Books for Every Taste
Local and regional authors help you — and your gift list — read into a good new year
For Bay Lovers …
Chesapeake Views: Catching the Light
by Wilson Wyatt Jr.
Almost four hundred years ago, one of the first European visitors to the New World, Captain John Smith, extolled the Chesapeake: “Heaven and earth never agreed better to frame a place for man’s habitation.”
Chesapeake Country photographer and writer Wilson Wyatt Jr. takes up that theme in his self-published Chesapeake Views: Catching the Light, which illustrates many of the glories of the Bay in 82 color photographs.
Photographer Ernst Haas wrote that “Every light is the best light, if you know how to make the most of its distinctive qualities.” Wyatt has done just that. These are pictures mostly of northern Chesapeake Country, an area rich in history. This rural land is host to quaint harbors, picturesque towns and flat farmlands just a few feet above sea level. These images — of sunsets, clouds and sky, of bird and deer, of flowers and butterflies, of many aspects of the Bay — capture the changing natural light of the seasons.
For photography enthusiasts, the author includes details on how he took the photographs and what inspired him about the light he captured.
http://wilsonwyattjr.com: $65 hardcover
by Richard Olsenius
Photographer Richard Olsenius traveled the world on assignment for National Geographic for 40 years. Now retired, he’s turned his world-watching skills to his home place, Chesapeake Bay. In Chesapeake Visions, published this year, he’s traded his still cameras for video, setting 27 minutes of high-definition images to music of his own composition and a script written with his wife.
The result is a tone poem. Music flows like water, sparkling drop by drop, over water- and landscapes of Chesapeake Country.
Olsenius excels in sharing intimate views — as if you could see them simply for the asking — of extraordinary sights from the owl winging out of camouflage to flights of snow geese so dense that you’re tempted to read them as abstractions.
Use this tone poem to soothe the seething breast. Or give it to a friend to convey your love for Chesapeake Country.
AmericanLandscapeGallery.com; 27 mins.; $14.95 DVD; $19.95 Blu-ray
–Sandra Olivetti Martin
For Bird Lovers …
Audubon Birdhouse Book: Building, Placing, and Maintaining Great Homes for Great Birds
by Margaret Barker and Elissa Wolfson
Did the Carolina wren lay her eggs in your cousin’s bike helmet again? Does your neighbor want to lure the local screech owl pair to her backyard trees? Treat them to the Audubon Birdhouse Book, which offers 15 building plans for nesting boxes and shelves specifically designed for more than 30 species. Clear directions and step-by-step photographs allow anyone to construct safe homes for their favorite birds.
Well beyond a how-to guide, this book will captivate any bird lover. Species’ profiles depict their habits and why they need our help. “Behind the Design” details the evolution of each box and explains why the barn owls’ home needs an elliptical hole and why bluebird houses have slanted roofs. Each chapter is peppered with historical notes, nest box experts’ advice and hanging tips. Stunning photographs worthy of any coffee table make this book a page-turning delight.
Margaret Barker, of Shady Side knows birds. She’s worked at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology on Project FeederWatch and other bird education programs. Her articles have appeared in many birding magazines, and she co-authored The FeederWatcher’s Guide to Bird Feeding. See her this spring at the Annapolis Bookstore, April 12; Deale Library, April 19, and at Annapolis’ Wild Bird Center.
–Dotty Holcomb Doherty
For Cooks …
Dining at The White House: From The President’s Table to Yours
by John Moeller and Mike Lovell
Author John Moeller was a White House chef for 13 years. Trained as a classical French chef, his tenure spanned three administrations: the Bushes, the Clintons and the second Bushes.
The book has three parts. The first describes the author’s background and history, his training, his experience in France and the path from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to the White House.
The White House section explains the inner workings of the Hospitality Department, from day-to-day meals of the first family to the formal state banquets, including what the staff did and how they did it.
The final section presents the recipes Moeller developed and used at the White House — “adjusted to suit the home cook, who may not have some of the skills of the professional chef or the resources of a professional kitchen,” the introduction reassures.
416 pages, photos and 100+ recipes; $30.31 hardcover, $9.99 Kindle
For Gardeners …
The Whole Seed Catalogue
From Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
If Puritanical prejudices against earthly beauty afflict you, you’ll be tempted to call the bible of America’s local food movement sinfully beautiful. Sizzling hot peppers, sultry tomatoes, fecund squash and priapic cucumbers lure you to feast your senses. Color saturates your eyes, shape demands your caress, taste beckons with moist, delicious promise. The fruit of the Earth is irresistible.
It is also pure, if you order your seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. The 15-year-old brainchild of Jere Gettle — the Jeffrey Bezos of the family tree of food — preaches and provides food that takes its value from the earth and the human hands that tended it over generations. There are no Genetically Modified Organisms in the 1,500 varieties of heirloom vegetables, flowers and herbs in this catalogue. But there is a world of promise. Browse, buy and eat well in 2014.
