Book Review 20/07/02

Porkopolis, by Alex Blanchette (246 pages, Duke University Press)

When Alex Blanchette first moved to “Porkopolis,” residents asked if he was pro-hog or anti-hog. “Neither,” he would say, with the earned detachment of an academic.

For you and me, the question comes down to this: are we pro-bacon or anti-bacon? The average American is said to eat 18 pounds of it every year, despite occasional exposure (thanks largely to PETA) to the horrors of factory farming.

But it is harder still to justify eating bacon and pork tenderloin after reading Blanchette’s clear-eyed account of the industrial pig. Begun as a doctoral dissertation, the book is about as far from a PETA diatribe as you can get; Blanchette applies a dispassionate eye to “concentrated animal feeding operations,” also known as CAFOs. He moved to an town he calls “Dixon,” home to a massive meat-processing operation that manages all facets of a hog’s life, from the artificial insemination of its mother, to the slitting of its throat, to its rendering and dispersal to not only our supermarket counters but largely unseen uses in our daily lives in gelatin. (“I cannot write this book — it is possible that I cannot type this sentence — without touching dead traces of industrial pigs,” Blanchette writes.

He was not there to sensationalize what goes within a plant that kills a hog every three seconds, about 7 million hogs every year, but to understand the ecosystem of such an operation: the hogs, yes, but also the 5,000 or so workers the company employs. To do so, he worked in the plant and became friendly with the workers and other residents of the town, as well as company officials. He enjoyed this extraordinary access and trust because they knew he was writing a scholarly book, one that presumably would not make much of a splash. And it will hold little appeal for the casual reader, dense as it is with footnotes and ten-dollar words.

But that’s unfortunate, because Porkopolis is an even-handed exploration of an issue usually dominated by extremes: the “People gotta eat,” “They’re just stupid animals” and “There wouldn’t be a Dixon without hogs” chorus on one side; the “murderous, animal abusers” chorus on the other.

In fact, the plant where Blanchette worked employed people who would sometimes try to smuggle a sick piglet out of the building in their coveralls so it wouldn’t be euthanized, and who would resuscitate a stillborn pig with their own mouth and cheer when the piglet took its first breath.

That said, they willingly take jobs that involve sitting on a sow’s back while she is artificially inseminated so she will have babies we will eat in six months. Those on assembly lines are subjected to physical trauma that seems similar to the suffering of the pigs, so much so that new hires are warned that they will endure a period of “breaking in,” which Blanchette calls “the agonizing process of molding the human body to the disassembly line’s machine-driven repetition.” The psychological toll of the work (some workers, for example, spend six days a week wiping blood and feces from pig intestines) seems secondary to its physical assaults.

It’s hard to write on the topic without separating the players into heroes and villains, Blancette says. “However, what remains is something perhaps more honest: how people in this town, like so many of us, struggle within and against things they are a constitutive part of but do not know how to change.”

That said, even Blanchette’s moral generosity and even-handed treatment of the pork industry cannot powder and perfume the everyday horrors contained within: the sow (sow, because she’s not allowed to be a mother) banging her head violently against a metal enclosure because she cannot nest, as is her instinct; the coolers in which deficient piglets are enclosed to be gassed. And regardless of benefit, the practice of feeding piglets plasma from older, slaughtered pigs is something that the average person eyeing a BLT would rather not contemplate.

In the end, Blanchette does seem to take a side, however softly. He rues the pig’s lost right to be “an inefficient creature,” its every cell sucked into a capitalist chute applauded for making use of every part of an animal. The planet is full of chicken carcasses, he explains. This fossil record of chickens, whose bodies we grotesquely modify for the right to enjoy six nuggets for a dollar, may one day be studied in conjunction with human dominance during the anthropocene.

But these future archeologists would find no pig skeletons preserved in amber. Like ethical hikers, we leave no trace. We are like mothers yelling at our children, “I gave you life, I can take it away.” Only by creating the need for factory farms with our excessive consumption, we really mean it. Blanchette may not have set out to write an argument for de-industrializing pigs, but he achieved it. B

If you’ve already read How Not to Die Alone, don’t get too excited about Something to Live For, a new paperback by Richard Roper that was published this week.
It’s the same book.
How Not to Die Alone, Roper’s debut novel, came out in hardcover in May 2019. It was generally well-received. It garnered a “meh” number of ratings on Amazon (161) but got a thumbs-up in The New York Times and USA Today.
So why the new title?
It’s not unusual for a book to have a different title in the U.S. and the United Kingdom (e.g., Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone vs. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone). Less common is an American title that is changed when a book goes from hardcover to paperback.
As it turns out, we can blame the Brits and the pandemic.
Roper wrote recently on his website that How Not to Die Alone was the original title but while “the U.S. loved it,” it was considered too dark for the U.K. So it was released there as Something to Live For, which is the title of a song that is meaningful in the book.
But then 2020 swaggered in, and now How Not to Die Alone is too dark in Covidian America.
“And so, after all that, the book is now called Something to Live For everywhere,” Roper wrote on his blog. “Oh, apart from Sweden, and Germany, which both have different titles.”
Meanwhile, on Reddit (r/books), there rages a debate on whether paperbacks or hardbacks are better. What’s most interesting in the thread is how many people say they have been literally injured by hardback books, usually while reading in bed. The mentioned assailants: The Lord of the Rings (“nearly cleaved my head in two”), The Count of Monte Cristo (1,488 pages), Oathbringer (1,248 pages) and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (672 pages).
But this has to be the best answer: “I carried around a really thick hardcover book while I was in jail. Mostly because I was reading it but it was nice knowing that I had something that could hold up to some damage should something crazy have happened. Hardcover better.” Now you know.

Intimate vibes, casual eats

Gurung’s Kitchen opens inside Bunny’s Superette

Inspired by the supper club, or the concept of serving creative comfort foods and cocktails in an intimate setting, Stones Social is the newest eatery to join the dining scene in Nashua.

The restaurant opened on June 26 in the former space of Pig Tale on Amherst Street. But according to Aislyn Plath of Stones Hospitality Group, it has been in the works since at least 2015. Her father, Scott, is the owner and founder of two successful restaurants in northern Massachusetts — Cobblestones of Lowell, which has been serving elevated tavern fare since 1994; and Moonstones, an eatery featuring global small plates that opened in Chelmsford in the late 2000s.

