political and cultural landscape. 

“This Is Cancer,” by Laura Holmes Haddad

Not a book that you might think of for a holiday gift, but illness doesn’t stop for the holidays. 

“The Falcon Thief,” by Joshua Hammer

Veteran journalist Hammer has written another when-nonfiction-reads-like-fiction book. This one is a true-crime, cross-continental adventure that takes readers into the underworld of falconry.

“HIgh on the Hog,” by Jessica B. Harris

If you didn’t read it when it was originally published in 2011, now’s your chance. Harris’ fascinating culinary tour from Africa to America is once again a must-read, thanks to the popularity of the 2021 Netflix series based on the book.

“Putting It Together: How Stephen Sondheim and I Created ‘Sunday in the Park with George,’ by James Lapine 

For anyone interested in how theater is created, Tony awardwinning writer and director James Lapine does a forensic analysis of the making of the Broadway sensation. 

About writing

“Memoir as Medicine: The Healing Power of Writing Your Messy, Imperfect, Unruly (but Gorgeously Yours) Life Story,” by Nancy Slonim Aronie

Aronie’s personal stories and writing tips will inspire, motivate, and transform readers. 

“The Joy of Writing Sex,” by Elizabeth Benedict

Whether you’re having it or not, you can always be writing about it!

“The Write Prescription: Telling Your Story to Live with and Beyond Illness,”

by Judith Hannan

Writing about illness can be both cathartic and confusing. Hannan’s book serves as a useful guide.


“The Toughest Kid We Knew,” by Frank Bergon

Bergon’s memoir is a cinematic story of growing up in the San Joaquin Valley with a colorful and tragic cast of characters.

“Forget Prayers, Bring Cake: A Single Woman’s Guide to Grieving,” by Merissa Nathan Gerson

Gerson’s book, which is part memoir and part practical tips, is a helpful tool for those grieving.

“Petal Pusher: A Rock and Roll Cinderella Story, by Laurie Lindeen

What better to read than an insider’s — Lindeen played in her own band and married a rock star — rockin’ rock ’n’ roll story.

“The Beautiful Darkness,” by Joshunda Sanders

Sanders’ story is a powerful tale of poverty, mental illness, and perseverance.

“Soul-Error,” by Philip Weinstein 

Weinstein, a retired English professor, gives us autobiographical essays that inject the lives of literary characters into his own story. 


“Death of a Great Man,” by Peter Kramer

Kramer’s second novel isn’t out yet, but a preorder for the holidays means a great gift during the slow slog of the season.

“We’re Better Than This,” by Elijah Cummins with James Dale, is a memoir from a political giant gone too soon, and is a great read to wind down from one intense political season before the next one begins.

“Rebel with a Clause,” by Ellen Jovin, is without doubt a perfect stocking stuffer. Jovin, known for her roving grammar table, has written a book that will delight grammar geeks and enlighten and entertain all speakers of the English language.