Time to start putting together your winter reading list, and NRCM members can help! Featured here are books published by our members covering a range of genres, from essay and memoir to poetry, fiction, and children's literature. If you’re an author of a book about Maine or related to environmental issues, you are welcome to send them along for consideration for next year’s Explore Maine. —Allison Childs Wells, Editor
Bald Eagles, Bear Cubs, and Hermit Bill: Memories of a Wildlife Biologist in Maine, by Ronald Joseph (Islandport Press, 2023) Ron Joseph is Maine. His new book reflects a deep care and love for the Pine Tree State. Growing up outside Waterville, with a seasoned career at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency, Ron’s dedication to the land and people of Maine shines through in every chapter. Tromp with him throughout the state as he regales his adventures with wildlife and those who influenced him along the way—lighthouse keepers, loggers, farmers, and others deeply connected to the nature of Maine. Ron also takes us back in time. We join him at his grandparents’ dairy farm in Mercer where his Maine sensibilities were birthed: helping with chores and witnessing his grandparents’ life without electricity, running water, or mechanical farm equipment. We also meet his paternal Lebanese immigrant family and others who journeyed to Maine to make their lives. Reading these accounts will broaden any reader’s view of Maine. Ron’s ability to craft stories that ring with his delight in and passion for the natural world is infectious. He braids the ecology of Maine today with what it was centuries ago. Each story is engaging, entertaining, and informative—whether about Hermit Bill; our precious pines and cedars; lynx, birds, fish, moose, or the snakes lurking in Maine’s lakes. Fascinating facts abound. Harrowing and heartbreaking stories will give pause. You will find yourself returning to Bald Eagles, Bear Cubs, and Hermit Bill over and over again.
– Stephanie Smith, NRCM board member
Beer Hiking New England: The Tastiest Way to Discover Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, by Carey Kish (Helvetiq, 2023) If you like hiking and craft beer, then this book’s for you. Carey Kish does a really nice job pairing ales and trails with 50 New England hikes with 50 breweries located near the trailhead. The guide includes all the information you’ll need, including hike descriptions, trail maps, and difficulty levels for the first part of your adventure, as well as details about the breweries and recommended beverages for your post-hike cool down. One classic combo my wife and I have done several times is the loop trail at Monhegan along the stunning back coast of the island, ending at Monhegan Brewing Company’s “trap room” comprised of 400 blue lobster traps. Carey recommends the Double IPA, but I prefer the Balmy Days Citra Kolsh. Another great pairing is the spectacular cliff hike at Quoddy Head followed by the equally wonderful Lubec Brewing Company and their featured Quoddy Head Red Ale. Kish’s book recently steered us to the trails at Laudholm Farm and the Wells Reserve, followed by a visit to Batson River Brewing in Wells, a new spot for us. We lucked out with nice weather on their patio, with live music and a tasty flight of beers. Scanning through the offerings, I’ve already dog-eared the pages for Moxie Bald in Maine, Mount Moosilauke and Mount Cardigan in New Hampshire, and Camel’s Hump and Prohibition Pig Brewery for the next time we’re in Vermont. Thanks, Carey, for bringing hops and hiking together in this great resource.
—Pete Didisheim, Senior Director, Advocacy
Mountain Girl: From Barefoot to the Boardroom, by Marilyn Moss Rockefeller (Islandport Press, 2022) When was the last time you read or heard a story that included prominent appearances by artist Andy Warhol, automotive designer Carroll Shelby, and chef Julia Child— and it all made sense? Mountain Girl is that story. Read independently of one another, the chapters could almost be short stories on their own. More than once I shook my head while reading, thinking the details couldn’t possibly be true. But as the pages fly by, you realize that each scenario echoes the same theme that knits the book together: If you see a chance, take it. Over and over again we watch the author persevering through her circumstances to acquire new knowledge, experience something she wouldn’t otherwise, and expand her world. Mountain Girl is the memoir of now-Maine resident Marilyn Moss Rockefeller’s childhood in the mountains of West Virginia, early adulthood ensconced in the art and political scene of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and eventual landing in Rockport, where she cofounded and ran the iconic camping tent and trade show exhibit company Moss Tent Works (later Moss Inc). Along the way she becomes an artist, a writer, a voice against discrimination, a pilot, and a successful business leader—and those are only a few of the many skills and qualities she amassed through her life and career. Rockefeller’s zigzag journey is a road map for how an upbringing can shape someone without defining them.
—Marlisa Simonson, Senior Director, Philanthropy
The Changing Nature of the Maine Woods, by Andrew M. Barton with Alan S. White and Charles V. Cogbill (University of New Hampshire Press, 2012) One day I came upon a Maine Historical Society podcast episode called The Changing Nature of the Maine Woods with Andrew Barton. Before listening to this podcast, I had not thought critically about the Maine woods and how they have changed over the millennia. Through the podcast I found Andrew Barton’s book of the same name. What a fascinating insight into the geology and ecology of Maine’s forests. On what could be a dry subject, this book is an engaging and accessible presentation of the authors’ research, woven into a readable piece. This is a great read for anyone who is interested in the past, present, and future of the Maine woods!