The smaller 212-page catalogue is free to gardeners. Splurge on this big one for recipes, philosophy, opportunity — who knew so much was going on in Mansfield, Missouri? — and optimistic winter reading.
www.rareseeds.com; 354 pages; $7.95 by email or phone (417-924-8917)
–Sandra Olivetti Martin
For Golden Oldie Fans …
The Memories: A Doo-Wop Journey
by Lou Martin
The Memories: A Doo-Wop Journey follows four teenage guys from southeast Washington, D.C., on their life-long and life-changing journey into pop music. Starting as USO performers, The Memories were picked up by a national record label and performed all over the states in their 55-year performing career.
World War II babies, especially locals, will love this quick and easy read down memory lane. I know because my mother — from the same D.C. neighborhood — grabbed the self-published book out of my hands and got on the phone with her sisters to share the story. She was too late. Her Florida sister already had a copy.
Catchy chapter titles like the Girl at the Urinal and the Toad Runs Over Ronnie pull you into the story and give you a glimpse into the life on the road with The Memories.
Author and singer Lou Martin moved to Chesapeake Country, and with him The Memories remain alive.
204 pages; from $14 paper.
For Historians …
In Full Glory Reflected: Discovering the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake
by Ralph Eshelman and Burton Kummerow
Chesapeake Legends and Lore from the War of 1812
by Ralph Eshelman and Scott Sheads
When President James Madison declared war on England in 1812, it could well have spelled the end for nascent nation. For nearly three years, the British pounded and plundered their way up and down Chesapeake Bay before basically tiring of the whole affair and its expense in life and treasure. Today the War of 1812 is most remembered for the British burning of Washington, D.C., and Francis Scott Key’s penning of the Star Spangled Banner. But in between that nadir and apex you’ll find fascinating history.
In Full Glory Reflected: Discovering the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake, Ralph Eshelman and Burton K. Kummerow break the nearly three-year conflict into manageable chronological pieces. With its many illustrations — both contemporary and current — the book is as much a coffee table addition as a history lesson. The book’s second part is a guide to historic sites and attractions, broken down by geography.
In Chesapeake Legends and Lore from the War of 1812, Eshelman pairs with author Scott S. Sheads to hold to the light some of tall tales that have sprung up over 200 years. For instance, legend has it that the townsfolk of St. Michaels placed lanterns high in the treetops to fool the British into firing past the town. While St. Michaels did twice repel British attacks, this one’s a myth for several reasons.
In Full Glory Reflected: 252 pages; Published by the Maryland Historical Society Press, 2013
Chesapeake Legends and Lore, 204 pages; Published by The History Press, 2013; $19.99
–J. Alex Knoll
For Little Kids …
Why Are There Monsters in My Room?
by Zaid Mohammad
Monsters in the closet! Monsters under the bed! Monsters in the shadows! When darkness falls, monsters everywhere! What do those monsters want and why are they there?
Zaid Mohammad answers these questions in a book that introduces the Goofy Grin Monsters, four colorful creatures that want to be friends and have fun.
Designed for kindergarteners and first-graders, Why Are There Monsters in My Room? presents the characters and tells a back story for each.
Mohammad’s monsters are nothing to be afraid of. There’s Sloan, the mayor of Goofy Grin Village and the ringleader, who came from a volcano and wears a motorcycle jacket. He likes mischief and excitement.
Bo Joe popped out of a leafy orb that floated from of a tall tree. He’s the farmer and environmentalist of the group.
Irmi, the mad scientist, appeared from a misty swamp.
And who could be afraid of Candy, with her cupcake nose and candy corn fingertips? She was born in a sugar cane field and loves to bake goodies.
The book has the repetition that children love and is interactive so that they can participate in the story and make up adventures for the characters.
Why Are There Monsters in My Room? is sure to ease a child’s fear of the dark and turn a scary nighttime bedroom into a place where the Goofy Grin Gang just wants to play.
www.goofygrinmonsters.com; 32 pages hardcover; $12; $32 w/one stuffed monster; free shipping
For Mystery Fans …
by Peter Abresch
Peter Abresch’s 11th book, Spyglass House, is a colorful fast-paced mystery in exotic settings.
Before literature, Abresch’s was a geodesist for the Naval Oceanographic Office, then a computer systems programmer before retiring from the National Weather Service.
“During those kaleidoscopic years abroad, I was reading and reading,” he said, describing a writer’s essential education. Publication began in 1995, after retirement to Calvert County.
At 82, Abresch is at work on a new book. His other novels are Recycling Jesus; Me and Snack McGhee (set in Calvert County); Capitol Coven; The Faltese Malcom; If They Ask for a Hand, Only Give Them a Finger; Hi Diddle Diddle; and the five Jim Dandy ELDERHOSTEL Mysteries.
www.sidewalkbs.com: $11.22; $3 Kindle.
For Naturalists …
A Year Across Maryland: A Week-by-Week Guide to Discovering Nature in the Chesapeake Region
by Bryan Mackay
In this beautifully designed almanac, Baltimore biologist and naturalist Bryan MacKay lures readers outdoors by highlighting natural wonders to be found in Maryland. Wintery January? Learn where to find purple speckled cranefly orchis leaves, nesting bald eagles and reindeer moss. In April, track down the early blooms of wildflowers like bloodroot and spring beauty. Discover in May what a worm jubilee is and where to see it.
