Summer ReadsJune, 2020
A good book allows you to travel without lifting a foot, a quality we value now more than ever.
New Hampshire authors have given, and still give, wings to armchair adventurers and are well worth a visit or re-visit. The Granite State has also served as inspiration to some of the world’s most famous and widely read authors.
Robert Frost, who lived in Derry and Franconia, certainly had a way with words. His collected poems make an amiable companion to pass the time of day.
Grace Metalious’ scandalous portrait of New Hampshire small town life still has some residents of Gilmanton Iron Works rattling their synthetic pearl necklaces.
Ernest Hebert, of Westmoreland, created his own New Hampshire world with the “Darby Chronicles,” a series of seven novels about generations of residents of the fictional town of Darby.
Exeter-born John Irving is the best-selling author of “Hotel New Hampshire,” “The World According to Garp,” “Cider House Rules” and “A Prayer for Owen Meany.”
The late Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet and New Hampshire Poet Laureate, Maxine Kumin, took inspiration from her Elysian Fields on a farm in Warner. Kumin won the Pulitzer for her collection of poems, “Up the Country,” which examined her life on the farm.
Dan Brown wrote his megahit “Da Vinci Code” in the pride of Exeter.
National Poet laureate Donald Hall wrote dozens of volumes of poems and spent much of his life at his beloved Eagle Pond Farm in the shadow of Mount Kearsarge in Wilmot.
Make a vicarious visit to The Balsams, Wentworth by the Sea, Mountain View Grands or the many other New Hampshire resorts that Mark Okrant has featured in his mysteries.
Bill Bryson, a travel writer known as much for his sense of humor as his sense of direction, was a resident of the Granite State for several years. Check out his “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail” or his reference book for wise guys and gals, “A Short History of Nearly Everything.”
Prolific poet and novelist May Sarton spent her summers in Nelson in the shadow of Mount Monadnock. Her books include “As Does New Hampshire,” “Journal of Solitude” and “The Bridge of Years,” to name just a few.
Robert Olmstead grew up on a farm in Westmoreland. His collection of short stories, “River Dogs,” has a Granite-State cachet and his “Coal Black Horse” western trilogy has won awards.
Joyce Maynard’s made-for-the-movie novels include “To Die For,” based on the Pamela Smart murder case, and “Labor Day,” which was made into the film of the same name.
Ogden Nash, a comic poet and author of the classic one liner, “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker,” and one of the shortest poems ever – “Fleas/ Adam /Had’em” – spent summers in North Hampton, where he is buried.
Nature writer Sy Montgomery memorialized a porker named Christopher Hogwood in “The Good Good Pig” and has written several other volumes, including “Spell of the Tiger” and “Search for the Golden Moon Bear.”
Howard Mansfield writes of history, preservation and architecture. His rumination on local historical hindsight, “In The Memory House,” is a classic.
e.e. cummings, a lifelong summer resident of Madison, is known for his lower case punctuation and his love poems collected in “Tulips and Chimneys” and “XLI Poems.”
Katherine Towler, of the port city, penned “The Penny Poet of Portsmouth: A Memoir of Place, Solitude, and Friendship” as well as “Snow Island,” “Evening Ferry” and “Island Light,” a trilogy of novels set on a fictional island off the coast.
Jodi Picoult, of Hanover, has written more than two dozen books inspired by headlines and contemporary mores; eight have been best sellers, including “My Sister’s Keeper” and “House Rules.”
Dublin-based Edie Clark’s essays on New Hampshire life have been assembled in several volumes including, “The View from Mary’s Farm.
One of New Hampshire’s most famous 20th century author is pretty much forgotten, but his name still rings a bell: Winston Churchill. “Coniston,” Churchill’s 1906 novel that took a jaundiced look at New Hampshire politics, made him such an international sensation that the English journalist-statesman of the same name made an agreement with him to add the middle initial S. to his byline so readers could tell them apart.
Classic literary legends, Thornton Wilder, Willa Cather and Mark Twain, also have New Hampshire connections.
Peterborough (aka Gover’s Corner) is “Our Town” in Wilder’s 1938 Pulitzer-Prize-winning masterpiece, which is still being performed around the world 82 years after it was written, in part, when Wilder was a fellow at the MacDowell Colony.
Cather, author of “Oh Pioneers” and “My Antonia,” was the bard of the prairie, but she wrote some of her novels in a tent on a hillside in Jaffrey, where she escaped the summer heat. She is buried in Jaffrey’s Old Burying Ground.
And while Vladimir Nabokov didn’t actually live in New Hampshire; his infamous protagonist, Humbert Humbert did, as did “Lolita,” the object of his obsession. They resided in the fictitious town of Ramsdale. Nabokov did spend most of his adult life in Massachusetts and was likely inspired by trips over the state line.
The protagonist in Stephen Vincent Benét’s 1936 short story, “The Devil and Daniel Webster” is a New Hampshire farmer who sells his soul to the devil and is defended by a fictional version of the Granite State’s most famous lawyer and orator in a trial for his eternal destiny.
Mark Twain spent two summers in Dublin. One of his lesser-known works, an 1872 short story called “Lionizing Murderers” is set in small-town New Hampshire where a man is convicted of a brutal murder. Half of the town wants to execute him and the other half want to free him. It’s Twain’s cynical commentary on the American phenomenon of lionizing criminals. He writes, “To be hanged in New Hampshire is happiness – it leaves an honored name behind a man and introduces him at once into the best New Hampshire society in the other world.”
Pulitizer-Prize-winning poet, Charles Simic, also calls New Hampshire home.