—Codi Riley-Havu, Gifts, Records, & Stewardship Coordinator
When the Land Turned Green: The Maine Discovery of the First Land Plants, by Dean B. Bennett and Sheila K. Bennett (Down East Books, 2020) The authors take you on a journey of discovery through northern Maine’s unique wilderness and reveal some of the secrets hidden in the rocks of Trout Valley. The story is also about all those who helped reveal the history of what is now Maine’s state fossil (Pertica quadrifaria), the white pine, and where the two reside. The 127 pages are filled with pictures of the scientists at work, stunning landscapes surrounding them, fossils found, and research being conducted. These, combined with excerpts from the scientists’ notes, add great value to the detailed accounts of the work to understand the Trout Valley Formation and its plant fossils. It made me feel like I was right there with them, along for the trip. The reader can feel the excitement of the discovery of the fossil and the later realization that this is a new plant species that had been found. The discovery of Pertica quadrifaria—found nowhere else on Earth at this time—is an essential piece of the puzzle of how this region developed over geologic time. The authors note that while the fossils of Pertica exist in northern Maine’s Baxter State Park, this book in no way is a map or guide to finding these important parts of our history; it is simply the telling of the story and the weight of the discovery made. Although this book will have special appeal to those who love rocks and fossils, any nature enthusiast will enjoy the relevant Maine history, conservation stories, and journey taken through the brooks and streams of Trout Brook Valley.
–Diana Jagde, Donor Engagement Coordinator
Fiction & Poetry
The Year Without a Summer, by Joe Hardy (self-published, 2023) This book gives us a taste of life in southern Maine in the early 1800s. An already challenging agrarian lifestyle is made all the more difficult by the eruption of Mount Tambora, a volcano in Indonesia that produced the most powerful volcanic eruption ever recorded in human history in 1815. Stunningly, the eruption and resultant gas and ash cloud affected weather patterns thousands of miles away in southern Maine, bringing on winter-like conditions in June of 1816. Author Joe Hardy uses a fictionalized family to portray the very real history of volcanic-induced climate change. His compelling dialogue and accurate historical narrative bring to life the trials and tribulations faced by farming families following an unprecedented natural disaster on the other side of the world. This case study sheds light onto our contemporary world as society adapts to climate change and the weather variance it brings. The author highlights the power of family and community, and the resilience of Mainers despite harsh conditions. Joe Hardy is an avid environmentalist and climate change activist and has played a central role in advocating for needed climate policy in southern Maine and beyond. His book is a must-read for anyone interested in Maine’s history and highlights a little-known segment of history that can teach us much about our current world.
—Josh Caldwell, Climate & Clean Energy Outreach Coordinator
Island, by Kristen Lindquist (Red Moon Press, 2023) Readers of Explore Maine will be familiar with Kristen Lindquist’s poetry collections as well as her online site dedicated to a daily haiku, “Book of Days,” which have been featured here. For the uninitiated, haiku is a form of poetry that originated with the Japanese. Traditionally, in English, it is composed of three lines of unrhymed verse totaling 17 syllables. Its intentional brevity makes it a difficult verse. Lindquist is the rare poet who writes haiku exceedingly well. She draws on nature for her inspiration, and she doesn’t let the traditional five-seven-five syllable construct restrict her. Each haiku is an opening to other worlds, and all transport you to her beloved Maine islands: “Monhegan cliffs/between here and Europe/one fishing boat”. Her language evokes rich smells of nature: “island garden/tangled heaps of seaweed/mark the fallow rows”. For me, there’s even a subtle touch of humor: “island birthday/he tosses another shell/onto the midden”. To read just one of Lindquist’s haiku’s is a treat; to read this collection is sheer delight.
—Allison Wells, Senior Director, Communications
Solace, by Tim Caverly (Nancy’s Proofreading, 2015) Caverly’s Solace is as enjoyable as a ramble through the woods. The book tells the story of a young man who lost his parents, sold the family farm, and travels to the Allagash on a whim to retrieve a lost item that was his grandfather’s. Along the way the reader learns about the beauty and characters that make up the Allagash Wilderness Waterway (“Waterway”), just as the protagonist discovers things about himself. Though it’s fiction, much of the book seems to be based on Caverly’s real experience and his family’s stories. After all, he knows the Waterway and North Woods intimately as a born-and-raised Mainer and veteran of the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, including as supervisor of the Waterway for 18 years. Solace is firmly rooted in a place—one that we are fortunate exists in Maine. I hope reading this book will inspire you to visit.
