Good Reads

The Valley is home to an impressive lode of writers, and books seem to sprout from the soil as often as asparagus and potatoes. You can check in at most any point and turn up a long list of recently published or forthcoming titles from our writerly horde.

In the spirit of the leisurely outdoor read that spring brings back into vogue, here are a few of the many Valley-centric volumes of recent vintage (and some forthcoming works) you can stack up on the patio and read with a cool beverage in hand. If you need to quiet a kid or two, you’ll find some titles for the younger set among them.

The American Sun and Wind Moving Picture Company

Jay Neugeboren


Though he’s currently a New Yorker, Neugeboren was, for many years, a professor who taught writing and literature at UMass-Amherst. He’s the author of 21 books. American Sun is a novel of six chapters, each echoing the short films of the silent film era, when the book takes place. It follows the adventures of a man whose New Jersey family makes silent films. He ends up leaving, dressed as a woman, on a cross-country voyage in which he encounters leading lights of the ’20s film world and finally arrives on the West Coast, where things come to an unpredictable conclusion with his uncle and the woman he loves.



Hysterical: Anna Freud’s Story

Rebecca Coffey


Southern Vermont writer Coffey is a humorist, novelist and a widely published science journalist. Fresh off the wildly funny Nietschze’s Angel Food Cake And Other “Recipes” for the Intellectually Famished , she’s just published this historical (and not primarily humorous) novel about Sigmund Freud’s daughter, who collaborated closely with her father. The novel imagines Anna’s life as a lesbian, in the shadow of a man who believed lesbianism was the father’s fault and that it led to mental illness.



Weird Life

David Toomey


Amherst writer David Toomey is an English professor at UMass and director of its Professional Writing and Technical Communication program. He’s written about things like hurricane-chasing airplanes and physicists in search of the mechanisms that might allow for real time travel (if, perhaps, of an impractical sort). With Weird Life, he explores the world of scientists looking for life nothing like the carbon-based sort we know, including possibilities like silicon-based life, life dependent on ammonia, and life forms lurking on other planets and even in deep space.


Many Seconds Into the Future

John J. Clayton


Clayton is another UMass prof, one who teaches modern literature and fiction writing. He’s written several novels but here displays a penchant for the short story, a form with which he’s been highly successful, winning O. Henry and Best American Stories honors and landing a story on NPR’s Selected Shorts series. Many Seconds includes 10 stories of family, focused primarily on Jewish characters wrestling with matters of life, love and religion.



How to Catch a Coyote Christy Crutchfield


Atlanta native Crutchfield, now a Valley resident and UMass MFA Program for Poets and Writers alum, sets her debut novel in North Carolina. It’s the tale of a family trying to understand an incident that fractured a family. What happened, and even if it happened, is explored through a likewise fractured structure. How to Catch a Coyote is slated for a June release.



Frost in the Low Areas

Karen Skolfield


Skolfield, also a graduate of the UMass-Amherst MFA program, made a sizeable splash with this debut poetry collection—it received the 2014 PEN New England Award in poetry, no small feat. Skolfield is a 2014 Massachusetts Cultural Council fellow in poetry and winner of the 2014 Split This Rock poetry prize. She teaches writing to engineers at UMass. Her poems often begin with observation, and just as often depart for surprising and intriguing places. In the title poem, the speaker’s significant other’s been told via a survey that he won’t live as long as her: “Just think, Dennis says. Ten years/ to yourself. No one stealing/ the sheets or the last of the ham.”



Night With Its Owl

Anne Love Woodhull


Art and play therapist Woodhull, an Amherst resident, has co-authored three kids’ books and a poetry chapbook. Her first full-length poetry collection arrives courtesy of Levellers Press and Hedgerow Books, imprints begun by worker-owned Collective Copies. Her poems are well-spun, close observations of places and moments, rooted in apparent autobiography.




My New Friend Is So Fun!

Mo Willems


Valley kids’ celebrity Willems, creator of famous pigeons and knuffle bunnies, hits shelves this week with his latest work. It’s a tale of friendship with Elephant, Piggie, Snake and Brian Bat.




S is for Sea Glass

Richard Michelson


Northampton gallery owner, poet and prolific kids’ book author Michelson offers up his “beach alphabet,” a sandy work full of rhyming verse.





Star Wars: The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight

Tony DiTerlizzi, illustrated by Ralph McQuarrie


Tony DiTerlizzi’s is in part known for his illustration prowess and his teaming up with local author Holly Black for the best-selling Spiderwick Chronicles, but his forthcoming work features him as writer and Ralph McQuarrie doing the illustrating. It’s an expansion of the Star Wars tale, this time focusing on the young Luke Skywalker.

Author: James Heflin

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