Readers this year lost voices that long had thrived in the Island’s literary ecosystem, from the internationally acclaimed wag Art Buchwald to the perenially pot-boiling (literally — see his cookbook D’lish! for recipes) bestseller Philip Craig. Both left a rich legacy, however, with Mr. Craig’s latest (not last — another will be in stores in May 2008) mystery served up poshumously. His quahauging and crime-solving detective J.W. Jackson is back in the just-released Third Strike, another of Mr. Craig’s crack whodunnits co-written with his friend and colleague William Tapply.
So, with a worship of Island writers set to releasing new works in the coming months, we asked booksellers what Vineyard booklovers grabbed — or should grab — from the shelves of 2007.
“The illustrated edition of [historian David McCullough’s] 1776 is so beautiful,” said Katherine Fergason, manager and children’s book buyer at the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore in Vineyard Haven. She was nonplussed with the idea of an illustrated version of the Island resident’s excellent history book — until she saw it. “They went to all the different libraries and scanned original documents that are included with the book. So there is a parchment envelope with copies of things like Washington’s conscription papers, and John Adams’s letters to Abigail Adams. It is so wonderful.”
From the sublime to the slim line, Ms. Fergason cites the Roni deLuz’s 21 Pounds in 21 Days: The Martha’s Vineyard Diet Detox as one title that sold as well at Island bookstores as it did, well, everywhere.
Lauded West Tisbury cartoonist Paul Karasik, whose graphic adaptation of Paul Auster’s City of Glass was named one of the best 100 comics of the century by Comics Journal, is back on that journal’s cover this month for his 2007 book, I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets: The Comics of Fletcher Hanks. This latest release is already in its third edition.
And from the bizarre to the beautiful, Edgartown Books’ Susan Mercier cites West Tisbury poet Dan Waters’s exquisitely produced chapbook Remembering the Islander as a standout of the year. “I love, love, love this. We’re so excited to have this, these are lovely poems,” she said of the small collection illustrated with the poet’s woodblock prints. Mr. Waters is doing more books in coming months, including one of the four-line poems for which he is famous among Gazette readers and NPR listeners. Donald Nitchie’s chapbook Driving Lessons and Joe Eldredge’s Poet’s License each added wry and witty touches to the poetry-lovers experience of 2007.
William Marks’s Water Voices from Around the World has attracted a following; booksellers report readers coming in asking specifically for this large-format book that collates pictures and words about this precious resource from around the world.
Ray Ellis’s new book of art, By the Light of the Moon, is what Ms. Fergason calls “the Allen Whiting book of 2007,” citing Mr. Whiting’s A Painter at Sixty, which began to grace Vineyard coffee tables about the same time last year.
In Edgartown, coffee tables became home to Behind the Times on Purpose: The Charlotte Inn of Martha’s Vineyard, which Ms. Mercier said has sold steadily since its summer release. “Lovers of antiques and all things beautiful,” are savoring Nina Bramhall’s lush photos of the historic property, said Ms. Mercier, lauding the book and its Island-based publishers, Vineyard Stories, who had a big year with their savvy local publishing venture.
The handsome Lew French book Stone by Design was not new this year, but Mr. French was recently featured on the television program Sunday Morning, making his book a bestseller on Amazon.com; it also has sold out at the Bunch of Grapes. His publisher has ordered a reprint, so fresh copies are expected to be in stores in January.
Polly Burroughs’s publisher for Vineyard Houses and Gardens has seen the fruits of reprinting this Island classic. “It was such a loss when it was unavailable,” said Ms. Mercier. “We’re so glad they were able to bring it back.”
Peter Simon returned to Jamaica to enhance his history of reggae, cowritten by Roger Steffans, which is called The Reggae Scrapbook. It lives up to its name, coming chock-full of music-lovers’ paraphernalia and multimedia bonuses.
Holly Nadler, owner of Sun Porch Books in Oak Bluffs, cites another Peter Simon perennial in her list of top sellers. “These aren’t books, but they sell like hotcakes in all Island bookstores: Peter Simon’s 20th anniversary 2008 calendar,” notes Ms. Nadler, “and Lisa Vanderhoop’s second smash-hit Vineyard Sea Dogs 2008 Calendar, with the saltiest (pun intended) dogs tumbling, swimming, sailing and just plain looking cute on our beaches.”