“Stones Social has a really intimate and casual neighborhood feel,” Plath said. “We wanted this to [have] almost more of a social club style that offers creative comfort food with a great bar program and really amazing cocktails. … We felt that this space would be perfect for that.”

Stones Social’s menu borrows some items that are popular mainstays at both Cobblestones and Moonstones, as well as new options. Chef Adam Hervieux, who has worked at both locations, has taken over the new eatery’s kitchen.

“We’re doing different menu levels, so at the top level we have bar snacks. That has things like housemade potato chips and housemade pickles,” Plath said. “We also have a mushroom jerky that’s insane, and we do a furikake popcorn, which [has] a seaweed and sesame spice.”

Other options include Buffalo tenders with blue cheese, ahi tuna tataki, pork belly with jalapeno ranch, and Chinese five-spice short ribs with house kimchi.

The menu also features a section of wood-fired skillet options, like the garlic jumbo shrimp; the shawarma beets with hummus, harissa and pepitas; and the dry-rubbed barbecue glazed wings. Sandwiches and burgers include a grilled cheese with the option to add barbecue short rib or kimchi, and a cheeseburger with house relish on a potato bun. For salads, the Spa Sampler Plate has greens, hummus, peppadews and crispy chickpeas, while the “Schrute Farms” beet salad features greens, goat cheese, pistachio, honey mustard and the option to add chicken.

If you want more of a traditional, larger-sized entree, Stones Social offers those too, on the “supper time” section of its menu. It features a seared ahi poke bowl, house macaroni and cheese, pork belly fried rice with egg and edamame, vegetable fried rice, and slow braised short rib with smashed olive oil potatoes and garlic green beans.

A majority of Stones Social’s cocktails, Plath said, are originals for the new space. There is the 603 Spritz, which has vodka, elderflower, a cucumber simple syrup and a little bit of absinthe; the Pink Drink, with hibiscus, mezcal and cranberry juice; and the Marge and Rita, or a passion fruit margarita with a five-spice salt rim. The Moonhattan, a house-infused rye whiskey with vermouth that is a staple at Moonstones, has also made it onto the menu.

“We’re trying to have as much fun with the cocktails as possible,” Plath said. “We’re really focusing on New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont too for our drafts.”

In lieu of sit-down table service, Plath said, Stones Social has more of a fast casual concept. Guests can order food and drinks at the bar and create a tab if they wish. Food runners are then assigned to deliver your order to the table. Takeout and online ordering are also available.

“One of the goals here … was to run with a really tight team and to cross-train our staff,” Plath said. “I like working in a small space like this, because you can see everyone and we’re all here to take care of each other and create a nice energy and atmosphere.”

Featured Photo: The #1 Burger with cheese and house relish on a brioche bun. Courtesy photo.

Stones Social
449 Amherst St., Nashua
Hours: Wednesday through Saturday, 4 to 11 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 8 p.m. (may be subject to change)
Contact: Visit, find them on Facebook and Instagram, or call 943-7445

Fuel your appetite

Saucy options at new Milford food trailer

A new food trailer now open on the Milford Oval is offering its own ground burgers, hand-cut fries and hand-breaded chicken tenders, and more than a dozen original sauces — or, in line with its name, “fuel” — like blueberry barbecue, Hawaiian honey mustard, hoisin-plum, curry and chive and Sriracha maple.

Fuel is the latest project of John Goldberg, owner and operator of The Riverhouse Cafe. The trailer made its debut on June 12 outside the Riverhouse, which has added about 40 seats in a roped off area out front, along with an outside bar and live music every Friday and Saturday. Customers who order from the trailer are given a pager to alert them when their food is ready. The trailer features new options not previously available at the cafe, plus rotating specials, and according to Goldberg the response has been very positive so far. He recently brought in chef Jon Talbot, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, to oversee Fuel’s menu.

“It’s a simple American menu … but it’s not your ordinary food truck. You’re not getting frozen chicken tenders or anything,” Goldberg said. “We grind our own burgers, we hand-cut our own fries, we dry-rub our own chicken wings and we make our own hot dog buns.”

Fuel features a few salads, all of which have the option of adding smoked chicken, pulled pork or smoked brisket as a protein. The most popular salad, Goldberg said, has been the Rocket Road, which features arugula, pickled onions, figs, almonds and goat cheese. There is also the Chubby King Caesar salad, with romaine, pancetta and jalapeno croutons, and the Trailer Greens, which include lettuce, carrot, tomato, onion and crispy chickpeas. Among the salad dressings to choose from are buttermilk ranch, honey balsamic, creamy poppy seed, and — Goldberg’s favorite — blueberry-riesling vinaigrette.

Items like the Fuel burger, the Hummel dog or the hand-cut fries can be ordered with a beer cheddar cheese. The Fuel burger is a double-stack patty that comes on a brioche roll with lettuce, tomato and house pickles, while the dog features toppings like the beer cheese as well as Maine onion jam and celery salt, house sweet relish or chili.

“The beer cheese is ridiculous,” Goldberg said. “You try it and you can’t stop.”

The trailer serves a falafel on its own homemade pita, topped with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, lemon and tzatziki sauce. You can also substitute smoked chicken for the falafel.

Other options, like the crispy chicken tenders and the smoked chicken wings, are really where you can get creative with all the different “fuel” sauces.

“We can toss them in one and then we give you the other one on the side,” Goldberg said. “I can’t even begin to name them all. We have blueberry barbecue, peach barbecue, Latin barbecue, curry and chives. … All kinds of different stuff.”

Just out in front of the Riverhouse Cafe’s doors is a full-service outside bar where craft cocktails are available. Live local music acts are booked to perform on Fridays and Saturdays all throughout the summer, Goldberg said.

The Riverhouse Cafe moved to its current location at 167 Union Square last year. Goldberg said the plan is for Fuel to provide the food options for those who visit Station 101, a new craft beer and wine bar opening in a renovated 1950s gas station next door. The old Riverhouse Cafe, meanwhile, will likely be turned into a doughnut shoppe.

Mangia Sano, Goldberg’s other restaurant just down the road on Nashua Street, has recently begun offering New York style pizza. It’s currently available for takeout and curbside pickup only.

“Right now, that’s all we do [at Mangia Sano],” Goldberg said, “but we’re going to reopen it under a [reinvented] new brand.”

