On December 16, 2020

Vermont books make great gifts

By Brooke Geery

Struggling to find the perfect gift for that hard-to-please friend or family member? May we suggest the gift of reading? We have teamed up with Phoenix Books in Rutland to compile a list of books either about Vermont, or written here, to help give you some ideas.

“Prisoner of Hope” by Yvonne Daley

The morning after the 2016 election, after a nearly 20-year hiatus from writing poetry, the award-winning journalist Yvonne Daley awoke to a poem already forming in her brain. In the intervening years, poetry has been her outlet and her solace as she has expressed her sorrow and disillusionment while seeking comfort in the power of love, nature and hope. Daley lives in Rutland with her husband, the writer Chuck Clarino, and two Maltese dogs.

“The Mountains Wild” by Sarah Stewart Taylor

A lyrical, deeply drawn portrait of a woman – and a country – over two decades, “The Mountains Wild” introduces a compelling new mystery series from a mesmerizing author. Taylor has worked as a journalist and writing teacher and now lives with her family on a farm in Vermont where they raise sheep and grow blueberries.

“Orphan’s Guilt” by Archer Mayor

In Mayor’s intriguing new Vermont-based mystery, “The Orphan’s Guilt,”  a straightforward traffic stop snowballs into a homicide investigation after Joe Gunther and his fellow investigators peel back layer upon layer of history and personal heartbreak to learn a decades-old hidden truth. Mayor is a Yale graduate and lives in Newfane.

“Distilled in Vermont” by Chris Maggiolo

Vermont is known as a center of contemporary craft food and beverage production, and the distilled spirits industry is no exception. From a handful of ambitious entrepreneurs a decade ago, the state now boasts more than fifteen distilleries and growing. But getting a product from concept to glass involves more than just trial and error. The ingredients, production processes and marketing techniques are as varied as the distilleries themselves. From SILO Distillery in Windsor to Stonecutter Spirits in Middlebury, each producer reveals its stories as it recounts the trials and tribulations of distilling in the Green Mountain State. Join author and distiller Chris Maggiolo as he reveals the unique and complex journey of taking a product idea to market in a state known for its innovation.

“Universe of Two” by Stepehen Keirnan

From the critically acclaimed author of “The Baker’s Secret” and “The Curiosity” comes a novel of conscience, love, and redemption—a fascinating fictionalized account of the life of Charlie Fisk, a gifted mathematician who was drafted into Manhattan Project and ordered against his morals to build the detonator for the atomic bomb. With his musician wife, he spends his postwar life seeking redemption—and they find it together. Kiernan is a graduate of Middlebury College, who now lives in Vermont with his two sons.

“Red Lotus”  by Chris Bohjalian

Set amidst the adrenaline-fueled world of the emergency room, “The Red Lotus” is a global thriller about those who dedicate their lives to saving people, and those who peddle death to the highest bidder. Bohjalian lives in Vermont.

“Manchester Christmas”  by John Gray

A young writer is drawn to a small New England town in search of meaning for her life. Soon, she encounters kindness, romance, and is pulled into a mystery centered on an old, abandoned church and the death of a special girl. Are the images that only she can see in the church’s stained-glass windows a warning, or is someone trying to reach her, to help heal this broken community? Gray is an Emmy Award-winning television journalist and columnist in upstate New York.

“Vermont Firsts and Other Claims to Fame” by Richard B. Smith

Vermont may be small in population, but it looms large with innovation. The state constitution was the first in America to require the manumission of adult slaves and establish a system for publicly funded education. Ethan Allen scored the first victory of the Revolutionary War by capturing Fort Ticonderoga. 11-year-old Willie Johnston was America’s youngest Medal of Honor winner, and Grace Coolidge became the only first lady to keep a pet raccoon while in the White House. In the 1930s, rebellious Vermonters were the first to vote down a major New Deal construction project, the Green Mountain Parkway. Join local historian Dick Smith as he reveals this state’s pioneering nature.

