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DDG's Holiday Twenty Showcase

Sometimes a powerful book throws us so that in turning to the next book on our nightstand we taste nothing but ashes in our mouth. To head off into a different world is suddenly unpalatable. We are cast off course. This sort of thing is rare for me, and I treasure it when it happens.The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, the debut novel by Cherise Wolas, caused such a breakdown.

The scope of Ashby, the breath of its engagement with the reader, the impressive realization of its ambitious literary character, all resonate so deeply that the pages of other books offered naught but hollow echoes. Not only had Wolas succeeded in creating a character presented as a literary icon, complete with accompanying primary text, but she powerfully engaged the reader through an exploration of personal identity. Ashby’s struggle to survive her broken adhesion to an uncompromising artistic identity, shattered by unwanted changes and betrayal which are ultimately absorbed without a loss of integrity, make for a rich and reflective reading experience indeed.


Nevermoor is cleft throughout by the sharpest and most charming of edges. Its deft world building, rich characters, and satisfying exploration of earned friendship and belonging, stand wide open to its lucky readers. A deeply satisfying delight from start to finish attentive audiences will note some familiar elements such as a snarky young heroine, a wise and quirky mentor,and admission to a secretive order by trial, but in Morrigan Crow and the Wunderous Society, they will find true originals.


As  the title indicates there were only 1001 Arabian Nights however we may say with great assurance that if Scheherazade herself were to choose a one thousand and second Arabian Night, S.A. Chakraborty's new City of Brass would be at the top of the list of worthy successors. This is in part due to its thoughtful, ingenious expansion on the nature of the power structure of beings, of Ifrits, Djinn, Marids, and Humans, and partly due to its richly evocative veins of adventure, romance, moral conflict, suspense and class tensions. Our heroine, Nahri, is a sublime character, and the dynamic, almost undulating, plot structure is so tightly knit that it both surprises  its readers at many turns, and leaves them with a twin burden of veiled foreshadowing and yearning for book two.


A declaration that The Apprentice Witch is an exceptionally satisfying and enjoyable story will surprise no one who has read it, but the qualities which make the book so unusual are hard to define. There is something in the air of its world that causes a reader to breath deeply and be immersed. Its characters feel known to us, its forests trodden by our feet. To find out more about this story of a young Apprentice Witch, sent to a small country outpost when she inexplicably fails her exam, I highly recommend sharing this book with someone on your holiday list.


The Moosewood Restaurant has a sustained history of Cookbook excellence that really sets it apart in the crowded field of vegetarian recipe books.  Getting personal here I have found not only that each new book has become a go to staple in our kitchen, but that I have learned techniques from their recipes which I applied more generally to many others. This year's collection is no exception. Sumptuous photographs and stellar recipes, all made with easily obtainable ingredients, with flexible alternatives, make this a gift as certain of success as the recipes it contains.


My favorite new Christmas book is Sherri Duskey Rinker's The 12 Sleighs of Christmas. When the traditional sleigh is badly damaged, the elves vie with each other to develop a more modern model. Jake Parker's illustrations are winning and the story  has just the right blend of inspired silliness and classic Christmas spirit. The perfect book to share on a happy holiday morning.


An exquisite photo book by two intrepid Central Maine photographers the Orcutt's capture both the magic and the majesty of the high peaks which surround our area. What really makes the book stand out is its variation of close ups and distance shots  in all seasons and weathers. Meant to inspire an appreciation of the natural beauty whose preservation we should never take for granted, Enduring Heights succeeds in capturing and presenting a special environment we are fortunate to share.


This origin story of the Rock Paper Scissor's game, by the author The Day the Crayons Quit, is an all time great read aloud. Young readers will be entertained and eager to hear the story again and again to be sure, but amidst all the clever fun and stellar illustrations lies an important lesson delivered subtly through the action of the characters. The real winner here is everyone, the book's readers young and old.


Can the the state of Maine handle being poked fun at?  Let's hope so because John Hodgman's Vacationland is hilarious. Hodgman fans will be thrilled with his new effort and Vacationland is sure to win new ones for the Daily Show alumnus.


