Booklist: Read Where You Live

By   |   Back Porch

Hundreds of writers live in the fertile stretch of the Hudson Valley between William Kennedy’s Albany and Washington Irving’s Sleepy Hollow, so it’s no surprise that this magical landscape provides the setting for many memorable books. Here’s a tasting sampler of literary locations along both banks of the Hudson.

GREENE COUNTY

Kaaterskill Falls Allegra Goodman (Palenville) — Goodman’s striking debut novel follows three Orthodox Jewish families in the development-imperiled enclave of Kaaterskill Falls.

Hard-Headed Weather Cornelius Eady (Cairo) — A cycle of poems explores the joys and trials of rural homeownership by an interracial couple more attuned to city life. Where’s the super?

COLUMBIA COUNTY

Dragonwyck Anya Seton (Hudson) — Set in the 1840s, this page-turner historical romance brings together an innocent farm girl and a Dutch aristocrat with a very dark side.

ULSTER COUNTY

Night Work Steve Hamilton (Kingston) — Edgar Award-winner Hamilton probes the underbelly of urban Kingston with this suspense novel of a probation officer haunted by his fiancée’s murder.

CATSKILLS

My Side of the Mountain Jean Craighead George (Margaretville area) — The classic tale of runaway teen Sam Gribley, who learns how to live off the grid on his ancestors’ Catskillsland, with a falcon for company.

SULLIVAN COUNTY

Taking Woodstock Elliot Tiber (Bethel) — Recently filmed by Ang Lee, this nostalgic memoir unfolds not in Woodstock, but in Bethel, where the famous concert took place…thanks to Tiber’s family motel.

DUTCHESS COUNTY

A Ship Made of Paper Scott Spencer (Rhinebeck) — Spencer has set many novels in the fictional town of “Leyden,” whose colonial inn, cigar store Indian, and fading river estates are a dead ringer for Rhinebeck’s.

ORANGE COUNTY

Shades of Gray Timothy R. O’Neill (West Point) — Not 50, just one—the gray of a West Point cadet uniform, in this high-tech ghost story set in the dorms of the riverfront military school.

ROCKLAND COUNTY

Foreskin’s Lament Shalom Auslander (Monsey) — A ferociously funny memoir of the author’s “veal calf” childhood in ultra-Orthodox Monsey and love-hate relationship with his new home in unkosher Woodstock.

WESTCHESTER

The Plagiarist Benjamin Cheever (Pleasantville) — John Cheever may have been “the Chekhov of the suburbs,” but his son’s comic novel of Westchester life is as sharp as a barbecue skewer.

PUTNAM COUNTY

World’s End TC Boyle (Peekskill) — Peekskill native Boyle’s larger-than-life masterpiece zigzags from the hippie scion of an old local family to his appetitive Dutch colonial ancestors.

HUDSON RIVER

Sailor Twain Mark Siegel — Rendered in atmospheric charcoal grays, this graphic novel spins the haunting tale of a Hudson River captain who rescues a mermaid.

Terrors of Pleasure Spalding Gray (Phoenicia, Krumville) — The late, great monologuist unspools the ultimate saga of house-hunting hell, neurotic New Yorker division. Read it and weep with laughter.

A Place in the Country Laura Shaine Cunningham (Stone Ridge) — This delightful memoir follows the author from the Babylonian Bronx of her childhood to a quirky Victorian inn on the grounds of a historic mansion.

Communion Whitley Streiber (Alligerville) — The Hudson Valley is known as a magnet for UFOs, and Streiber’s bestselling abduction yarn is a chiller. Don’t read it alone in an old farmhouse!

Imaginary Girls Nova Ren Suma (Shokan) — A mesmerizingly creepy young-adult novel about two sisters who sneak a fateful night swim in an Ashokan Reservoir full of dark secrets.

Fathermucker Greg Olear (New Paltz) — A hilarious day in the life of a stressed-out stay-at-home dad navigating New Paltz’s funky playgrounds and u-pick farms during his wife’s business trip.

Blythewood Carol Goodman (Annandale) — Named for a magnificent garden on the grounds of Bard College, Goodman’s magical boarding school provides local color in spades.

Double Feature Owen King (Poughkeepsie) — It’s called “Russell College” in this comic novel of a student film gone epically wrong, but King’s verdant campus has Vassar College genes.

Where Have All the Flowers Gone Pete Seeger (Beacon) — The Hudson Valley would be a poorer (and more polluted) place without its banjo-playing patriarch. Seeger’s memoir is a sing-along treasure.

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