“The Vatican Conspiracy” by Peter Hogenkamp

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned…” Marco Venetti has heard the words thousands of times before. But this is a cry for help, not absolution—and soon Marco finds himself racing against time to foil a conspiracy aimed at the heart of the Vatican… It is an ordinary day in Marco Venetti’s quiet coastal parish—but the woman who’s come to confess is not ordinary. Marco has always been drawn to beautiful Elena, and she brings news that will shatter his peace. Author Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author of medical fiction and thrillers living in Rutland.

For the kids


“Crow & Snow” by  Robert Broder

This heartfelt and beautifully illustrated picture book follows the special friendship between a scarecrow and a snowman throughout the seasons. Broder is a picture book publisher and writer. He is also an amateur snowman builder. He lives in Vermont with his wife, daughter, dog, and two cats.

“The Christmas Barn” by John & Jennifer Churchman

When the old pine tree cracks and falls after an autumn storm, Farmer John knows just what to do. He will give the farm animals a very special present for Christmas. He draws up a plan, and piece by piece, a structure is built, while the farm animals—sheep, dogs, chickens, geese, ducks, and some alpacas—look on in wonder at what it will be! Authors John and Jennifer live in Essex.

“Once Upon a Winter Day” by Liza Woodruff

Milo wants a story, but his mom is too busy to entertain him. Instead, she encourages him to go out and play in the snow. At first, Milo is disappointed— he doesn’t want to play outside, he wants a story. But when he starts to follow a trail of mouse-prints, he discovers signs of activity all around, prompting him to ask, “What happened here?” Before long, he’s using his imagination — depicted in lush wordless spreads that capture the vividness of Milo’s fantasies— to fill in the gaps. By the time Milo comes home, he’s the one with stories to tell. Author Woodruff has illustrated numerous children’s books, including “A Quieter Story,“ which she also wrote. She works at the Flying Pig Bookstore and lives with her family in Vermont.

“Over & Under the Rainforest” by Kate Messner

Award-winning duo Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal take readers on a thrilling tour of one of the most diverse ecosystems on Planet Earth: the rainforests of Central America. Author Messner lives on Lake Champlain with her family and is trying to summit all 46 Adirondack High Peaks in between book deadlines.

Middle Grade

“Brave Like That” by Lindsey Stoddard

Cyrus Olson’s dad is a hero—Northfield’s former football star and now one of their finest firefighters. Everyone expects Cyrus to follow in his dad’s record-breaking footsteps, and he wishes they were right—except he’s never been brave like that. But this year, with the help of a stray dog, a few new friends, a little bit of rhythm, and a lot of nerve, he may just discover that actually…he is. Author Stoddard recently moved back to Vermont with her husband and two children.

Young Adult

“The Shadow Wand” by Laurie Forest

Elloren Gardner hides the most powerful secret in all Erthia – she is the Black Witch of Prophecy, and destined to triumph…or be used as the ultimate weapon of destruction. Separated from everyone she loves, isolated and hunted, Elloren must turn to the last person she can trust – her fastmate, Commander Lukas Grey. With the Mage forces of Gardneria poised to conquer all of Erthia, Elloren has no choice but to ally with Lukas and combine their power to keep herself out of the hands of Gardnerian leader Marcus Vogel…the holder of the all-consuming Shadow Wand. This is the third book by Fores, who lives deep in the backwoods of Vermont where she sits in front of a wood stove drinking strong tea and dreaming up tales full of dryads, dragons and wands.

“The Glare” by Margot Harrison

After ten years of living on an isolated, tech-free ranch with her mother, 16-year-old Hedda is going back to the world of the Glare —her word for cell phones, computers, and tablets. Hedda was taught to be afraid of technology, afraid that it would get inside her mind and hurt her. But now she’s going to stay with her dad in California, where she was born, and she’s finally ready to be normal. She’s not going to go “off-kilter,” like her mom says she did when she was just a little kid. Author Harrison is the associate editor at Seven Days, where she coordinates literary and film coverage.


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