The best books define a place both quirky and unique

Who am I?

I’m a washashore who’s lived on Martha’s Vineyard for 25 years. I’ve worked small businesses, drove school and tour buses, volunteered, toured and given walking tours. I know the Island. In my writing I’ve focused my love of American history on the backstory of Martha’s Vineyard. Hence my books comprise a wealth of research and information on each topic. I love what I do. And I like to think it shows.

I wrote...

Hidden History of Martha's Vineyard

By Thomas Dresser,

Book cover of Hidden History of Martha's Vineyard

What is my book about?

Hidden History of Martha’s Vineyard invites the reader to delve into five topics that often fall off the radar.  These obscure gems include the Underground Railroad, Graveyards, Shipwrecks, seminal structures, and unusual street and place names on Martha’s Vineyard.

Certain characteristics define this place, the Island, the Vineyard. I explore the Island by examining prominent structures and place names that relate to the unique lifestyle of Martha’s Vineyard. Often people don’t talk about disasters such as shipwrecks or cemeteries. The Underground Railroad was illegal, so it was not commonly reported. This is what Hidden History explores. My books offer the Vineyard perspective on topics such as the American Revolution to World War II, from prominent Vineyard women to a history of African Americans, and another on Native Americans.

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The books I picked & why


By Geraldine Brooks,

Book cover of Horse

Why did I love this book?

Horse is an historical novel set in the era leading up to the Civil War. The focus is a legendary racehorse, but the story is about the relationship between Blacks and Whites.

There is an authenticity to the drama, which includes both real and imagined characters. Horse revolves around the life and times of Jarret, the slave who cares for Lexington.   

To bring immediacy to the story, Brooks imagines a parallel modern tale, with Theo mirroring the legendary Jarret. Horse focuses on specific places in a historic era. In my books, I try to make the story about the place, Martha’s Vineyard, come alive. 

By Geraldine Brooks,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked Horse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Brooks' chronological and cross-disciplinary leaps are thrilling." -The New York Times Book Review

"Horse isn't just an animal story-it's a moving narrative about race and art." -TIME

A discarded painting in a junk pile, a skeleton in an attic, and the greatest racehorse in American history: from these strands, a Pulitzer Prize winner braids a sweeping story of spirit, obsession, and injustice across American history

Kentucky, 1850. An enslaved groom named Jarret and a bay foal forge a bond of understanding that will carry the horse to record-setting victories across the South. When the nation erupts in civil war, an…

Coffin Road

By Peter May,

Book cover of Coffin Road

Why did I love this book?

I planned a trip to Scotland and immersed myself in Peter May’s Scottish perspective. I try to do that with my books: share the back story, the elements that make Martha’s Vineyard so special to so many people. This is the niche I have carved for myself over the past 15 years.

Peter May is a BBC stalwart; Coffin Road offers a daunting tale with an emphasis on the rugged landscape. May traces his tale right down to the water’s edge.  

And while this is a work of fiction, it offers a vivid view of the reality of living on an island: the isolation, the limitations, the beauty, and the danger. That’s what I do with my Vineyard histories.

By Peter May,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Coffin Road as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'Peter May is one of the most accomplished novelists writing today.' Undiscovered Scotland
'No one can create a more eloquently written suspense novel than Peter May.' New York Journal of Books


A man stands bewildered on a deserted beach on the Hebridean Isle of Harris. He cannot remember who he is. The only clue…

Book cover of The Cause: The American Revolution and its Discontents, 1773-1783

Why did I love this book?

Ellis has done his research for The Cause on both sides of the Atlantic. He presents his perspective on what happened during the Revolution and how close we came to defeat before we even got started.

I’m devoted to accurate research in all my books. The point of non-fiction, as Ellis demonstrates, is to report the facts and assess the results, without emotional or personal perspective.

This tome was a joy to read.  

I learned a great deal from The Cause.

My book on the American Revolution was published prior to The Cause, which made it so intriguing for me to read. 

By Joseph J. Ellis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Cause as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

George Washington claimed that anyone who attempted to provide an accurate account of the war for independence would be accused of writing fiction. At the time, no one called it the "American Revolution": former colonists still regarded themselves as Virginians or Pennsylvanians, not Americans, while John Adams insisted that the British were the real revolutionaries, for attempting to impose radical change without their colonists' consent.

With The Cause, Ellis takes a fresh look at the events between 1773 and 1783, recovering a war more brutal than any in American history save the Civil War and discovering a strange breed of…

Book cover of Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

Why did I love this book?

My daughter gave me this biography on Frederick Douglass, knowing I am partial to American history. While it’s a massive tome, there is much to share about this most famous Black man of the 19th century.  

Douglass was the most photographed person of the era. He was everywhere, involved in abolition and reconstruction. He travelled widely, always keeping an eye on the prize: the betterment of fellow Blacks.

I embraced the story; I felt involved in Douglass’ struggles from escaping slavery to familial issues. Blight captures the era and shares countless details which add to the charisma of this courageous individual.

By David W. Blight,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Frederick Douglass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History**

"Extraordinary...a great American biography" (The New Yorker) of the most important African-American of the nineteenth century: Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave who became the greatest orator of his day and one of the leading abolitionists and writers of the era.

As a young man Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) escaped from slavery in Baltimore, Maryland. He was fortunate to have been taught to read by his slave owner mistress, and he would go on to become one of the major literary figures of his time. His very existence gave the lie to slave owners: with…

The Sanatorium

By Sarah Pearse,

Book cover of The Sanatorium

Why did I love this book?

Everyone loves a page-turner.

The Sanatorium had me on the edge of my seat. The suspense builds. The story expands. The plot thickens.

While it’s challenging to write non-fiction suspensefully, it is possible to write in a way that holds the reader. That is my goal, although I don’t deal with double-crossing agents, harsh winter conditions, and unwieldy architectural structures.

That said, Pearse integrates an historical element into her Sanatorium. She structures her story around the place; the location of the hotel dramatically influences how the action unfolds.

It’s a page-turner, with short chapters and exciting experiences throughout.

By Sarah Pearse,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Sanatorium as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

REESE'S BOOK CLUB PICK | A New York Times bestseller!

"An eerie, atmospheric novel that had me completely on the edge of my seat." -Reese Witherspoon

"This spine-tingling, atmospheric thriller has it all... and twists you'll never see coming." -Richard Osman, New York Times bestselling author of The Thursday Murder Club

Sarah Pearse's next book, The Retreat, is forthcoming.

You won't want to leave. . . until you can't.

Half-hidden by forest and overshadowed by threatening peaks, Le Sommet has always been a sinister place. Long plagued by troubling rumors, the former abandoned sanatorium has since been renovated into a…

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