Featured Photo: Bacon and beer cheddar fries. Photo by Matt Ingersoll.

Wednesdays and Thursdays, 5 to 8 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays, 5 to 10 p.m. (hours are subject to change and may extend later this summer)
Where: 167 Union Square, Milford
Contact: Visit, follow them on Facebook and Instagram @fuelnh or call The Riverhouse Cafe at 249-5556

47 ideas for family fun this summer

Pick flowers, play mini-golf — and more ideas for getting out of the house

After months of limiting your away-from-home excursions to the supermarket, there are an increasing number of places where you can go and have (safe, often masked) fun with the whole family. Here are 47 ideas for how to spend your summer days.

Indoor Activities

1. Learn about the history of telephones at the New Hampshire Telephone Museum (1 Depot St., Warner), open now, Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The museum features nearly 1,000 telephones, switchboards and other telecommunication memorabilia, plus an interactive kids room. Admission costs $7 for adults, $6 for seniors age 60 and up and $3 for students in grades 1 through 12. Call 456-2234 or visit

2. Try your hand at felting at Wild Salamander Creative Arts Center (30 Ash St., Hollis). Upcoming in-person felting workshops include a felted jellyfish for kids in grades 4 and up and adults and a felted strawberry keychain for kids in grades 4 through 7 on Friday, July 17, and a felted unicorn for kids in grades 4 and up and adults on Friday, Aug. 7. The cost is $29. Register online at

3. Go bowling at a local alley, several of which have reopened across the state. Yankee Lanes (216 Maple St., Manchester, 625-9656,, for example, has unlimited bowling from 7 to 10 p.m. four nights a week for $10 per person (including shoe rentals). Other alleys like Merrimack Ten Pin (698 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 429-0989, and Leda Lanes (340 Amherst St., Nashua, 889-5459, are also now open.

4. Free Comic Book Day has been rescheduled and reworked as Free Comic Book Summer. From July 15 through Sept. 9, participating local comic book shops will put out five or six different free comics every week. The comics include superhero stories, television and move spin-offs, sci-fi adventures and more. Visit for the full list of this year’s free comics and to find participating comic book shops in your area.

5. Enjoy a game of laser tag at Block Party Social (51 Zapora Drive, Hooksett), formerly known as the Space Entertainment Center, in its multi-story LED-illuminated arena. Multiple types of games are available between two teams and each player receives a personalized score sheet. The cost starts at $18 per person. Visit or call 621-5150.

6. Take a cooking class with the Culinary Playground (16 Manning St., Derry), which is hosting all kinds of classes both in person and virtually. “Mini chefs” cooking classes for kids ages 3 to 6 are currently being offered virtually through Zoom, while cooking camps are held throughout the summer. Costs vary; visit, or call 339-1664 for class availability. LaBelle Winery (345 Route 101, Amherst) is also offering a series of cooking classes for kids, the next of which is happening on Wednesday, July 15, at noon. The cost is $20 per child. Visit or call 672-9898.

7. You’ll find all kinds of STEM fun at SEE Science Center (200 Bedford St., Manchester), which plans to reopen in early August. The museum features more than 90 exhibits focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics and is home to the Lego Millyard Project, the largest permanent minifigure scale Lego installation in the world, depicting Manchester’s Amoskeag Millyard circa 1900. Call 669-0400 or visit

8. Let the kids climb! Go indoor rock climbing at Vertical Dreams (250 Commercial St., Manchester, 625-6919; 25 E. Otterson St., Nashua, 943-7571,, which reopens on Monday, July 6. A day pass is $15 for adults and $13 for kids under age 18, and a 10-visit pass is $125/$105. Rentals packages including shoes and a harness are $10, plus an additional $2 for a chalk bag rental. For younger kids, check out the indoor playground with slides and a climbing structure at Nuthin But Good Times (746 DW Highway in Merrimack;, 429-2200) which is open now at 25 to 30 percent capacity, according to their website. The cost is $9.50 for children ages 4 and above ($6 for 3 and under, $2.50 for “crawlers” and adults and free for infants).

9. Jump into a good time at Altitude Trampoline Park (270 Loudon Road, Concord; 360 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack), which reopened on June 19 to 50 percent capacity at both its Concord and Merrimack locations. Jump passes are available for purchase for 60, 90 or 120 minutes (buying them online ahead of time is encouraged). Specials are also available throughout the week, depending on the day. Both parks are open Sunday through Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Friday and Saturday until 8 p.m. Visit or

10. You can go indoor skydiving, indoor surfing and more at SkyVenture (100 Adventure Way, Nashua), which is open now by reservation. Skydiving rates are $55 for a two-minute flight and $95 for a four-minute flight. Fifteen-minute surfing sessions are $45. Call 897-0002 or visit

11. Explore Manchester history,from the native people who fished at Amoskeag Falls 11,000 years ago to the city’s early farmers and lumbermen and the rise of industry, at the Millyard Museum(200 Bedford St., Manchester), open now, Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission costs $8 for adults, $6 for seniors age 62 and up and college students, $4 for youth ages 12 through 18 and is free for kids under age 12. Call 622-7531 or visit

12. You’re Fired pottery studio (25 S. River Road, Bedford, 641-3473; 133 Loudon Road, No. 101, Concord, 226-3473; 264 N. Broadway, Salem, 894-5456; 4 Coliseum Ave., Nashua, 204-5559; has open studio hours on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. All-day studio fees are $8 for adults and $6 for kids age 12 and under, except on “Mini Mondays,” when kids get in for $3. Visit

13. Bring the family for some retro fun at Electric Avenue (24 Bridge St., Manchester), where you’ll find 24 classic arcade games, nine classic pinball machines and skee-ball. The barcade, which plans to reopen the second week of July, is family-friendly and open to gamers of all ages before 8 p.m. New hours are TBA. Call 518-5770 or visit

14. Bounce around at Cowabunga’s indoor inflatable playground (725 Huse Road, Manchester), which plans to reopen on July 31. All-day admission costs $12 for kids and is free for accompanying adults and babies. Call 935-9659 or visit

