News | April 18, 2018

New England Society in the City of New York Announces Annual Book Awards Finalists

New York City-The New England Society in the City of New York (NES) is pleased to announce the finalists, or the “shortlist,” for the 2018 New England Society Book Awards, which honors books of merit that celebrate New England and its culture. The NES Book Awards are made in four categories—Fiction, Nonfiction, Art & Photography, and Specialty—and are presented annually to authors of books published in the previous 12 months. The winning authors will be selected from this shortlist and announced at the annual Founders’ Day celebration on May 15. Winners will be honored at an Evening Literary Salon on June 13 at the Down Town Association followed by the Awards Luncheon on June 14 at the Union League Club of New York. 

For more than 100 years, prominent writers such as Mark Twain, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louis Auchincloss, William F. Buckley, Jr., David McCullough, and Dominick Dunne have been honored by NES. The Book Awards carry on these literary connections and recognize books that honor New England culture to help expand the audience for these books. “We were particularly pleased to have a broad range of high-quality submissions this year,” said NES Book Awards Committee Chair, Ellen Scordato. “This made the selection process all the more competitive. The finalists were carefully chosen after considerable deliberation by a very dedicated jury of enthusiastic NES members from a variety of professional backgrounds.” 

“The 2018 finalists represent excellence in New England-themed writing across a range of subjects and celebrate the culture, history, and individualism that are central to the New England character. We are delighted to honor this diverse group of books and their authors and look forward to honoring the winners this June,” said NES President Anna Bulkot. The Literary Evening Salon on June 13 is open to the public, offering all NES members and literary enthusiasts a chance to mingle with winners and jury members who evaluated this year’s submissions, followed by a panel discussion and a book signing. 

Cartoon County: My Father and his Friends in the Golden Age of Make-Believe by Cullen Murphy
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
In the middle of the American Century, many of the nation’s top comic-strip cartoonists, gag cartoonists, and magazine illustrators lived together in the southwestern corner of Connecticut. John Cullen Murphy, the author’s father, was the creator of the wildly popular comic strips Prince Valiant and Big Ben Bolt, and was at the heart of this artistic milieu. Comic strips and gag cartoons such as Superman and Beetle Bailey were created by this tight-knit group of Post War pop-culture artists who became known as the Connecticut School. 

Wonderfully illustrated, Cartoon County brings the postwar American era alive, told through the relationship of a son to his father, an extraordinarily talented and generous man who had been trained by Norman Rockwell. Cartoon County gives us a glimpse into a very special community—and of an America that used to be. 

Cullen Murphy is the editor at large at Vanity Fair and the former managing editor of The Atlantic Monthly. He is the author of The Word According to Eve, Just Curious, and God’s Jury. He lives in Massachusetts with his family. 

East of the Mississippi: Nineteenth-Century American Landscape Photography by Diane Waggoner; With Russell Lord and Jennifer Raab (Yale University Press in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)
Although pictures of the West have dominated our perception of 19th-century American landscape photography, many photographers were working in the eastern half of the United States during that period. East of the Mississippi is the first book to focus exclusively on the arresting Eastern photographs that helped shape America’s national identity. Celebrating natural wonders and capturing a cultural landscape fundamentally altered by industrialization, these works also documented the impact of war, promoted tourism, and played a role in an emerging environmentalism. 

Showcasing more than 180 photographs from 1839 to 1900 in a rich variety of media and formats this volume traces the evolution of Eastern landscape photography and introduces the artists who explored this subject. Also considered are the dynamic ties with painters and photographers and the distinctive development of landscape photography in America. 

Diane Waggoner is curator of 19th-century photographs at the National Gallery of Art. Russell Lord is the Freeman Family Curator of Photographs at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Jennifer Raab is assistant professor of the history of art at Yale University. 

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
(William Morrow)
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Orphan Train, a stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina’s World. 

To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the twentieth century. 

Christina Baker Kline interweaves fact and fiction in a powerful novel that brings into focus the flesh-and- blood woman behind the portrait by vividly imagining the life of a woman with a complicated past and a special bond with one of our greatest modern artists. Told in evocative and lucid prose, A Piece of the World is a story about the burdens and blessings of family history, and how artist and muse can come together to forge a new and timeless legacy. 

Christina Baker Kline is the author of six novels, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Orphan Train as well as A Piece of the World. She lives outside New York City and spends as much time as possible on the coast of Maine. 

Eden: A Novel by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg (She Writes Press)
Becca Meister Fitzpatrick, wife, mother, grandmother, and pillar of the community, is the dutiful steward of her family's summer tradition, until she discovers her recently deceased husband squandered their nest egg. As she struggles to accept that this is likely her last season in Long Harbor, Becca summons the courage to reveal a secret: the existence of a daughter she gave up fifty years ago. 

Eden is the account of the days leading up to the Fourth of July weekend, as Becca prepares to disclose her secret and her son and brothers conspire to put the estate on the market, interwoven with the century-old history of Becca's family--her parents' beginnings and ascent into affluence, and her mother's own secret struggles in the grand home her father named "Eden."

