The Hippo


May 31, 2020








10 books we’re looking forward to in 2018

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margaretta Magnusson (Jan. 2)Death, cleaning, what’s not to love? 
— Jennifer Graham
Call Me Zebra by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi (Feb. 6) Book lovers, take note: This novel follows a book-loving young woman as she searches for answers on a quixotic journey. 
— Wendy E.N. Thomas
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez (Feb. 6) A woman inherits a Great Dane after her best friend dies unexpectedly. Together they will help each other deal with the loss of friend and master. 
— Wendy E.N. Thomas
The Great Alone: A Novel by Kristin Hannah (Feb. 6) A family in crisis moves to Alaska in 1974 to live off the grid. Hannah’s last book, The Nightingale, was so engrossing and beautifully written that I’ve been eagerly awaiting this next book. Now that I’ve read the plot summary, I’m even more intrigued. — Meghan Siegler
I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell (Feb. 6) A recounting of the author’s true near-brushes with death, written for her daughter, who lives with an autoimmune disease. — Wendy E.N. Thomas
Unbelievable by John Shelby Spong (Feb. 13)Billed as the last book from the ever controversial Bishop of Newark, Spong promises to deliver a vision of Christianity that can endure. — Jennifer Graham
White Houses by Amy Bloom (Feb. 13) The new novel from the author of Away and Lucky Us, about a young woman who falls in love with Eleanor Roosevelt while reporting on FDR’s presidential campaign. — Wendy E.N. Thomas
Sunburn by Laura Lippman (Feb. 20) Lippman’s latest is racking up starred reviews left and right. It’s about two strangers who meet at a bar and become dangerously ensnared in each others lives. But who is the cat and who is the mouse? — Wendy E.N. Thomas
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, by Michelle McNamara (Feb. 27) In an interview on Fresh Air, comedian Patton Oswalt recently described McNamara, his wife who died suddenly in 2016, as something of a superhero, caring for the family by day and investigating a serial killer and rapist active in California in the 1970s and 1980s from her desk at night.  While true crime isn’t normally my go-to genre, I’m interested in learning more about McNarmara’s search. — Amy Diaz
Meet the Frugalwoods by Elizabeth Thames (March 6) Blogger moves to Vermont woods and retires at 32. — Jennifer Graham

A grade
Books worth checking out from 2017

By Jennifer Graham, Wendy E.N. Thomas, Jeff Mucciarone, Lisa Parsons

 Hippo book reviewers — Jennifer Graham, Wendy E.N. Thomas, Jeff Mucciarone and Lisa Parsons — had a whole lot of love for books they reviewed in 2017, giving many of them A grades. Here’s a look back at the novels, nonfiction and short story compilations that they recommended, in no particular order. 

