1. A Joyful Noise by Janet Gillespie
Set in the 1920s, A Joyful Noise recounts author Janet Gillespie’s childhood summers spent with her family in Westport Point. The stories she tells are warm and humorous, and despite being set nearly 100 years ago, they offer a timeless depiction of family relationships that’s still relevant and inspiring today. Partners Village Store in Westport puts it this way: “This engaging personal narrative about summers growing up in Westport remains a book for anyone who likes to get up early on summer mornings or sail a boat on a blue day or watch birds and babies, pick flowers, dig clams, or maybe just laugh.”
2. Ospreys: A Natural and Unnatural History by Alan F. Poole
This book by Dartmouth resident Alan Poole is known as the definitive textbook about ospreys: their biology, habits, threats, and management. Ospreys: A Natural and Unnatural History looks at the natural history of a bird that has become the major symbol of international bird conservation. In two detailed case studies, Poole devotes special attention to the successful restoration of threatened osprey populations in Scotland and New England.
3. The Coastal Table: Recipes Inspired by the Farmlands and Seaside of Southern New England by Karen J. Covey
When writer Karen Covey first moved to Mattapoisett, she found an exceptional community of farmers, winemakers, chefs, cheesemakers, and fishermen thriving upon the Buzzards Bay region’s unique coastal geography. In The Coastal Table: Recipes Inspired by the Farmlands and Seaside of Southern New England, Covey captures seaside living in New England at its freshest and most innovative. With over 120 recipes that update and modernize traditional New England fare, The Coastal Table is filled with dishes for casual beach days, sophisticated outdoor entertaining, and simple, everyday meals that celebrate our region. Covey also produces a quarterly magazine by the same name that embodies the coastal lifestyle while keeping its roots firmly in Buzzards Bay.
4. A Storm Without Rain by Jan Adkins
You could buzz through this book’s 179 pages in a couple of sessions in your beach chair, but you won’t want to. A Storm Without Rain is a must read for anyone who loves Buzzards Bay and the towns and people that surround it. It’s a magical tale of a boy from Marion who escapes in his whaler one day to Penikese Island, takes a nap, and wakes up in 1904 to experience life on the Bay a hundred years ago. And it ties the present to the past in a way that reminds you of the comfortable continuity that exists in this area, with plenty of references to local families and places – from the C.E. Beckman’s marine supply in New Bedford to Tobey Hospital in Wareham. As we shared with South Coast Almanac last summer, A Storm Without Rain is a classic childhood adventure story that will make you remember why you love Buzzards Bay so much.
5. Swimming at Suppertime: Seasons of Delight on the Wrong Side of Buzzards Bay by Carol Wasserman
In Swimming at Suppertime, master storyteller and beloved NPR commentator Carol Wasserman shares the quirky jobs and tribulations of her life in Wareham. In the tradition of Bailey White and Garrison Keillor, Wasserman regales readers with amusing and touching stories about the colorful characters and yearly rituals that keep her so closely tethered to the town. In the book’s namesake tale, she describes the community of ladies who swim at suppertime, when the beach is deserted and they know “the ocean will be as warm as the primordial soup.”
6. Sou’West & By West of Cape Cod: The classic evocation of New England shore, sea, and islands – from Point Judith to the head of Buzzards Bay by Llewellyn Howland
First published in 1947 and long out of print, Sou’West & By West of Cape Cod is a wonderfully evocative portrait of the New England shore at the turn of the century. Author Llewellyn Howland grew up on a saltwater farm near New Bedford, and in the book he focuses on Buzzards Bay’s rural landscapes and quiet harbors. The book is full of salty characters and memorable stories, like the time when Howland recalls working at Charlie Beetle’s yard where they built and delivered a whaleboat in 48 hours.
7. The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home by George Howe Colt
Faced with the sale of the century-old family home on Wings Neck in Bourne where he had spent 42 summers, George Howe Colt returns for one last stay with his wife and children in The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home. This poignant tribute to the eleven-bedroom jumble of gables, bays, and dormers that watched over weddings, divorces, deaths, anniversaries, birthdays, breakdowns, and love affairs for five generations interweaves Colt’s final visit with memories of a lifetime of summers. Run-down yet romantic, The Big House stands not only as a cherished reminder of summer’s ephemeral pleasures but also as a powerful symbol of a vanishing way of life.
8. Sippewissett: Or, Life on a Salt Marsh by Tim Traver
Akin to classics like A Sand County Almanac, Sippewissett forms an eloquent bridge between ecology and memory, science and art. Author Tim Traver alternates between remembrances of the Falmouth salt marsh where he spent his boyhood summers and the history of Sippewissett, a place that has been studied by many of America’s great biologists, from Louis Agassiz to Rachel Carson. Sippewissett is an intimate exploration of place by a man of science and strong family bonds. There is poetry in his retelling of the past, and great love in the peace and satisfaction he finds later in life fishing and clamming and watching his own children discover the secrets of the marsh.
9. Castaways: The Penikese Island Experiment by George Cadwalader
After Woods Hole resident George Cadwalader was severely wounded in Vietnam, he launched an experiment inspired by his time in the Marines: to rehabilitate hardcore juvenile delinquents. Castaways: The Penikese Island Experiment recounts his experience transforming Penikese Island – a remote island in Buzzards Bay that once served as a leper colony – into a self-sufficient school community that focuses on construction, boat-building, farming, and nature study. The narrative moves from hilarious to somber and back again as the author chronicles the lives of the boys who come from Penikese. Cadwalader undergoes some painful changes as he confronts the stark irrationality and rock-hard recalcitrance of his juvenile criminal charges.