Usually, publications like this come up with lists of locally-created books at the start of summer. You know the regimen: get everyone lined up with summer reading early.
As if anyone in the Hudson Valley, let alone around Woodstock, has time to read anything come summer given the myriad events that need attending, the dinners and drinks, let alone the lawns that need mowing.
So we have saved up works for the coming Labor Day weekend and quieter days ahead. These are books not on any bestseller lists or quick to be recommended by those here from The City. They are works that, as likely as not self-published (or at least self-promoted) represent great passionate pushes to be heard, to summarize personal journeys and visions, or maybe just a rare specialty.
Here are five that have been ready for some note for weeks now:
A Road Through Time: Manhattan to the Adirondacks on New York State’s First Road, by Richard Figiel (Silver Thread Books) is a classic regional history that charts a basic history of Broadway as it clambers north from the Customs House and Battery Park over both sides of the Hudson to the Canadian border as Route 9. Yes, this stuff was covered by one of the great WPA guides in the late 1930s (and crawled by former Olive resident Robert Leaver in a performance arts piece earlier this decade), but it’s always nice to be reminded how roads connect us (the author walked the Manhattan part of his journey, and biked or drove the rest).
When You Come Back Home to Woodstock: A Novel, by Tommy Castaldo of North Carolina (Dog Ear Publishing), expands on family history and captures a sense of our town as a sylvan refuge from modern times, pre-rock musicians, pre-artists even. It’s written with the passion of a long memoir, needs editing, but holds within its many pages a sense of the various ways in which place can hold meaning for people over generations.
Back to the Garden: A Crusoe Larkin/Woodstock Mystery by EI Weiner (Kindle) follows Woodstock’s best private investigator as he searches for a woman’s sister who’s been missing since the famous festival 50 years earlier…and a rush of murder sweeps over the area below Overlook. The author knows his turf (even when it leads him 60 miles to the South and East, where that original Aquarian festival actually took place), and it’s a fun read.
Best of all, there’s Andante: from London to Woodstock, a musical memoir by Graham Blackburn (Blackburn Books, Bearsville), a well known Woodstocker of many years who’s very good at capturing the town during its early musical years and the ways in which musicians filtered in and out of Woodstock, shared life and creativity, and made their way down to New York City recording studios before our own got built here. Blackburn, a pianist and saxophonist with a penchant for classical music and great jazz, has a great way with pithy details and rendering mood. This one’s a keeper, both for the way the author brings back to life long-forgotten heroes of European music and Woodstock life, as well as his distinct literary voice.
Finally, how about Ask the Foot Doctor: Real Life Answers to Enjoy Happy, Healthy, Pain-Free Feet by Dr. Doug Tumen (Morgan James Publishing). Is it a novel, a travelogue, a memoir? How about just what it says by one of the area’s top podiatrists. Plus, as noted in its Amazon ads and elsewhere, it can actually be read in just 210 minutes! But seriously, as we all age and wonder whether it’s our shoes, our stairs, or just our aging that’s making those pedal extremities ache so, this will likely also prove a good gift come those holidays just around the corner.
Or at least a bedside reliable as we get back to hiking, or at least try thinking of doing so, now that the weather’s getting better for such things.
Happy reading all.