Around the Bookstore: On vacation

What does a bibliophile pack in his suitcase for a February trip?


A monger, according to the Oxford dictionary, is a word “denoting a dealer or trader in a specified commodity,” such as a fishmonger.

When I became the manager of Edgartown Books, my godson Paul started playfully calling me “the book monger of Edgartown,” a phrase that’s now caught on with some friends and family. I, too, on occasion, refer to myself as “the book monger of Edgartown.” I do sell a specific commodity — books.

And there comes a time when even the most dedicated book monger needs to take a break, to refresh and restore, to see something different, no matter how enthralled he might be with the Island and the life he lives here.

So this book monger has headed off on vacation. Before leaving I wandered the bookstore to pick up a few books to take with me as I make an East Coast pilgrimage to see friends and family.

Last year, on vacation, I read the first two books in the “Thursday Murder Club” series, and have packed away the third and fourth, “The Bullet that Missed” and “The Last Devil to Die.” They are superb examples of British murder mysteries, ones I think will someday be considered classics, smart, intelligent, witty, and keeping you guessing until the end. Four men and women, in their 70s and 80s, team up in their retirement home to solve crimes and murders. Doesn’t hurt that one of them was once very high up in MI5.

Wandering around, I found a pile of ARC’s, advance reader copies, sent by publishers to booksellers, and pulled out two.

One is Addison McKnight’s “The Vineyard Remains.” A murder committed by her mother brings Angela to the Vineyard; Kiki’s mother is gone, took a long swim and was never seen again. A box of bones found one day begins the unraveling of all they thought they’d known. (The author will be at the bookstore on May 26 from 2 to 4 pm for a signing.)

Early reviews of “Anyone’s Ghost” by August Thompson are comparing it to Ocean Vuong’s magnificent “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” a book I could hardly bear to read and could not stop reading, its beauty and pain mixed together the way it is in life.

“We Dreamed of Empires,” by Alvaro Enrigue, is a telling of the meeting of Cortés and Moctezuma at Tenochtitlan, today’s Mexico City. At a political and personal crossroads, Moctezuma is using hallucinogens to make it through the day. It was one of the most important moments in the history of the Western Hemisphere, and Enrigue’s take is unique.

I doubt I will get through all of these, though (“But a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?” — a quote from Robert Browning, once quoted to me by my favorite high school teacher, Don DuBois, in English class my junior year).

Certainly, my reach is likely to exceed my grasp, as there are just so many good books. I had so many choices I could have had a trunkful, and still wanted more.

Just out is best-selling author Kristin Hannah’s newest, “The Women,” an examination of the volatile Vietnam era through the eyes of a 20-year-old, coming of age as a nurse during that war.

“Wandering Stars” by Tommy Orange is out late this month, a connection of the past and present, looking at how the massacre of 200-plus Native Americans at Sand Creek in 1864 still has echoes in our time. Orange is both Native American himself and a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

Coming up in April is “Table for Two,” by the Island’s own Amor Towles, a book I personally can’t wait for: six stories and a novella featuring one of his main characters from “Rules of Civility.”

And this is just scratching the surface of what’s coming out this year, a year that looks like it’s going to be a very rich one for books. Wowza, I say, wowza!

Mathew Tombers is manager of Edgartown Books, and an advocate for all things literary.