15. Catch a planetarium show at McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center (2 Institute Drive, Concord). Showtimes for three different shows are scheduled now through July 12, Wednesday through Sunday. Learn about the Wright brothers and other pioneers of flight in Take Flight! (11:30 a.m.) and the early days of space exploration in Dawn of the Space Age (1 p.m.), or get a look at the night sky in the center’s classical planetarium show Tonight’s Sky (2:30 p.m.). General admission costs $11.50 for adults, $8.50 for children ages 3 through 12, $10.50 for students age 13 through college and seniors, and is free for children age 2 and under. Planetarium show tickets cost an additional $5 per person. Call 271-7827 or visit

16. Have fun working together and solving puzzles at 102 Escape (123 Nashua Road, Unit 34, Londonderry). Escape room experiences are available by appointment Monday through Thursday and are open to kids age 7 and up. The cost is $25 per person. Call 260-6198 or visit

17. Catch a movie at a local theater. Chunky’s Cinema & Pub (707 Huse Road, Manchester, 206-3888; 151 Coliseum Ave., Nashua, 880-8055; 150 Bridge St., Pelham, 635-7499) has reopened all of its locations as of June 29. All three theaters are showing The Jungle Book, Trolls World Tour and Despicable Me this weekend, while in Nashua and Manchester, you can see The Lorax. Visit for available showtimes.

18. Let the beanbags fly during a game of cornhole at Game Changer Sports Bar & Grill (4 Orchard View Drive, Londonderry), a new indoor cornhole facility with eight courts available for pickup and play. The courts are normally open during weekdays when tournaments are not being held. Visit or call 216-1396 for availability.

Outdoor Adventures

19. Head to Chuckster’s Family Fun Park (9 Bailey Road, Chichester, 798-3555; 53 Hackett Hill Road, Hooksett, 210-1415) for a round of mini-golf. The park, according to its website, has two of the “longest miniature golf holes on the planet,” or a pair of 201-foot-long holes, at both its Chichester and Hooksett parks. Not a single hole is duplicated at either park. In Chichester, miniature golf is one of more than a dozen attractions, while at the Hooksett park the focus is more solely on miniature golf, with two large 18-hole courses to choose from. No masks are required for players once on the course. Visit or call your local park for hours of operation, which are weather-dependent and subject to change.

20. Ride the go-carts at Mel’s Funway Park (454 Charles Bancroft Highway, Litchfield), which is now open seven days a week for the season, according to its website. Rates are available for a single ride around the 1/5-mile track or for up to five rides. There is a height restriction of 58 inches per driver, but those under that height can ride with a driver over the age of 18. Mel’s is currently open Monday through Thursday from noon to 9 p.m., Friday from noon to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Visit or call 424-2292.

21. Spend a day later this summer at an amusement or theme park. Canobie Lake Park (85 N. Policy St., Salem, 893-3506, has announced its plan to reopen for the season on Thursday, July 16, at limited capacity. Visit the website or follow them on social media for updates. Story Land (850 Route 16, Glen, 383-4186,, another park to return later this summer, will reopen on July 17 to season pass holders and on July 22 to the public, according to its website. Those with season passes are able to have unlimited admission extended through the 2021 season, the park recently announced.

22. Learn to golf at the Amherst Country Club (72 Ponemah Road), which is offering lessons and camps this summer for kids of all ages and abilities. Visit or call 673-9908.

23. Take the kids out to the ballgame. The Nashua Silver Knights, part of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League, will play 21 home games at Holman Stadium (67 Amherst St., Nashua) this season, which opens Thursday, July 2, and concludes on Wednesday, Aug. 19, followed by a best-of-three series to determine the season’s league champion. Visit

24. Pay a visit to America’s Stonehenge (105 Haverhill Road, Salem), a 4,000-year-old stone construction — likely the oldest man-made construction in the United States — built by an ancient people as an astronomical calendar to determine solar and lunar events of the year. Now through Labor Day, kids age 12 and under can participate in the Kid’s Gem Dig Open (included with admission) in which they can keep up to three gemstones they find using real archaeologist tools. It’s open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission rates are $13 for adults, $11 for seniors age 65 and up, $7.50 for kids ages 5 through 12, and free for kids age 4 and under. Call 893-8300 or visit

25. Create your own flower bouquet from more than 60 varieties of annual and perennial flowers at Petals in the Pines’ (126 Baptist Road, Canterbury) Pick-Your-Own Flower Field starting in mid-July. The 7.5-acre nature center also has wooded trails, 24 themed gardens and a monarch butterfly sanctuary to explore. It’s open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call 783-0220 or visit

26. Take the kids fishing at a local body of water. In New Hampshire, kids under age 16 can fish for free and without a license all summer long. Visit for information about where to fish and what kinds of fish you can catch, plus tips for fishing with kids.

27. Take a walk through history at Canterbury Shaker Village (288 Shaker Road, Canterbury) and see the village’s 25 restored original Shaker buildings, four reconstructed Shaker buildings and 694 acres of forests, fields, gardens, nature trails and mill ponds. The buildings are closed for now, but visitors can walk the grounds for free, and beginning July 5 there will be free outdoor guided tours on Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Call 783-9511 or visit

28. Go hiking at a state park trail, nearly all of which are open with social distancing guidelines. Visit to view a list of the parks that are open (playgrounds and indoor venues at each of the state parks remain closed until further notice). Some parks are requiring advanced day use reservations.

29. You may still be able to go swimming close to home this summer, depending on what town you live in. Manchester expects to open Crystal Lake and Dupont Splash Pad in mid-July and Hunt Pool some time after, and Merrimack has already opened its Wasserman Park Beach. Town and city swimming areas are typically only open to residents, so check with your town or city for updates.

30. Go camping at a local campground in the state. As of last week, select state park campgrounds are accepting reservations for July and August. Camping reservations are currently being accepted, for example, at Bear Brook State Park (61 Deerfield Road, Allenstown) and at Pawtuckaway State Park (7 Pawtuckaway Road, Nottingham), both of which are open at 100 percent capacity as of June 29. Visit or contact your local private campground regarding availability.

