Around the Writers’ Table: Book recommendations

Manager of Edgartown Books shares his picks by Island authors.

— Illustration by Kate Feiffer

I am delighted to turn over this week’s Writers’ Table to Mathew Tombers, manager of Edgartown Books. When I asked him for book recommendations to help get readers through the long haul of an Island winter, he came back with a thoughtful essay filled with books by Vineyard authors. As I was going through his recommendations, it reminded me how many writers are living on the Vineyard these days. If you are one of them, please send news of upcoming publications to us here. We’d love to write about you.  –Kate Feiffer

As I write this, a light snow is falling with Vineyard winds roaring; it’s definitely winter, a delicious time to curl up on the couch with a book for a good winter read. Wandering in my brain through Edgartown Books, I can easily see a bucket of books to sit by my couch to get caught up on now, when the Island is most at rest.

With snow falling, it is tempting to want to transport oneself back to summer, which brings to mind the books of Jean Stone and her newest series, starting with “A Vineyard Christmas,” the most recent being “A Vineyard Wedding.”

Asking the winter staff what they’d recommend, I heard “Noah’s Rejects” by Rob Kagan, his telling of what it’s like to live in an Island paradise. If I am still thinking summer-in-winter, I’d pick up T. Elizabeth Bell’s “Goats in the Time of Love,” our single bestselling beach read of all time. Or her newest, “Counting Chickens.” Another favorite is Nicole Galland’s “On the Same Page,” a tale of attempting to write for the two local papers at the same time.

Personally, my pile is full of history. I am finally getting deeply into Tom Dresser’s “Martha’s Vineyard: A History,” and his most recent, “Martha’s Vineyard and the American Revolution.” I also highly recommend Skip Finley’s “Whaling Captains of Color: America’s First Meritocracy,” which is now out in paperback, and is a fascinating look at what we didn’t know about the industry that made the Island.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault’s “My People,” is in my pile, about her many years reporting on the lives of Black people here and abroad, particularly from South Africa. She is one of the deans of American journalism, a voice having threaded its way through my life.

For those who don’t want to read too much, there are some wonderful coffee table books that are worth a long afternoon’s perusal. “Beach Rides” by John Annetti looks at some of the wonderful classic and iconic cars here on the Vineyard, and over on Nantucket, too. “Sticks and Stones” showcases the amazing work of stonemason Lew French. “Timeless” chronicles the work of architect Patrick Ahearn. All good for a long, dark Vineyard night, maybe with a neat Scotch?

Perhaps a mystery appeals? Nothing cozier than a cold gray afternoon with Victoria Trumbull, Cynthia Rigg’s poetess and crime solver. Or a good Phillip Craig, all of them now classics. Looking for a newer mystery? Try the books of Crispin Haskins. Maybe “Pretty Vineyard Girls”? Want to try a new mystery writer? Try Benita Jane’s “Dash 19”; it’s in my pile.

If you haven’t already, rush down and put your hands on a copy of “Horse” by Geraldine Brooks, Island writer, whose newest is one of the best books of the past 20 years, a tour-de-force of authorship, chronicling antebellum slavery, race in America today, the pain of love, love’s redemptive powers, and the cruelty of slavery, which still shapes the country today. Or pick up any of her other books, all of them superb examples of the craft of authorship — maybe her Pulitzer prizewinning noble “March,” or “Caleb’s Crossing,” for an Island story. Any of her books are worth your time.

Looking for a children’s book to read to someone special by the fire? How about Rebecca Loescher’s “Mermaid of Martha’s Vineyard” or Amelie Loyot’s “Vanessa, the Sea Serpent of Martha’s Vineyard” Or “Henry the Dog with No Tail,” by this column’s very own Kate Feiffer. Or “S is For Sea Glass” by Richard Michelson.

Looking for something for a middle grade reader? Nothing better than “Camp Famous” by Jennifer Blecher; it’s a favorite. Not to mention Gregory Mone’s “Atlantis: The Accidental Invasion.”

Whatever your taste or mood, there is a Vineyard book to scratch your literary itch. Given space limitations, I couldn’t include all of the many worthy reads by Vineyard-based authors on this list.