Night School by Lee Child
“You’re reading an action thriller?” my son asked when he saw the cover of Lee Child’s newest Jack Reacher book. It’s true, rugged-male action thrillers are typically not my cup of tea. Not only was I reading it, I pretty much devoured it. The Jack Reacher books tend to be like that. You sit down, start reading, and when you finally look up a few hours have passed and you’ve forgotten where you are or what it was you were supposed to have been doing. 
The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian
If you’re looking for a fast-paced action/thriller murder mystery, then this isn’t the book for you. But if you’re looking for an intelligent read, a book that slowly unfolds bringing you to its graceful and yet surprising ending, that fully develops each character and explains a topic you may know nothing about,  then The Sleepwalker is definitely for you.
A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline 
You won’t find a typical happy ending in this carefully researched and well-documented  book. Instead you’ll see the unfolding of the human condition in its rawest form. Although some people may find this to be an unbearably sad story, A Piece of the World is ultimately about perseverance, strength, and grace in the face of debilitation. This book will make you pause. It might even make you think differently about those who are confined because of disease or handicap. In the end, Baker Kline seamlessly blends fact with fiction resulting in a story that will forever be remembered every time you come across Christina’s World again. 
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders 
Saunders is not new to creative methods of writing (just check out his extensive library of short stories), nor is he new to the subject of the supernatural or paranormal. He definitely took a bold step (and, let’s face it, a big chance) with this book. It won’t be the book for everyone, but if you’re willing to take a step into the unknown, if you’re willing to put critical thinking aside in order to allow a fictional story to wash over you during its telling, then I assure you, you won’t be disappointed with Lincoln in the Bardo.
Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton 
This book is not heavy literature. It’s a great tale by a first-rate storyteller, a guy who understood pacing, plot, dialog and action, an author who contributed much to our imagination and who helps to keep our imagination alive long after he is not. It does seem a little strange to have a book published by an author who has been dead for nine years, but it turns out that Dragon Teeth was a work in progress — a passion mixed with action that had stalled and was later discovered by Crichton’s wife. As a result, there were probably a few hands involved in this novel’s production, but in the end it retains the Crichton stamp of authenticity. There is no doubt who wrote this book. It is pure Crichton. 
It’s Not Yet Dark by Simon Fitzmaurice
The inspirational grace and power that radiate from this small book are astounding. It’s a story that you will think about many times in your life when you are presented with a difficulty. What will you do? Where is your breaking point? When is enough enough? And are you grateful for what you already have? Simply put: Everyone, absolutely everyone should read this book.
The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs 
Eventually Riggs turns from the importance of treatment of her cancer to the importance of her family. Even though her spine and body are riddled with cancer, she goes on vacation with her husband. She snuggles with her sons. She worries when she gets a call about one of them acting out. She wonders if they will remember her after she dies. And Riggs writes down how she feels. Thank god she writes, because the gift that she leaves behind to the world is a guidebook for those going forward who might want to also navigate their way toward the edge of death in a meaningful and satisfying way.
What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton 
What Happened is a fascinating first-hand account of what went on behind the scenes of the last presidential election. It’s important to remember that while it is a piece of the puzzle in trying to figure out what happened during the campaign, it is, after all, only one woman’s, one candidate’s, view. Having said that, though, it’s an immensely important piece of our history that needs to be heard so that whatever it was that happened won’t happen again. 
Never Caught by Erica Armstrong Dunbar
Erica Armstrong Dunbar was doing research on 19th-century black women in Philadelphia when she noticed an ad in period newspaper offering a $10 reward for the return of a 20-year-old “absconded from the household of the President of the United States.” She later discovered the identity of the runaway slave, Ona Judge, who found an uneasy safety in New Hampshire. Dunbar then wrote this gripping tale that challenges the popular concept of George and Martha Washington as benevolent masters. 
The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel
For 27 years, a man known as the “North Pond hermit” lived alone in a makeshift camp in the Maine woods, stealing from local cabins when he needed supplies. When Christopher Knight was captured, his story caught the attention of Michael Finkel, a Montana writer who reached out and pieced together the story through written correspondence and in-person interviews. It’s a fascinating story, made even more interesting by the ethical questions raised: Was Knight a loner or just a commonplace thief?
Vote First or Die by Scott Conroy
Political reporter Scott Conroy covered the 2016 election and then basically wrote a Yelp review of the entire Granite State. He explains why it’s right that New Hampshire votes first, while weighing in on everything from the Mountain View Grand Resort to the Errol Motel to Popovers on the Square. This belongs on every bookshelf in the state.
Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami
If you’d been intimidated by Haruki Murakami, a Japanese writer so popular that fans camp out overnight for his new releases, this collection of short stories is a good place to dive in. “Samsa in Love” is the best of these seven stories; it’s a clever imagining of the morning that Gregor Samsa, of Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis,” turns from a cockroach to a human.
Good Naked by Joni B. Cole
If you’ve ever had a Great Idea that, after years of neglect, has started to glower at you like a feral pig, Vermont writing coach Joni B. Cole can get you going, and you don’t have to be a writer to benefit from her advice. She’ll help you get unstuck with any sort of creative work or project, with memorable advice like “just touch the plane.”  
Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta
The Massachusetts-based author of Little Children and Election is back with another biting commentary on modern existence in the suburbs and the endless struggle to adapt to changing mores. A MILF’s mind-expanding adventures and temptations, and her college-age son’s refusal to mature, are wrapped into a cultural burrito of gender confusion and rapidly changing expectations of aging and sexuality. Loads of fun, but not for prudes.
The Best of Us by Joyce Maynard
New Hampshire native Joyce Maynard has been writing about her life since was a teen. She found fresh fodder when her new husband, Jim Barringer, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a year after their wedding and died in their bed 19 months later. The book is a compelling account about what it’s like to love someone through a terminal illness — or any crushing hardship, really — and come out whole at the end. They lived in California for most of the tale, but there’s plenty of New Hampshire in here.
Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
Electricity and the modern rhythms of life have robbed us of our ancestors’ healthful habit of going to bed soon after dark and staying asleep until dawn, and we’re sicker because of it. A neuroscience professor at the University of California, Berkeley, the author wants this book to be a catalyst for societal change in how we view sleep: from a comatose state desired only by the lazy, to a powerful treatment for everything that ails of it. You’ll go to bed earlier after reading this, guaranteed. 
Christmas at the Vinyl Cafe by Stuart McLean   
The author died of melanoma in 2017, but left an enduring legacy in the 12 funniest Christmas stories you’ll ever read. You will recognize everyone in the neighborhood, from the woman who poaches scallops in saffron so they’ll match her Christmas tree to the hapless father who realized at 3 a.m. on Christmas that he neglected to buy the turkey. 
Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane
This is a love story hard-boiled into a fast-paced thriller that twists and turns and keeps you guessing right until the final line. Hard-charging journalist Rachel Childs is as relentless in her reporting as she is in her quest to determine who her father is. Suddenly, Rachel’s career falls apart, and she has to figure out who she is and who she can really trust. I love the layered, complex characters in Lehane’s novels and Since We Fell is a perfect example of that. A thoughtful page-turner that keeps you guessing. 
A Woman’s Place Is at the Top: A Biography of Annie Smith Peck, Queen of the Climbers, by Hannah Kimberley
Queen of the climbers? More like queen of the gig economy! Of the 1900s! The Rhode Island native made a name for herself nationwide in the early 20th century by setting mountain-climbing records in the Andes and giving talks about her expeditions. This a biography, not a thriller, but it stays lively and relatable throughout. 

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