31. Visit the animals at Charmingfare Farm (774 High St., Candia), open now on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (must arrive before 1 p.m.). It features a large hands-on petting area with a variety of farm animals as well as wildlife exhibits. Admission costs $19 per person and must be reserved online in advance. Call 483-5623 or visit

32. Get your adrenaline pumping with a game of paintball at AG Adventure Park (158 Deering Center Road, Weare), open now by reservation. There’s the painless Paintball Lite for kids as young as age 7 and Low Impact Paintball for kids as young as age 9, and regular paintball is open to players age 12 and up. Rates vary. Equipment rental packages are available. Call 529-3524 or visit

33. You can view a movie from your car at the Milford Drive-In Theater (531 Elm St., Milford). Weekly movie schedules are posted on the website. Tickets cost $30 for a vehicle with one to six people and can be purchased online. Visit

34. Or you can sit outside and watch a movie in the park. Merrimack Parks & Recreation’s Movies in the Park Series will feature Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker on Friday, July 10, at 8:30 p.m.; Toy Story 4 on Friday, Aug. 7, at 8 p.m.; and Frozen 2 on Saturday, Sept. 5, at 7:30 p.m. All screenings take place at Abbie Griffin Park (6 Baboosic Lake Road, Merrimack) and are free and open to both Merrimack residents and non-residents. Visit or call 882-1046.

35. Practice your swing at one of the batting cages in the state. Concord Sports Center (2 Whitney Road, No. 1, Concord) is accepting reservations now for its batting cages. The cost is $20 per half-hour or $35 per hour with the pitching machine, or you can be your own batter’s pitcher. Visit or call 224-1655 to reserve your spot now.

36. Farms all over the Granite State are open now for pick-your-own strawberries, which typically last through about mid-July. Apple Hill Farm (580 Mountain Road, Concord, 224-8862, and Sunnycrest Farm (59 High Range Road, Londonderry, 432-7753, are among some of the farms offering pick-your-own. Call or visit the website or social media pages for updates and availability.

Special Events

37. The New Hampshire Fisher Cats and Atlas Fireworks are presenting three special nights of fireworks on Thursday, July 2; Friday, July 3; and Saturday, July 4, with socially distanced seating available in the stands and on the field at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium (1 Line Drive, Manchester). The gates open at 7 p.m., with fireworks beginning at 9:30 p.m. Limited concessions will be available, or you can bring your own sealed food and non-alcoholic beverages in a cooler. The cost is $10 per person or $40 per group of four for stadium seating, or $13.33 per person or $80 per group of four for on-field picnic seating. Visit

38. See a classic car show. The Aviation Museum of New Hampshire (27 Navigator Road, Londonderry) will host its annual car show on Saturday, July 11, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (rain date is July 12), featuring raffles, prizes, food trucks and more. Vehicles of all makes and eras will be featured, with trophies given out for the People’s Choice Award and the Museum Award. Registration is $10 per vehicle per entry (plus occupants). General public admission is $5 for adults and free for children ages 12 and under (cash only). Visit or call 669-4820.

39. The Hampstead Cable Television Summer Concert Series presents a free kids concert by Steve Blunt & Friends on Tuesday, July 14, at 6 p.m. at Meetinghouse Park (20 Emerson Ave., Hampstead). Visit

40. Head to New Hampshire Motor Speedway (1122 Route 106, Loudon) for the rescheduled NASCAR Cup Series Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 race on Sunday, Aug. 2, at 3 p.m. The grandstands and suites at “The Magic Mile” will be open to fans, with social distancing requirements. Attendance in the stands will be limited to 35 percent capacity. Tickets are $10 for kids ages 12 and under and $50 for adults. Visit or call 783-4931.

41. A socially distanced version of the annual Great New England Barbecue & Food Truck Festival will be held on Saturday, Aug. 8, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Sunday, Aug. 9, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., both inside and out in the parking lot of the Hampshire Dome (34 Emerson Road, Milford). The event will feature a kids’ zone with face-painting, slime making, cookie decorating and bounce houses, plus craft and specialty food vendors, live music, and Jell-O and Twinkie eating contests. General admission tickets are $5 in advance and $10 at the gate. Kids ages 12 and under receive free admittance.

42. The Londonderry Old Home Day, normally scheduled across four days in August, is being condensed into a one-day celebration of four activities on Saturday, Aug. 15, at the Londonderry Town Common. According to assistant town manager Lisa Drabik, the day will kick off with a socially distanced parade at 10 a.m., followed by a road race overseen by Millennium Running, a first responders’ softball game on the field at Londonderry High School (295 Mammoth Road) and fireworks in the evening. Visit

43. Intown Concord’s Market Days Festival, rescheduled from June, is happening on Thursday, Aug. 20; Friday, Aug. 21; and Saturday, Aug. 22, along Main Street in downtown Concord, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. In addition to a kids’ zone with bounce houses and mini-golf down by City Hall Plaza, there will be multiple games, crafts and activities on the Statehouse lawn, plus vendors, live entertainment and more. Visit

44. The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (6 Washington St., Dover) will hold its annual New Hampshire Maker & Food Fest virtually this year, with a new date of Saturday, Aug. 29. Up to 150 Maker Fest kits will be available for people to reserve online for free on a first-come, first-served basis, to be picked up at the museum prior to Aug. 29. The kits will include at-home projects, hands-on activities and more, all provided by the museum and participating makers. All videos, tutorials, demonstrations and performances will be available online through about a week after the festival. Visit or call 742-2002.

Featured Photo: Cowabunga’s. Courtesy photo.

Signs of Life 20/07/02

All quotes are from The Tarantula in My Purse and 172 Other Wild Pets, by Jean Craighead George, born July 2, 1919.

Cancer (June 21 – July 22) But how were we going to manage the bath schedule? When we had the baby painted turtle in the tub for a couple of weeks before releasing him, it was simple enough to pick him up and put him in the sink while we showered. The ducklings would pop right out of the sink. If the ducklings have the tub, you can shower outside with the garden hose.

Leo (July 23 – Aug. 22) The scrappy little crow … clawed the air as if to tear us to pieces. I went to the refrigerator, took out a cold cheeseburger, and stuffed a bite in his mouth, pressing it with my finger to make sure he swallowed. He did, and instantly changed his tune. … At the end of the day we had a pet crow. Crows like cheeseburgers.

Virgo (Aug. 23 – Sept. 22) I saw another world through the eyes of my kestrel. It was a world of crickets, meadow flowers, cumulus clouds, thunderheads, and tree hollows. To get out of your own head, spend some time with nature.

Libra (Sept. 23 – Oct. 22) Virginia was also happy to see the mice go. She was smiling the day the cage went to the basement. With a thank-goodness-that’s-over sigh, she opened Twig’s windows wide and let the fresh air from the woods blow through the room. Then Craig came home with a baby skunk. Maybe bring back the mice?

