A ‘local’ book makes a great gift: History, sports, romance and more

If you’re struggling with finding a Christmas gift for the one who has everything, consider a book with a central Pennsylvania theme or one written by a local author. Dozens of options are available in different genres, from history to sports to romance.

Even for recipients who aren’t big readers, a lot of books are full of pictures and can be left on the coffee table to be perused leisurely.

For example, “Images of Modern America: Gettysburg National Military Park” was released this summer and is full of pictures with descriptions on how the park has evolved in its 150 years. It came a year after its writer Jared Frederick, an Altoona native and history professor at Penn State Altoona, had his “Images of Modern America: Altoona” published, another plum for local history lovers.

“Altoona’s Historic Mishler Theatre” by Michael Farrow also was released this fall and has 174 glossy pages bearing more than 300 illustrations of original art work, rarely seen photos, advertisements and recent images of the restored, gilded interior. Farrow’s book is available only at select locations, including the Baker Mansion History Museum Shop at 3419 Oak Lane in Altoona.

Frederick’s books also are available at the museum shop, but like most other locally authored books, they also are available at online stores, such as Amazon.com, as well as the Barnes and Noble store at Logan Town Centre.

The Altoona bookstore has two book cases devoted to local authors and Pennsylvania issues.

Lindsay Detwiler, an English teacher at Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School, is displayed prominently. She has been quite prolific, having had three paperbacks published in 2016 alone: “Then Comes Love,” “Where Love Went” and “To Say Goodbye.” They are stocked in the local store, along with Detwiler’s two novels from 2015. The romance author is scheduled for a book signing at Bradley’s Book Outlet in the Logan Valley Mall on Dec. 20, according to her website.

Webster’s Books & Cafe in State College also has an “amazing selection” of books from and on central Pennsylvania, said award-winning writer and Penn State Altoona professor Steven Sherrill, who had his sixth book published this year.

Sherrill’s “The Minotaur Takes His Own Sweet Time” was released this summer, 16 years after he introduced his ancient Minotaur in his first novel, “The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break.” The followup earned hefty praise from the New York Times.

“Sherrill writes with knowing affection of folk knowledge, home repairs and the roadside attractions that Tom Robbins popularized,” according to an October review. “He enjoys mixing the mundane with the ghoulish, echoing certain cave-depths of John Gardner’s heroic ‘Grendel.'”

Cambria County native Jennifer Haigh, also a New York Times bestselling author, revisits her fictional Pennsylvania hometown in her latest novel, “Heat and Light,” published earlier this year.

It is set in a town based on the one Haigh grew up in, the coal-mining borough once known as Barnesboro that is smarting from a demise in the industry that built it. The publisher describes it as an “ambitious, achingly human story of modern America and the conflicting forces at its heart — a bold, moving drama of hope and desperation, greed and power, big business and small-town families.”

Another book of local interest was published a year ago: Hollidaysburg native and former teacher Charlie “The Spaniard” Brenneman wrote an account of his journey from the classroom to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) called, “Driven: My Unlikely Journey from Classroom to Cage.”

Another new, sports-related book is on the area’s semi-pro football team from the 1970s, the Central Pennsylvania Whitetail Bucks. Williamsburg native Mark Speck wrote “Playing for a Hoagie and a Beer: Life on the Outer Fringes of Football with the Semipro Central Pennsylvania Whitetail Bucks.”

If you want humor, consider “The Last Baby Boomer: The Story of the Ultimate Ghoul Pool,” by Chris Rodell of Latrobe.

“Feature stories about the first or last baby boomers have been a media staple since World War II veterans and their lovesick wives began a 19-year reproduction binge in 1946,” Rodell wrote on his Amazon page. He was mostly bored with those kinds of stories, so he wrote a satire “that shines a light on the illuminating fact that even though we all die, only one gets to die last.”

Other locally and regionally flavored books recently published include:

n “The Nanon Factor,” by Wayne Carey, who writes in the science fiction and fantasy genre popular among teens.

n “Ralph Kiner: A Baseball Biography,” by Robert Broadwater, a Blair County resident who has written several books on the Civil War and baseball.

n “Full Circle,” the third in the Juniata Iron Trilogy by Altoona native Judith Redline Coopey, a writer of historical fiction set in central Pennsylvania.

n “The Glory of Gables,” a history in pictures and words of the long-time department store in downtown Altoona, by Johnstown-based writer Robert Jeschonek.

n “Jacob Finn and the Ghost of Willow Mansion: A Mystery,” by local author Margaret Baker.

n “Haunted Western Pennsylvania: Ghosts & Strange Phenomena of Pittsburgh, Erie, and the Laurel Highlands,” part of the Haunted Series by Blair County resident Patty Wilson.

n “When the Wanderers Come Home,” an African poetry book, by Penn State Altoona professor Patricia Jabbeh Wesley.

n “Winterkill,” Penn State Altoona professor Todd Davis’ fifth book of poetry.

n “American Icarus: A Memoir of Father and Country,” by Pythia Peay about her late father, Altoona native Joe Carroll.

Mirror Life Writer Cherie Hicks is at 949-7030.

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