Jeanne Blasberg, a voracious observer of human nature, graduated from Smith College and entered Harvard Business School. She later enrolled at Grub Street, a pre-eminent creative writing center, turning her attention to memoir and fiction. Eden is her debut novel. Jeanne and her husband split their time between Boston and Westerly, RI. 

The Outer Cape by Patrick Dacey (Henry Holt & Company)
Robert Kelly and his wife Irene were a golden couple of the late 70s. She an artist, he a businessman, each was possessed by a dynamism that seemed to promise them a place in a new and vibrant age. But Irene struggles to invest meaning into her role as wife and mother. And Robert, haunted by the failure he sees looming, risks the family name and business to pursue a risky real estate scheme. 

Twenty years later, their now-grown sons return to the Cape of their childhood, where Robert and Irene are facing mortality and consequences of Robert’s real estate gamble. In The Outer Cape, Dacey delivers a story of four people grappling with the ghost of infinite possibility, a book in which chasing the American dream and struggling to survive are one and the same. 

Patrick Dacey, MFA from Syracuse University, has taught English at several universities in the U.S. and Mexico, worked as a reporter, a landscaper, door-to-door salesman, and at a homeless shelter and detox center. His stories have appeared in The Paris Review, Zoetrope All-Story Guernica, Bomb magazine, and Salt Hill


Darkness Falls on the Land of Light: Experiencing Religious Awakenings in Eighteenth- Century New England by Douglas L. Winiarski (Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the University of North Carolina Press 

This sweeping history of popular religion in eighteenth-century New England examines the experiences of ordinary people living through extraordinary times. Drawing on an unprecedented quantity of letters, diaries, and testimonies, Douglas Winiarski recovers the pervasive and vigorous lay piety of the early eighteenth century. Otherwise sensible people became incited by the religious tours of George Whitefield. They became fascinated by visions, bodily fits, and sudden conversions that they attributed to miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. Countless New Englanders broke ranks with family, neighbors, and ministers who dismissed their experiences as foolish. These new converts, the progenitors of today's evangelical movement, bitterly assaulted the Congregational establishment. 

The 1740s and 1750s were the dark night of the New England soul, as men and women groped toward a restructured religious order. Then as now, evangelicalism emboldened ordinary people to question traditional authorities, and their challenge shattered whole communities. 

Douglas L. Winiarski is associate professor of religious studies at the University of Richmond and author of Darkness Falls on the Land of Light: Experiencing Religious Awakenings in Eighteenth-Century New England. He is a contributor to Native Americans, Christianity, and the Reshaping of the American Religious Landscape, also from UNC Press. 

The Martyr and the Traitor: Nathan Hale, Moses Dunbar, and the American Revolution by Virginia DeJohn Anderson (Oxford University Press) 

Two men from Connecticut slipped onto Long Island in September 1776. The future of the infant American republic, barely two months old, looked bleak. One of the men, Nathan Hale, was making sketches to bring back to the beleaguered American general, George Washington. The second visitor, Moses Dunbar, had come to Long Island to recruit more farmers to join the King's forces. Neither man completed his mission. Instead, each met his death at the end of a hangman's rope, one executed as a spy for the American cause and the other as a traitor to it. 

In this braided narrative, Virginia Anderson explores how men of the American Revolution have been remembered or forgotten in history. Hale, who uttered a line that has become famous ("I only regret, that I have but one life to lose for my country") was later memorialized as a martyr to the Revolutionary cause. 

Virginia DeJohn Anderson, Professor of History at the University of Colorado, Boulder, also authored New England's Generation: The Great Migration Formation of Society and Culture in the Seventeenth Century, Creatures of Empire: How Domestic Animals Transformed Early America, and American Journey: A History of the United States

Moon New England Road Trip by Jen Rose Smith
(Hachette Book Group)
Moon New England Road Trip presents the expert advice of the author, Jen Rose Smith, about the myriad activities, and local insight, so you can plan your trip your way with strategic, flexible itineraries that can be adapted for your schedule. The themes include: "Fall Foliage," "Acadia National Park," "White Mountain Peaks," "Small-Batch Breweries," "Revolutionary Roads," "Seafood Shacks," "Beach Time," and "Ski the East." You will enjoy full-color, vibrant photos and detailed regional and city maps with focused
coverage of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. 

The book features curated information for history buffs, foodies, culture mavens, outdoor adventurers, beach lovers, road trippers as well as honest advice on when to go, where to stay, and how to get around from the author and Vermont local. 

Jen Rose Smith is a freelance writer whose work on travel, food, and drink has appeared in Best of Burlington, Local Banquet of Vermont, Vermont Magazine, Traveler’s Tales: Best Women’s Travel Writing, Culinate, and Overnight Buses. She lives in Vermont’s Green Mountains with her husband.