A Coffee Table Book should be jaw dropping and engaging wherever you pick it up or place it down. A photographic chronicle of Joel Sartore's quest to document animal life on earth, The Photo Ark's combination of broad scope and particular intimacy  makes for a sensory treat that will be a source of wonder whenever its pages are opened.


Rabbit is a rare and wonderful book. As funny a memoir as you'll ever read it is equally powerful and moving. Williams, a comedian, provides an unflinching account of her life, with a unique perspective, that finds both humanity and humor in scenes that would be heart rending in lesser hands. Great books stretch and challenge the reader in unexpected ways and Rabbit is as rewarding a book as you'll ever read or give.


The 'last true hermit' is Christopher Knight, who until he was arrested after living in the central Maine Woods for 27 years, helping himself to food and supplies from seasonal cabins and a camp for disabled youth, was known as The North Pond Hermit.  This high profile local story is given national treatment in this book which has been a steady favorite at the bookstore, in part because it is of such enduring local interest, in part because Knight is a true outlier and his story is fascinating, and finally because this  book, based on the author's rare personal access to Knight, is extremely well told.


Let's keep our perspective now. Sure you'd love to have a meal at Freedom Maine's legendary Lost Kitchen restaurant, but the waiting list stretches for months. Here's what to do. For the price of a single entry and a glass of wine you can own, or gift, their beautiful new cookbook, The Lost Kitchen Recipes: and a Good Life Found in Freedom Maine. A beautifully designed book, The Lost Kitchen is as much a must have as a reservation at the restaurant is.


It's nice to see a true holidy classic come back in print after many years. This tale by the beloved creators of Bread and Jam for Francis reimagines the Tale of the Magi though a close knit Otter family scraping to get by, each member of the family finds a way to enter a Holiday Contest to save the season. The story conveys a richness and a warmth made all the stronger for avoiding sentimentality and capturing the real value of family and community.


We want things that do the job they are designed for, like a hammer good at driving nails, a boat that floats on the water, or a butter knife that spreads butter efficiently. A humor book that makes you laugh out loud is doing its job and this book of snarky, off color cross stitch is laugh out loud funny by any standard.


Beloved Maine naturalist and science writer Bernd Heinrich provides the text for this beautiful notebook. Heinrich's excellent primer on observation is accompanied by Nathaniel Wheelwright's marvelous illustrations. The five year design makes the notebook a gift that will be enjoyed and actively used for years to come.


Marie Lu’s new  techno thriller is a terrific read. Not only is the gaming element at its core very immersive, but the freedom from vs. freedom to tension in it is well-handled and gave the book some real depth. With its strong romance elements and compelling first-person narrator, Warcross is the whole package. Certainly it is a great choice for anyone on your list who is perhaps spending more time on digital devices than one might wish.


Nibbles the Book Monster is a book made for sharing. What starts out feeling like an ordinary book takes an unexpected turn when Nibbles eats his way inside a series of fairy tales, which are rendered as inserts within the book. Young readers are asked to help capture him which results in a surprise ending. This is a delightful story rich in visual elemetns and clever, engaging twsits and turns. A true store favorite.


If The Shadow were still making radio broadcasts he might have acknowledged that even he didn't have an answer for the evil which lurks in the hearts of The Killers of the Flower Moon. This powerful story stayed with me for many days after I put it down. Bolstered by Grann's thoroughgoing primary research and superb story telling this tale of a rash of murders which occurred among the Osage tribal members, whose oil rich land had made them the wealthiest U.S. citizens per capita of any group, is both a riveting who done it and a heart rending account of dark human impulses and inhumanity.


In the world of This Is Not The End, every citizen on her eighteenth birthday can apply to resurrect one, and only one, person. Resurrection not only restores a body to life but heals its physical defects in the process. With her best friend and her boyfriend dead in a car crash, her resurrection choice already spoken for within her broken family, and the days until her eighteenth birthday ticking away, Lake Devereaux is in a tight spot by any standard. This Is Not The End uses the abundant drama of Lake's predicament as a powerful fulcrum of self exploration and revelation. Readers' expectations are pleasantly frustrated, reinvented, and turned on their heads in this compelling, dynamic, and exciting novel. Thought provoking and emotionally satisfying, readers will turn the book's last page and wish ironically that This Is Not The End was not really over.


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