Scorpio (Oct. 23 – Nov. 21) The bullfrog arrived in a bucket with eleven other bullfrogs that Craig and his friends had caught for the high school science teacher. ‘We’re not going to dissect them,’ Craig told me. ‘The teacher’s planning some behavioral study.’ … Craig covered the bucket for the night. Around two in the morning I heard a pot lid clanking to the floor, and frogs croaking. The frogs have their own ideas.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 21) ‘I’m not going to play with that crow anymore,’ she said. ‘He takes all my toys.’ Who needs a greedy playmate?

Capricorn (Dec. 22 – Jan. 19) The little raccoons could climb up trees, but they couldn’t climb down. … [Their mother] loped up the tree, grabbed one by the scruff of its neck, and dropped it to the ground with a thud. Then she dropped the other one, hurried down the tree, and stood over them while she scolded them with snarls. Baby raccoons are not known for planning ahead.

Aquarius (Jan. 20 – Feb. 18) People see the world from an earthbound level. But ah, the bird. From the top of the roof, trees, and telephone poles, Crowbar got a bird’s-eye view of the world. He saw the entire neighborhood as well as what went on inside our house. From the trees he peered down at us through the windows. It’s a good time to recalibrate your perspective. And get a wheel alignment.

Pisces (Feb. 19 – March 20) Weasels sleep as hard as they play. Play hard, sleep hard.

Aries (March 21 – April 19) The next day Twig and Luke came running to the sunporch, where I worked and kept my typewriter, library, plants, bugs, and other things pertinent to raising children and writing nature books. It’s a sunporch and an office!

Taurus (April 20 – May 20) ‘Yammer [the owl] loves Road Runner,’ Twig said, and dashed to the TV…. A chord of music sounded, lights flashed, and all eyes — particularly Yammer’s — were riveted on that zany bird running on and off the screen. Enjoy a riveting performance.

Gemini (May 21 – June 20) My first pet was a baby turkey vulture, a carrion eater fit for witches and monsters…. He was a work of art. I loved him on sight. You never know who you’ll connect with.

The Music Roundup 20/07/02

Mountain music: A Concord trio consisting of guitar, drums and keyboard, Holy Fool favors smooth soulful grooves with jazzy elements. They play an outdoor show at a ski resort repurposed for summer, their first since Friday the 13th in March at hometown haunt True Brew, just as the world was shutting down. During quarantine the group was part of the Granite State Online Music Festival. Thursday, July 2, 4 p.m. at Pats Peak Ski Area, 686 Flanders Road, Henniker,

Singing, playing: Enjoy a solo acoustic experience with The Lone Wolf Project. Christopher Perkins’ set list includes everything from Queensrÿche to Cyndi Lauper, with sweet tunes like John Denver’s “Annie’s Song” offered as well. Perkins has some nice originals, too, like “Today,” written during lockdown, about keeping family close. Friday, July 3, 6 p.m., Fratello’s Italian Grille, 799 Union Ave., Laconia,

Laugh again: Though his Headliners downtown showcase room is still shuttered, Rob Steen is promoting shows and performing comedy again in Manchester, as a multipurpose movie house returns to standup. Drew Dunn, who won top honors at competitions in Seattle and Boston, tops the bill at what’s basically a three-headliner show, with Steen and Amy Tee. Saturday, July 4, 9 p.m., Chunky’s Cinema Pub, 707 Huse Road, Manchester. Tickets $20 at

Twofer time: In between shows with their band Almost Famous, Jimmy Magoon and Kristin Atkins perform as a duo, covering pop hits and classic rock for every mood. Formed in 2012, the Boston group is popular for whipping crowds into a dancing frenzy, but their talents for chilling a room and keeping an easy vibe going will probably be more welcome in this moment. Sunday, July 5, 3 p.m., Old School Bar & Grill, 49 Range Road, Windham,

In the pocket

Blues rockers return to the stage

Downtown Dave & the Deep Pockets played their last pre-quarantine gig on March 8, so when they booked a late May show outdoors at Broken Spoke in Laconia, frontman Dave Glannon counted the days. Fate, however, had other plans for his blues-rock powerhouse. A broken well pump forced them to cancel, though the owner paid half their guarantee, a reminder of why the Spoke is a favorite venue for the band.

The cash was a comfort, but for Glannon, music is passion first, profession second. He was ready to get down and play his harmonica, to jam with guitarist Paul Size and a rhythm section of drummer Don Boucher and bass player Erik Thomas.

So he moved the show down the road, and turned it into a party.

“Everybody was already there, like right around the corner, and my friend has a place at the lake,” Glannon explained in a recent phone interview. “It just felt so good to get together and play.”

Glannon became a musician at age 41, inspired by the purchase of his first compact disc player, when they were a new thing. He bought two CDs that day, Aerosmith’s Live Bootleg and Muddy Waters’ Still Hard. The latter looked cool, had Johnny Winter backing blues legend Waters on guitar, and was bargain priced.

It changed his life.

“I think I played it for three months straight,” Glannon said. “That’s when I realized this is something I would really love to do.”

Attending an all-star benefit show at the original House of Blues in Cambridge a while later cemented his instinct.

“There were all these great people — Jerry Paquette, Racky Thomas, Jerry Portnoy, a bunch of others. … I went by myself and was just standing there taking in all the action, and I realized I really had to pursue it,” Glannon said. Realizing that learning to play guitar would take a lot of time, “I figured harmonica was the quickest way to get into that.”

In the mid-2000s Glannon practiced in his garage and went to Tuesday night blues jams hosted by Paquette at KC’s Rib Shack in Manchester — always as a spectator. One night, after prolonged prodding by his then-wife, he stepped on stage.

“I played one song and started to walk off, but Jerry stopped me,” he said. “He said, ‘You don’t sit down until I tell you to.’ So I kept coming back. … He must have seen something there.”

Glannon spent four years playing in Paquette’s Kan-Tu Blues Band, then set about forming the Deep Pockets in 2010.

“I love the blues and I like that style, but I wanted to do something more up-tempo,” he said.

Band members have come and gone; none remain from the lineup that traveled to Memphis after winning the 2015 Granite State Blues Challenge. Boucher came aboard shortly after the competition. Size, a Texas expat who played in The Red Devils, is the most recent to join. ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons included Size on his 10 Guitarists Who Blew My Mind list, which also included Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix.

