Emphasis on local: Books by local authors
You've noticed whenever we post about an author, we include a link to purchase the writer's newest book at The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza. It's a small gesture to say thanks for the bookstore's partnership over the years.
During the days of in-person events, you'd see folks from The Book House sitting behind a table selling books. Their longstanding support for those events -- upwards of 30 or more each year, plus the Albany Book Festival extravaganza -- came at a cost: The Book House had to pay their staffer, and the staffer had to lug boxes of books to venues across the Capital Region.
In these pandemic times, local, independent bookstores are facing challenging times. Foot traffic in their shops has decreased while online traffic to Amazon has increased. It's a worrisome trend for anyone who supports their community's bricks and mortar establishments. An op/ed published in the Chicago Tribune yesterday made the point beautifully:
Remember, before the pandemic, what it was like to browse a bookstore? There’s no hurry, no rush. It’s a pleasurable wandering, allowing room for the unexpected and intuitive. Book browsing is also communing with a space — unlike on Amazon, where you scroll. Your whole body and mind are engaged in browsing: You drift around the stacks, drawn on by the rhythmic spines; looking, circling, bending and reaching; picking up books, this one larger or smaller in the hand, that one unexpectedly heavy; noticing the colorful designs; creamy or stiff paper; the smell of ink; you encounter other human beings in that space, doing the same thing, a browsing collective of curious minds.
You never know what you may find, what mind from the past or present you may meet, or what person you may encounter just on the other side of the bookcase; and isn’t finding the unlooked-for one of life’s pleasures?
-- "Why bricks-and-mortar independent bookstores matter," Adam Stern, Chicago Tribune, Feb. 10, 2021
With that in mind, here's a post that combines our three loves: local journalism by Jack Rightmyer featuring recent books by local authors, most of which are available from local bookstores. Enjoy, and shop local when you can.
Special thanks to the Times Union for permission to reprint Jack's story.
"Hamilton, parenthood and other recent subjects of local authors"
By Jack Rightmyer
Originally published in the Times Union
A cold winter night, with the wind blowing outside against the windows, is one of my favorite times to read. It can grow especially enjoyable when the book is riveting. Below are a few suggestions of books, available at area bookstores, by some authors with local ties.
The Lean-To: A History from Ancient Times to the 21st Century by Robert E. Williams (North Country Books)
The author, who currently lives in Schroon Lake, fell in love with camping in Adirondack lean-tos with his dad in the late 1940s. Since his retirement from the state Education Department, he has researched the lean-to from the times of ancient people and has focused especially on the Adirondack version. This 436-page book with numerous photos and illustrations has something of interest for everyone from the casual hiker to the accomplished outdoors person. It is a first-ever comprehensive study on such a valuable abode.
An Unconditional Childhood: Growing Up in the Catskill Mountains During the 1950s and 1960s by Marilyn Mayes Kaltenborn (Troy Book Makers)
It was such a joy to read this heartwarming memoir of the author and her lively family as they grew up in the little Catskill mountain town of Fleischmanns. Kaltenborn, who lives in Delmar, has done an excellent job of capturing the sights and sounds of small town life during the '50s and '60s. She and her brothers had some exciting adventures during a time when kids were left alone to create their own experiences. What comes out clearly in this book is the love they all had and still have for each other. The book also has numerous photos of the family, and even some tasty family recipes handed down through the generations.
Letters From Daddy: Dear Liam & Noah by Sean Martin (self-published)
The author, who is a freelance writer with the Times Union, has written a touching book of letters and advice to his twin sons Liam and Noah, who were born when the author was in his forties. The 21 chapters cover many topics: Athletics, Academics, Big Dreams and Communication. What I enjoyed the most was when Martin honestly wrote about himself and the mistakes he made as a young man, and the loneliness he felt for 15 years before meeting and marrying his wife. How fortunate these two boys are to be loved so much by their parents. Any parent will enjoy and identify with this book.
Hamilton’s Choice by Jack Casey (Diamonds Big as Radishes)
So why did Alexander Hamilton accept Aaron Burr’s challenge to a duel in 1804? Most people believe it was to preserve his honor, but Troy author Jack Casey, after doing much laborious research, has come up with an exciting novel to show that politics was a big part of Hamilton’s decision. This is an exciting read from beginning to end. Casey has done an expert job bringing to life the early days of our republic. The book is a page-turner, and it gave me a deeper understanding of both Hamilton and Burr. If you like historical fiction this is your book.
Falling Out of the Boat by Maureen McCauley (Book Baby)
McCauley has written an inspiring, humorous and insightful memoir about her transformation from an athletic teenager who was told by her mother not to run (though she did it anyway), to her adult self today comfortable with being in motion as she has tried ballet, rowing and finally sculling. The pleasure of this book is observing the author as she becomes her authentic self. The book is filled with the pure joy of being fully alive.
Logue Jam by Paul Kindlon (Hekate Publishing) Paul Kindlon has had quite a life. Born in Albany and a graduate of the University at Albany, his life has taken him to Chicago where he struggled as an actor and where he eventually attained a Ph.D. in Russian literature. From there, Kindlon took a job as a broadcast journalist in Russia and eventually taught for 23 years at an American college in Moscow. This collection of poems, vignettes and even plays captures some of his biography and much of his creativity.
Little Black Train by Jordan Smith (Three Mile Harbor Press)
This seventh collection of poetry from Smith, a professor of English at Union College, touches themes in literature, historical figures, places he has travelled and autobiography. These are reflective poems that will cause you to stop and slow down in this ever-noisy and busy world.
The Age of Worry by Steven B. Sandler (self-published)
This is a first book of fiction from Sandler, an Albany psychiatrist who has written two nonfiction books. It is a powerful story about a father, Daniel Wunsch, who is worried about his teenage daughter Cordelia who seems to be showing signs of alcoholism. It brings back difficult memories of Daniel’s mother who left his family because of her own drinking when he was 17 years old. Cordelia tires of hearing such gloomy predictions of what will happen to her, and Daniel also begins receiving anonymous tips about where his mother is now. This story and the believable characters will stay with you long after you have finished reading the book.
Jack Rightmyer is an adjunct English teacher at Siena College and a freelance writer.