Ms. Nadler cites Phyllis Meras’s The Historic Shops and Restaurants of Boston as a guide that sold well all year.
Vineyard cookbooks were extremely popular with literate gourmets this year. Catherine Walthers’s Raising the Salad Bar ran away with sales at the August Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival, and it has continued to be a strong seller across the Island through Christmas. ”People are literally walkng out with stacks of eight of them,” Ms. Fergason said of Christmas shoppers at the Bunch of Grapes.
Alison Shaw’s photographs enhance this book that goes beyond greens.
Island booksellers report that a lately released gem, Vineyard Birds II by Susan B. Whiting and Barbara B. Pesch, has proven a natural gift for anyone with a birder in the family (“hopefully getting that benighted soul to sit down and read about the subject rather than talk about it!” quips Ms. Nadler).
In fiction, Stephen Carter’s New England White was in many a beach bag this summer, along with Linda Fairstein’s Bad Blood, Richard North Patterson’s Exile and, of course, Cynthia Riggs’s latest, Shooting Star.
But readers really embraced reality books. Memoirs were many: Bliss Broyard’s One Drop, Ken Edelin’s Broken Justice, Lucinda Franks’s My Father’s Secret War and Susan Shreve’s Warm Springs got traction in the Island sand, while West Tisbury meditator Perry Garfinkel gathered ever more print runs in ever more languages for his book Bhudda or Bust.
A biography of Shel Silverstein called A Boy Named Shel got top reviews as it came out late in the year, while Ms. Nadler also points readers to the collecton of Silverstein’s travel articles and cartoons printed in Playboy Magazine, Silverstein Around the World.
Vineyard book festival-goers grabbed summer resident Ann Gibbons’s The First Human and made their annual purchase of the latest Alan Dershowitz work — this year it was Blasphemy.
But Islanders aren’t the only ones buying, and boatloads of visitors took home a copy of Arthur P. Richmond’s Gingerbread Gems and Peter Jones’s Oak Bluffs: The Cottage City Years.
More sailing and whaling books washed up on Island bookshelves, Leviathan living up to its name in sales and Marc Sonjini’s The Lost Fleet finding its way to many safe havens here.
For children, the late leader was another Vineyard Stories book, Thirty Dirty Sailors, by Dillon Bustin with illustrations by Susan Convery Foltz. Parents love that this simple rhyming tale is based on the real diary of Laura Jernegan, daughter of an Edgartown whaling captain — and it comes with its own compact disc.
Oak Bluffs storyteller Susan Klein voices the disc that comes with Lobstering with My Papa, another Island story that sold well again this year.
Animals surfing at Squibnocket with cell phones in their pocket made an appearance in Vineyard Veranda, Molly Manley’s collection of laugh-out-loud limericks, cited by Zoe Pechter of Riley’s Reads in Vineyard Haven as a standout of 2007 for Vineyard kids.
She and other booksellers also gave kudos to Henry the Dog With No Tail, Oak Bluffs author Kate Feiffer’s funny follow-up to Double Pink, this one illustrated with elan by Kate’s dad, Jules.
Rachel Nickerson Luna’s Eel Grass Girls Mysteries, set in waters between here and Cape Cod, get a nod from Riley’s Reads. “They are always a good chapter books,” notes Ms. Pechter, who cites a number of more universal kids’ books as her top sellers: Library Lion, Knuffle Bunny, Walter the Farting Dog, Skippjon Jones, and chapter books The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls and Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
Vineyard favorite Judy Blume came out with Soupy Saturdays with the Pain and the Great One, garnering new little fans towed to the register with their parents, raised on Blume books.
Ms. Fergason noted the picture board book Goodnight, Martha’s Vineyard. “Some authors you can tell don’t really know the Vineyard, but this one had turkeys in it, and the ag hall,” she said, proving its legitimate place in the Island children’s canon.