Glannon thinks the current Downtown Dave & the Deep Pockets is the best ever, for a few reasons.

“These are four people who truly get along, have great respect for each other, great talent, and are in tune with everything that is going on,” he said. “On stage, it’s pure magic, three to four hours of thinking about nothing but the music at hand. It helps keep you sane.”

Their summer calendar is slowly filling, with shows set for July 11 at Pitman’s Freight Room in Laconia, and July 18 at The Anchorage, a restaurant-bar situated on the edge of Lake Sunapee. Pitman’s has long been a favorite stop for the band.

“It’s a great room, and the sound quality is fantastic,” Glannon said. “People are there strictly for the music, and it’s always a very appreciative crowd.”

Featured photo: Downtown Dave & the Deep Pockets. Courtesy photo.

Downtown Dave & the Deep Pockets
Saturday, July 11, 8 p.m.
Where: Pitman’s Freight Room, 94 New Salem St., Laconia
Tickets: $20/door –
Also: Saturday, July 18, 8 p.m. at The Anchorage, 71 Main St., Sunapee

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (PG-13)

Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

Take the musical numbers from the Trolls animated movies and divide them by a Spinal Tap’s “Stonehenge” sensibility and add an earnest Will Ferrell plus Dan Stevens’ dodgy Russian accent (but impressive willingness to go all in) and what you have equals Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, a new comedy on Netflix.

I feel like Ferrell, who stars here and has a writing credit, probably really likes the annual Eurovision Song Contest and wants to find some way of introducing its glorious pop-song ABBA-ness to an American audience. And that actually sounds like a great idea. The competition — which I have never watched but has always sounded to me like the best possible mash-up of American Idol and the Olympics — has been available in America only recently. I hope when it comes back (this year’s contest was canceled), Americans can view it with ease; it feels like exactly the kind of all-ages-friendly bowl of cheese dip that we’re all going to need in our lives. I watched a highlights reel from the 2019 finale and I am sold on this whole deal, don’t change one sparkly bit of it. (It looks like full versions of some years’ final shows are also available on and now that I know that I suspect my productivity will nosedive.)

So, getting Americans interested in the Eurovision Song Contest? Worthy goal. But are enough people really sufficiently aware of the Eurovision Song Contest that, for example, the many Eurovision-related cameos (which I could identify as cameos because of the way the movie shot and introduced them, not because I knew who anybody was) resonate or that specific jokes about Eurovision register?

Without that layer, what you have is Will Ferrell as Lars Erickssong, a very middle-aged man living in a small town in Iceland who has spent most of his life trying to get a song in the Eurovision competition. He is so focused on this that he has never even pursued a romance with obviously-hot-for-him Sigrit (Rachel McAdams), his friend since childhood and his partner in the band Fire Saga. Sigrit is happy to follow Lars in his dreams, though she writes her own songs and does wish they’d maybe also find time to have a baby.

Due to a series of horrible (but lucky for Lars and Sigrit) events, Fire Saga finds itself as Iceland’s Eurovision competitor. Russia’s competitor Alexander Lemtov (Dan Stevens) and his friend Mita (Melissanthi Mahut), Greece’s competitor, have a better shot at winning the competition than Fire Saga and yet the duo seems to enjoy messing with the team dynamic of Fire Saga, which, with its special effects and iffy wardrobe choices, seems to be doing just fine sabotaging itself.

At two hours and three minutes, Fire Saga is at least 35 minutes too long. At times the movie feels more like a collection of extra material for a Saturday Night Live Eurovision sketch than a tightly plotted narrative. It is at its best when the too-old Lars is trying to sell a Viking power ballad or the enjoyably dippy Sigrit is talking to elves — or when it’s just showing us Eurovision. More Eurovision, would have been my studio note. A song-mash-up featuring real-life Eurovision people is charming and irresistible and joyfully silly in the best sense.

In yet another example of grading on a serious curve, this movie is acceptable entertainment because (if you have Netflix) you don’t have to pay any extra money to watch it and because you can feel when it’s slowing down and time your snack runs and phone-checking accordingly. B-

Rated PG-13 for crude sexual material including full nude sculpture, some comic violent images and language, according to the MPA on Directed by David Dobkin with a screenplay by Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is somehow two hours and three minutes long and is available on Netflix.

My Spy (PG-13)

Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

Dave Bautista is another tough guy befriending a kid (see also: The Rock, John Cena, Arnold Schwarzenegger) in My Spy, a movie once bound for theaters but now on Amazon Prime.

JJ (Bautista) is a tough guy CIA agent who is finding the light touch required for successful spy-ery more difficult than the straightforward butt-kicking of being an Army Ranger. You’re actually not supposed to kill everybody and walk away from the explosions without looking back, explains his boss (Ken Jeong), and thus JJ and his fan-girl tech person Bobbi (Kristen Schaal) are given the low-priority assignment of keeping an eye on Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley), the widow of a former arms dealer. Her brother-in-law, Marquez (Greg Bryk), is still active in the selling-nukes-to-bad-guys game so JJ and Bobbi watch Kate and her daughter Sophie (Chloe Coleman), who are attempting to adjust after a recent move to Chicago.

While Kate seems more like a harried nurse and single mom than a woman who has any knowledge of her late husband’s business, Sophie, who is 9, has some solid stealthiness skills. She sneaks up on JJ and Bobbi and records enough of a conversation between the two of them that she can blow their cover. Instead of telling her mom, though, she decides to blackmail JJ into doing things for her, such as taking her to an ice skating rink and teaching her spy stuff. When her mom first sees Sophie with JJ, Kate gives JJ a swift knee to the sensitive spy equipment but Sophie explains that JJ is their new upstairs neighbor and helped her with some bullies. Seeing the possibilities in JJ beyond just his abilities to rent ice skates and teach her to defeat a lie detector, Sophie arranges for JJ and Kate to bump into each other a few times until Kate asks JJ out.

This movie is rated PG-13 and my guess is that this is largely due to the early sequence of JJ killing a couple dozen henchmen, including one whose head goes flying. Common Sense Media pegs it at ages 10 and up and while I might not go that young I think “lightweight family action comedy” is what this movie is for families where the youngest viewers are middle school and up.

And as that, it’s fine. Bautista has the “gruff guy with a good heart” thing ready to go. He maybe isn’t quite as winning as Dwayne Johnson but he’s probably as good, in his own way, as John Cena. His interactions with Coleman’s Sophie feel right for each character — the movie lets Sophie seem enough like a human child that you can just sort of go with the plot, no matter how silly it gets.