Like having a naturalist in your back pocket, A Year Across Maryland tells the inside story. Did you know that the Asiatic daylily made Walt Disney famous? Or that English ivy, the bane of native landscapers, actually benefits robins in wintertime? Each month features four Trips of the Week, detailing a new place to go, what to see, how to get there and website information. Chapters end on a personal note as MacKay takes you along on his adventures, like this one in October: “At dawn, a mist hangs over the river, dampening all sound, enveloping the shorelines in mystery … A loud splash disturbs my reverie. Over against the cliff, a bear is swimming …”
This is the perfect gift for any nature-lover who needs a little nudge to start exploring.
www.press.jhu.edu; 312 pages; $24.95 paper; $11.99 Kindle
–Dotty Holcomb Doherty
For Novel Lovers …
Ride a Bright and Shining Pony
by Elisabeth Stevens
How this novel brings back the ambience of our nation’s capitol and Southern Maryland in the 1960s!
Elisabeth Stevens understands both the era and the journalistic fraternity. She wrote for the Baltimore Sun, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post and covered the march for jobs and freedom. Her depictions of the tumult, triumph, camaraderie and tinderbox tenseness are on target. Officially desegregated by then, Washington remained de facto Southern and much of Maryland a Southern state.
African-American is today’s term. But with a good ear for the vernacular, Stevens uses that era’s terminology, reminding us how despite fine intentions, racial slurs could unwittingly spring from the mouths of quasi-liberals. Only a few actually resided in the mixed neighborhoods.
Protagonist Lester is one of the few. A white Southern liberal journalist who dares to live in the Inner City, he earns the respect of his neighbors and colleagues at his newspaper. Yet even he slips into embarrassing speech-habits.
The era’s sexism also shows, in both men and women. Would-be fiancée Cynthia buses in for a fortnight of passion and cozy domesticity. She tags along to cover the March but has not thought to participate.
As well as a much-published fiction writer and poet, Stevens is also an artist. Her writing is enhanced by rich vocabulary and fine craftsmanship.
www.gosspress.com; $11.25 paper; $9.99 Kindle.
For Romance Readers …
South of Surrender
by Laura Kaye
Not normally a romance novel fan, I was lured into reading this one because it promised gods, a blind woman and horses. I own horses and have an equestrian friend who is nearly blind, so it was irresistible. Plus, it was written by a local woman, Laura Kaye, billed as a New York Times bestselling author.
What I discovered was an erotic page-turner, full of emotion and fantasy.
South of Surrender, the third book in the Hearts of the Anemoi series, follows the Supreme God of the South Wind, Chrysander Notos and Laney Summerlyn, a blind, mortal woman.
Kaye is inspired by tales of angels and ghosts, memories of childhood family gatherings. Fascinated by the paranormal, she writes stories about interactions between mystical creatures and humans.
Kaye grew up in Maryland — from Baltimore to Hagerstown — and likes to set her stories in familiar surroundings. Much of the action in South of Surrender occurs on the Eastern Shore. The first book in this series, North of Need, takes place in western Maryland, near Wisp ski resort. West of Want, the second book, is set in Eastport.
Kaye lives in Annapolis, where she teaches history at the U.S. Naval Academy.
Were it not for my interest in horses, I never would have been introduced to Kaye’s work. That would have been a shame.
Besides the Hearts of the Anemoi series, Kaye has written several other novels. Hard As It Gets, set in Baltimore, was released last week, and has already climbed to the best-seller list.
LauraKayeAuthor.com: 309 pages; $14.99 paper, Kindle 4.99, Nook 5.49
For Star Gazers …
Name Droppings: Close Encounters with the Famous and Near-Famous
by Charles Ota Heller
Annapolitan Charles Ota Heller’s new book is about his brushes with celebrities and other notable people. Unlike Prague: My Long Journey Home, his memoir of growing up a hidden child in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, Name Droppings is light-hearted and lively.
Fourteen vignettes make for easy reading as Heller tells about growing up with a neighborhood youngster who wants to become a musician. Prompted by the kid’s father, Heller advises giving up on musical dreams. Against that advice, Jay Giles becomes a bona fide rock star.
On a flight, Heller sits next to a short woman with a German accent. Unrecognized by her seatmate, she’s a famous sex therapist.
Heller invites a long-haired guy at a bar to join him and his friends every Thursday. Later he recognizes the man on television as the character Rowdy Yates on the western Rawhide. The young actor is Clint Eastwood, who becomes a well-known film star and director.
There’s a baseball Hall of Famer, a basketball coach who surprises the NCAA championships with an obscure team that nearly wins it all, a rocket scientist whom Heller insults (on purpose) and others.
Heller’s not finished his name dropping: former Secretary General of the U.N. Kofi Annan read his book and asked him to speak at the University of Ghana, where Annan is chancellor.
www.charlesotaheller.com; 128 pages; $11.99 paper, $2.99 ebook
For Teen Readers …