—Melanie Sturm, Forests & Wildlife Program Director
Dead Man’s Wake: A Novel, by Paul Doiron (Minotaur Books, 2023) I always wait impatiently for Paul Doiron’s newest Mike Bowditch mystery. In typical Dorian style, the reader doesn’t have to read very long before the murder takes place in his latest book. Or is it a murder this time? Mike Bowditch and his fiancée Stacey Stevens have been invited to Mike’s stepdad’s cottage on Great Pond in the Belgrade Lakes to celebrate Mike and Stacey’s engagement. It’s Labor Day weekend. Charley and Ora Stevens, Stacey’s parents, have flown down from the Maine North Woods in Charley’s amphibious plane to join them. While Mike and Stacey are on the dock after dinner, they hear a thump out on the lake and know immediately something has been hit. When the boat turns off its lights, Mike becomes suspicious and feels the need to investigate, though this is not his district. Out on the lake in his stepfather’s pontoon boat, he finds a body in the water that obviously has been struck by a boat. From this point on the action is non-stop. Charley Stevens, my favorite character in this series after Mike Bowditch, is involved throughout the investigation. Today, older people are often portrayed as having lost their vitality. Charley Stevens, however, shows that he is as astute in his investigative skills as he ever was. I always want to pace my reading to make the book last longer, but inevitably I can’t. There are so many suspects, from local motorcycle gang members to wealthy influential folks from Massachusetts, and so many twists in the plot that I could not stop reading until I knew who dun it and why!
—Betty Hartley, NRCM member, Brunswick
Murder in the Maple Woods, by Claire Ackroyd (Maine Authors Publishing, 2020) I read about this book in a newspaper article and ordered a copy right away. My family has a long history of maple syrup production so this book intrigued me immediately. The main character works as an organic maple syrup production inspector who spends much of her time in the maple camps along the northwestern Maine-Canadian border. The mystery takes place near her uncle’s camp. While the story was a work of fiction, the places she talks about in Jackman, Liberty, Skowhegan, and the Golden Road are all places that I have been to, so picturing all of these places helped me to really dive into the book and the murder mystery. The characters are well developed, as is the story, and I was invested in the tale all the way through to the end. This is a great read for anyone who wants to learn more about what is involved in maple syrup production in these remote areas of Maine. A bonus is the sweet dog we meet partway through the story!
—Beth Comeau, Communications Manager
We Also Recommend
Many NRCM staff members enjoyed Night of the Living Rez so much, we wanted to include it here.
Night of the Living Rez, by Morgan Talty (Tin House, 2022) Author Morgan Talty offers 12 stories anchored in struggle, loss, violence, and addiction, buoyed by the abiding love and acceptance of family, friendships where two people can finish each other’s sentences (or have no need to speak), and striking moments of unexpected hilarity. The stories are not linear and instead move back and forth in time, following narrator David through childhood experiences and into adulthood, where he replaces asking, “How did we get here?” with “How do we get out of here?” This line stuck in my mind and kept me thinking about the realities of intergenerational trauma and day-to-day survival that drive David’s actions. In fact, although fiction, the stories have an autobiographical feel that drew me in and made me curious about what would happen next. These are incredibly powerful stories that alternately squeeze your heart or punch you in the gut. The language is vivid, raw, and chock full of sensory details—including the ever-present haze of cigarette smoke—that
illicit a range of emotions. I quite simply loved this book and recommend reading it for the surprises and the reminders about humanity that it offers. Morgan Talty is a citizen of the Penobscot Nation, and Night of the Living Rez is the winner of the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, National Book Critics Circle
John Leonard Prize, American Academy of Arts & Letters Sue Kaufman Prize, and other awards.
—Toby Kilgore, Grants Manager
Three History Books for Kids, Reviewed by Kids!
Hidden Hope: How a Toy and a Hero Saved Lives During the Holocaust, by Elisa Boxer (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2023)
“Even if you don’t know what the Holocaust was, you should still read it. It made me feel sad at the beginning but happy at the end. The art in the book helped explain more of the story.”
—Ford Lakeman, age 8, son of NRCM Sustainable Maine Director Sarah Nichols
Covered in Color: Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Fabrics of Freedom, by Elisa Boxer (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2022)
“I don’t like the part where the Nazis came and made new rules, and I also don’t like that the Communists weren’t letting Christo do what he wanted. But I like the story because Christo freed himself by using art, and the book gave me ideas for what to do with my art. I also like the part where Christo kept trying to do what he and Jeanne-Claude wanted even when the people said no at first but then they got them to say yes to their project in the end.”
—Louis Johnson, age 5, son of NRCM Outreach Director Emmie Theberge
Splash! Ethelda Bleibtrey Makes Waves of Change, by Elisa Boxer (Sleeping Bear Press, 2022)
“I like how the book shows how Ethelda started as a girl that could barely walk and became a strong girl that overpowers the sport of swimming. I love that Ethelda made a path for women in swimming and with their socks! Ethelda is a strong girl with a mind of her own and a role model for women and dwimmers.”
—Zoe Durrant, age 9, daughter of NRCM Advocacy Communications & Media Relations Director Colin Durrant