I’m not sure how I would have responded to this movie in a theater; the faults of something like this seem to stand out when a movie is on a big screen and has required you to show up at a place on time and pay for popcorn. But as an at-home offering, the low barrier to viewing matches the “light chuckle” level of comedy just fine. B-

Rated PG-13 for action/violence and language, according to the MPA on Directed by Peter Segal with a screenplay by Erich Hoeber and Jon Hoeber, My Spy is an hour and 39 minutes long and distributed by Amazon Studios. It is available on Amazon Prime.

Book Review 20/07/02

Shakespeare for Squirrels, by Christopher Moore (William Morrow, 271 pages)

In one of the more memorable songs from the musical Something Rotten, a character named Nick Bottom seethes “God, I hate Shakespeare — He has no sense about the audience / he makes them feel so dumb / The (expletive) doesn’t care that my poor (expletive) is getting numb.”

The same could be said of Christopher’s Moore Shakespeare for Squirrels, only it wasn’t so funny.

The third in a series of comedies derived from Shakespeare’s plays, the novel is a raunchy retelling of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, populated by characters that will be familiar to anyone who has seen what is considered to be the Bard of Avon’s most performed play.

The main characters were introduced in Moore’s 2009 novel Fool, a satirical take on King Lear, and later embellished in 2014’s The Serpent of Venice. They are Pocket, a court jester; Drool, his dimwit companion; and Jeff, a monkey. In the opening, they are near death, adrift in a boat, Drool so delirious from hunger that he is begging to lick the monkey. “Just one wee lick,” he pleads.

Lucky for the monkey, land appears, and the three crash onto the shores of 14th-century Athens and into the plot of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with its fairies and players and royals, which in Moore’s hands are even more lewd and profane than Shakespeare wrote them. They are also somehow funnier. Shakespeare himself might have wished he had written this book.

Compare the dialogue of Shakespeare, when Nick Bottom’s transformation into a centaur with a donkey head is revealed — “O Bottom, thou art changed! What do I see on thee?” — with that of Moore: “Bottom,” said I. “Thou art transmogrified. How happened this change?”

A quick summary, with a necessary spoiler: Soon after landing in Greece, Pocket encounters the dying Robin Goodfellow (also known as the Puck), and is mistakenly apprehended as the killer. In order to save his own skin and that of his slow-witted but good-hearted companion Drool, he obeys twin royal commands to venture into the fairy-infested forest to find the true assassin.

With killer dialogue and exquisite timing, Moore is generous with the jokes, both Elizabethan and contemporary. (A frequent callback referring to Pocket’s diminutive size — “Not an elf” — is wickedly funny and seems to derive from the TV show The Good Place.)

Moore writes with his tongue firmly in cheek, when it is not exploring naughtier territory, as it frequently does. If the novel had to be assigned a rating by the Motion Picture Association of America, it would have had to fight for an R. As such, one of the novel’s failings is the sense that it was written by a teenage boy with a really high IQ. Which brings us to its other problem, foreseen by Nick Bottom in Something Rotten — Moore makes us feel so dumb.

Shakespeare for Squirrels demands much of its readers, and having seen A Midsummer’s Night Dream once 10 years ago doesn’t cut it. (Painfully, I can attest.) From the beginning, when our heroes are rescued by the fairy Cobweb, the casual reader is taunted by what he or she doesn’t know, never encountered or doesn’t remember. For a full 263 pages there is the sense that we are missing the best jokes. It’s full-on FOMO (fear of missing out) until we reach the afterword, when Moore explains how the book came about. Even then, people who are only conversant with a handful of Shakespeare’s 36 plays can get lost as he recounts the origins of Hippolyta, Theseus and Oberon.

“Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,” Shakespeare wrote in a line just as good as “though she be but little she is fierce.” The same can be said of Moore’s brain, which operates on a plane higher than that of the average reader and seems as conversant with Shakespeare as the typical American is with the McDonald’s menu. This doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy Shakespeare for Squirrels without having read the two previous installments, Fool and The Serpent of Venice. It can stand alone as a story, as even A Midsummer Night’s Dream is not required prerequisite reading.

But without this base of foreknowledge, reading Moore’s latest book is the literary equivalent of eating pistachios that haven’t been shelled. There is pleasure, yes, but it seems like an awful lot of work to get to it. The mental gymnastics required to get into the flow of the dialogue alone are exhausting on a midsummer afternoon. (“The fairies, I thought, surely they will offer some unexplored gem of myth that I can festoon with knob jokes!”)

That said, you will emerge from Shakespeare for Squirrels armed with a new collection of Shakespearean-style insults, which may alone be justification for your time, thou unctuous little hedgehog. (Said affectionately.) B

As Americans gear up for a long weekend of quiet reading and deep thinking about democracy and its responsibilities, Project Gutenberg might come in handy.
The oldest digital library, it provides free access to more than 60,000 books that are in the public domain, so it’s a particularly good source for finding titles appropriate to the celebration of American independence. Here’s a sample of reading you can download onto your computer or ereader at
The Memoirs, Correspondence and Miscellanies from the Papers of Thomas Jefferson(decidedly dry in places, but it’s always interesting to get a glimpse of personal letters of history’s giants).
• Speaking of which, there’s also Familiar Letters of John Adams and His Wife Abigail Adams During the Revolution
George Washington’s State of the Union Addresses (other early presidents are there, too).
George Washington’s Rules of Civility (an adaptation of Richard Brookhiser’s Rules of Civility, which was said to greatly influence the first president)
The Autobiography of Ben Franklin and Franklin’s The Way to Wealth, which may be the first American self-help book
Sketches of Successful New Hampshire Men — this was issued in 1882 and has nothing to do with American independence. But how could we not? An excerpt: “Forty years ago, when Manchester, now the metropolis of New Hampshire, was little more than a wasting waterfall and an unpeopled plain, a few young men who had the sagacity to see, the courage to grapple with, and the strength to control the possibilities of the location, made it their home.” Thank God for that, eh?
The Papers and Writings of Abraham Lincoln (as well as his inaugural addresses)
• Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America
• G.K. Chesterton’s What I Saw in America
Of course, you could also just buy them, because in this day and age, there is no greater civic responsibility than shopping.

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