Catskill Peak Experiences (Black Dome Press, $19.95) chronicles 101 true stories from members of an exclusive club — those who have summited the 45 Catskill Mountain high peaks (those with altitudes over 3,500 feet). “My foot slipped on the ice and I fell backwards and headfirst down the crack between the outer rock and the main cliff. I was wedged upside down, looking down two hundred feet to treetops,” writes one author. The book, edited by Carol Stone White, serves as an excellent resource for hikers or anyone who wants to learn more about this beautiful mountain range. But even serious couch potatoes will enjoy the non-stop action and high drama of these tales of the ultimate wilderness adventure.
— Elizabeth Stein
The catastrophic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius will forever be remembered as the event that buried the Roman city of Pompeii, killing all those unlucky enough to be caught in its path. Complete with bloody betrayals and sensuous intrigue, Vassar graduate Carol Goodman’s academic thriller The Night Villa (Ballantine Books, $14) tells the tale of two women who lived centuries apart and whose lives are forever affected by the malignant volcano. After surviving a school shooting, college professor Sophie Chase joins a recovery expedition of the still-active volcano. While decoding ancient manuscripts found in the ashes, Sophie uncovers the writings of a Roman slave girl which tell the story of the day Vesuvius buried her world. Unfortunately, Sophie isn’t the only one interested in what these ancient scrolls have to say; a mysterious cult wants to bury them forever. An absorbing read, The Night Villa aims to please mystery lovers as well as those looking for something more literary.
— Shana Wilensky
Fans of fastballs, full counts, and all-out fracases should appreciate Rhinebeck journalist Spike Vrusho’s Benchclearing: Baseball’s Greatest Fights and Riots (Globe Pequot Press, $16.95). In this collection of baseball’s most outrageous brawls, Vrusho — former editor of New York Sports Express and a “third generation Pittsburgh Pirates fan who will not budge” — serves up the sport’s worst beanballs, wayward bats, and heated inter-town rivalries uncomfortably high and inside. Read about the “Clash of the Catchers” (the 1973 mêlée between Carlton Fisk and Thurman Munson); Nolan Ryan’s infamous face-pound-and-headlock combo on the ChiSox’s Robin Ventura; and the ultimate moments of fan “depreciation,” including Cleveland’s disastrous Ten Cent Beer Night. Vrusho’s action-packed account of the hottest heads ever to grace the diamond spares nothing about this dark side of America’s favorite pastime. Play ball!
— Jessica Friedlander
Practitioners of yoga and writing often strive for a similar goal: clarity. Author Jeff Davis, an Ulster County resident — and faculty member at both Western Connecticut University and Vassar College — elaborates on the connections between the two activities in his revised and updated Journey from the Center to the Page (Monkfish, $16). Yoga, he contends, can bypass the clutter of a writer’s busy mind and unleash the creative resources locked in its recesses. Although he posits meditation as a 21st century alternative to the 20th century model of “booze as muse” (as practiced by the likes of Hemingway and Fitzgerald), Davis doesn’t become smug or moralize: You needn’t trade your smokes for a gym membership to embrace his theory. Originally published in 2004, this revised edition incorporates recent developments in neuroscience, in-text photos demonstrating the yoga poses, and a more thorough exloration of the “connections between consciousness and craft.” Advice for writers accompanied by prescriptions for yoga techniques — an enticing mixture for both the creative and limber. — Elliott Feedore
As a 14-year-old growing up in suburban Virginia, Paul Edward Murray wished to supplant his homosexuality with religious devotion. Even as an ordained priest, however, his longings continued. He came out of the closet and learned to reconcile his sexuality with his Roman Catholicism; as a result, he found his faith more deeply enriched. But he still had obstacles to overcome. In Murray’s memoir, Life in Paradox: The Story of a Gay Catholic Priest (Circle Books, $24.95), he details his eventful life: He overcomes his own suppression, butts heads with Church officials, and bears witness to the devastation AIDS has incurred on the gay community. A Bard alumnus who now serves the college as its Catholic chaplain, Murray looks at both sides of the gay-rights debate within and outside of the Church. His account is both personal and historical, and encompasses issues that continue to be relevant today. — E.F.
Murder, romance, intrigue, and much more are found in the seemingly quiet Rockland County town of Stony Point. Beautiful bookstore owner Lillian Baxter has rebuilt her life after the violent encounter that almost killed her, but the nearby murders of two young women have the police once again knocking on her door. With the help of arrogant and attractive Detective Michael Fields, Lillian must use her newfound strength to outwit the Rockland County killer, confront her own tragic past — and decipher a shocking twist. A page-turning tale full of mystery and compelling characters, Lillian’s Love (Lachesis, $14.95), written by award-winning Hudson Valley author Laura Marie Henion, is sure to delight lovers of romance and suspense genres alike. — S.G.
Two new children’s books by Beacon author and illustrator Deb Lucke tackle real-life dilemmas with grace and a good dose of humor.
A gaggle of unique and amusing characters — depicted in soft but vibrant colors — come to life in The Boy Who Wouldn’t Swim (Clarion Books, $16). This picture book tells the story of an all-too-familiar dilemma: Eric Dooley is afraid of the water. He spends the summer poolside, watching with envy as his little sister emerges as a star swimmer. But the blistering heat and jealousy finally get the best of him, and the reluctant Eric triumphantly turns into a water rat, complete with “prune toes, like everyone else.” (For ages four to eight.)
Lucke takes a clever concept to hilarious heights in The Book of Time Outs: A Mostly True History of the World’s Biggest Troublemakers (Simon & Schuster, $15.99). Kids and parents alike will howl with laughter as they read this collection of short biographies of famous folks who misbehaved. Take Cleopatra — whose quarrels with her brother got her a big time-out in the middle of the desert; or Columbus, whose lies about the New World got him sent back to Spain with his tail between his legs. Crammed with colorful and comical illustrations, the book’s other subjects include Susan B. Anthony (“The Insufferable Suffragette”) and Napolean Bonaparte (“The Armée Brat”). Of course, hidden in all this history is a lesson; mainly, that although kids may be naughty, “they’re not the worst, and they’re not the first.” (For ages six to nine.) — E.S.