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Some summer reading recommendations

July 27, 2016
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A few literary offerings from Maine-based authors

Summer is a great time to settle in with a good book.

However, it can also be a bit daunting. Say you've made your way through that novel you've been eagerly anticipating and come to the end, a bittersweet moment that is both satisfying and sad. Suppose you're not sure what you'd like to read next there's still a whole month of summer to get through and you're certainly not going to be able to do that without another book.

We here at The Maine Edge thought we might try and help you on your way toward your next literary discovery. We've occasionally done this in the past offering straight-up recommendations or suggesting books that were better than the films they went on to inspire so we figured we'd try yet another path.

This time, it's all about Mainers.

This list (which, it should be noted, is far from comprehensive there are a wealth of talented authors plying their trade here in our lovely state and there's simply no room for them all) consists of authors that are at least relatively contemporary and who have a real residential connection to Maine.

(Note: You will not see Stephen King on this list mostly because he could BE the list. By all means, explore Mr. King's vast catalog. There's a lot of phenomenal work in there. We're just going a little farther afield here. Not necessarily a lot, but a little.)

Here are just a handful of noted authors who live or have recently lived at least part-time here in our great state. They run the gamut, from household names to a few with whome you may not be as familiar. Also included is a recommended entry point with regards to their work.

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Richard Russo

Our first notable Maine author is a name that many are familiar with. For years, Richard Russo has spent his summers in Camden. He has written eight novels, a memoir and a story collection over the years. His first novel - 'Mohawk' was published in 1986, while his latest is 'Everybody's Fool,' a sequel to his 1993 book 'Nobody's Fool' that was published just this year. It's a decades-long span of producing engaging, emotionally impactful stories.

Truthfully, there's no bad place to start with Russo. One could argue that the 'Nobody's Fool'/'Everybody's Fool' double dip will give you the most bang for your buck, but we're going to go with 'Empire Falls,' Russo's brilliant 2001 book that wound up winning him the Pulitzer Prize not to mention an HBO miniseries that filmed right here in Maine. Still, it's tough to go wrong with any of them it's an incredibly impressive body of work.

No one brings the everyman to life on the page quite like Richard Russo.

Entry Point: 'Empire Falls'

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Elizabeth Strout

Well look here another Pulitzer Prize-winning author who calls Maine home.

Elizabeth Strout's profile has skyrocketed in the past decade she has written four books that have achieved considerable acclaim. Foremost among them would have to be 'Olive Kittridge,' Strout's collection of interconnected stories exploring the life of a woman and her immediate family on the coast of Maine. Not only did she win the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for the book, but it was also converted into an HBO miniseries that wound up winning a fistful of Emmys.

As such, it might make sense to use 'Olive Kittridge' as our entry point. However, Strout has a pair of subsequent books that are also excellent 2013's 'The Burgess Boys' and this year's 'My Name is Lucy Barton.' Each of the three would make a worthwhile beginning. As such, our vote goes to the rather underrated 'The Burgess Boys,' but make no mistake there's literally no wrong answer, as Strout's prose excellence is apparent on every page that she has published thus far.

Entry Point: 'The Burgess Boys'

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Paul Doiron

We're going to switch gears here, leaving the fallow literary ground of the coast to seek mystery in the Maine woods.

Paul Doiron's Mike Bowditch series of novels follows a game warden working in the Maine wilderness who finds himself battling wrongdoers at seemingly every turn. These books starting with 'The Poacher's Son' and leading all the way through this year's 'Widowmaker' are compelling, page-turning mysteries featuring a dynamic lead and plenty of well-crafted crime fiction.

Doiron is the former long-time editor of Down East Magazine and a Registered Maine Guide.

This one is pretty obvious if you're going to read the Mike Bowditch books, you should probably start at the beginning with 'The Poacher's Son' and work your way through the following half-dozen books. However, I should note that I personally read the second book ('Trespasser') first and had no issues. Still, when it comes to series, you should probably try to start at the beginning.

Entry Point: 'The Poacher's Son'

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Sarah Graves

We're going to stay in the realm of mystery series with this next entry.

Sarah Graves is a wonderfully prolific mystery writer based in Eastport. She is perhaps known best for her 'Home Repair is Homicide' series starring Jacobia 'Jake' Tiptree, a former New Yorker living in Eastport who solves murders while working on repairing her old house. From 1997 to 2013, Graves produced 16 installments of the wildly popular series.

But that's not all. Graves has recently begun work on a new series this one featuring a no-nonsense cop named Lizzie Snow who moved from the city to the northern Maine town of Bearkill only to discover that small towns don't necessarily equal small crimes.

The first 'Home Repair is Homicide' book is 'The Dead Cat Bounce,' so that's the one to lead with if you're so inclined. But my recommendation is to start with 'Winter at the Door,' the first Lizzie Snow book. That'll be a nice gateway into the rest of Graves's bibliography.

Entry Point: 'Winter at the Door'

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Tess Gerritsen

Well, there was no way we were going to talk about Maine-based mystery writers without offering up an entry on Camden resident Tess Gerritsen.

Gerritsen is one of the most prolific and popular writers out there. While she is perhaps best known for her series of books featuring detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles a series that includes 11 books and inspired a television series on TNT that just aired its 100th episode she had a significant catalog of romantic and medical thrillers (over a dozen in all).

Gerritsen has a medical degree and practiced medicine for a number of years before becoming a full-time writer.

The recommended entry point here is going to be 2001's 'The Surgeon' the first in the Rizzoli/Isles series. However, if you're looking for something that is more of a stand-alone experience, one of Gerritsen's medical thrillers perhaps 1996's 'Harvest' or 2007's 'The Bone Garden' (which features a supporting turn from Dr. Isles) might be a good fit.

Entry Point: 'The Surgeon'

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For those interested in even more, here are some quick hits:

William Kotzwinkle

This tough-to-define novelist is a personal favorite of mine who lived for a time on MDI. Books like 'Dr. Rat' and 'The Game of Thirty' and even the 'Walter the Farting Dog' series are all great (and dynamically weird) reads, but my recommendation has got to be his 1996 novel 'The Bear Went Over the Mountain.'

Josh Pahigian

Pahigian lives in southern Maine and is best known for his baseball-related nonfiction fare books like 'The Ultimate Baseball Road Trip' and '101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out' are must-reads for anyone with a love for the game's history. But even non-fans will be thrilled by his 2012 thriller 'Strangers on the Beach.'

Gerry Boyle

The latest installment in longtime resident Boyle's well-regarded Jack McMorrow series of mysteries titled 'Straw Man' just hit shelves at the end of May. His hard-boiled, hard-hitting prose might be just what the doctor ordered for your next summer read. Start with 1993's 'Deadline' and get ready for one heck of a ride.

Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

This dynamic duo based in Winslow is responsible for the Liaden Universe, a connected collection of science fiction stories. While not a series per se, these works some 18 novels and even more shorter pieces come together to build one of the richest literary realms in the sci-fi genre. You can really start almost anywhere, but 'Agent of Change' is probably as good a place as any.

Kieran Shields

This southern Maine-based author's latest book is a fantasy work titled 'The Stone Ship,' but his previous two novels 'The Truth of All Things' and 'A Study in Revenge' are fascinating historical mysteries set in late 19th century Portland. The combination of research and characterization makes for fun, thrilling reads.

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Obviously, we've only just scratched the surface of the vast wealth of literary talent living here in Maine. So many great writers are out there, so many stories to tell, so many pages to turn. You've got plenty of summer left.

So why not spend some of it getting some reading done?

Last modified on Wednesday, 27 July 2016 11:04

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