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Five Books to Read this Winter

By Justin Levine - Adirondack Council Communications Associate 
Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023 

Thanks to climate change, the winter of 2022-2023 is so far a bust, at least as far as snow is concerned. We’ve had a couple of good storms, but the warmer air and rain have moved in just as fast, and here we are in January with basically no snow on the ground. 

It’s certainly a bummer, but winter without snow at least makes for good reading time. To that end, here are five books I recommend to read/crack open/enjoy while sitting inside with a cup of something hot to drink. One final note - Amazon links are included for each book, but please support your local book store whenever possible. 

Cover of A Prison in the Woods

A Prison in the Woods, by Clarence Jefferson Hall 

Clarence Jefferson Hall grew up in Plattsburgh and now lives and teaches in New York City for CUNY. He recently published A Prison in the Woods as part of a series of books called Environmental History of the Northeast.  

Hall delves into the history of prisons in the Adirondacks, from before the Park was established to the rejection of a new prison in the 1990s. It’s full of fascinating history of the Adirondacks, and looks at this history through the lens of five North Country prisons: Dannemora, Ray Brook, Gabriels, Lyon Mountain, and Tupper Lake. 

In addition to the history of the Forest Preserve and Adirondack communities, Hall doesn’t shy away from the impacts of “Tough on Crime” policies that led to mass incarceration in the North Country, particularly when most of the prisoners were not from Upstate at all. And as the former Gabriels and Moriah prison sites now sit in limbo, A Prison in the Woods is as timely as ever. 

 Cover of Beaver River Country

Beaver River Country, by Edward I. Pitts 

Beaver River Country is a fascinating walk through time in one of the most remote areas of the Adirondack Park. 

Pitts, who is a member of the Rap-Shaw Club on Stillwater Reservoir, does a wonderful job of digging through well over a century of history of the western Adirondacks. From the first white arrivals to the area through multiple hotels, towns, and camps, Beaver River Country is a great look at the way humans have changed the Adirondack landscape, and how the changing landscape affected humans. 

One does not need to be familiar with the Stillwater area to enjoy Beaver River Country, and the way Pitts ties in large-scale landscape changes with family and local history makes for a great read. 

cover of Smoking Lovely

Smoking Lovely: The Remix, by Willie Perdomo 

Willie Perdomo is the state poet of New York, and last summer, he did a reading and led some workshops in Saranac Lake as part of the Adirondack Center for Writing’s Kickass Writer’s Festival. 

Smoking Lovely has nothing at all to do with the Adirondack Park, but that doesn’t make it any less readable or enjoyable. This is the third edition of Smoking Lovely, and Perdomo says it’s the last. Through poems and what amount to very short plays, Perdomo puts the reader in the shoes of folks dealing with drugs, love, poverty, and city life. 

Smoking Lovely is readily accessible even to people who don’t generally enjoy poetry, and while the stories may take place a long way from the Adirondacks, the characters and problems are easily relatable. 

cover of Rural Indigenousness

Rural Indigenousness, by Melissa Otis 

Rural Indigenousness may be the definitive book on Native Americans who called the Upstate and Adirondack areas home before and during the early times of European encroachment. 

Not only does Otis take readers through an important period of Adirondack history, she goes on to largely disprove the longstanding notion that native peoples didn’t live in the Adirondacks, but merely used it to travel or hunt.  

The book explores not just the pre-European history of Native Americans, though. It also includes the ways that Native Americans interacted with the influx of white people to the region right up through today. 

 Inside the Green Lobby book cover

Inside the Green Lobby, by Bernard Melewski 

Melewski, who is the former chief lobbyist for the Adirondack Council, came out with a memoir last year of his time working the halls of Albany on behalf of the Adirondack Park called Inside the Green Lobby. 

Melewski met and mingled with every power broker in the state capital, and frequently details the behind-the-scenes machinations of how major decisions regarding the Adirondacks happened. Melewski tells the tales that few people get to hear, from clandestine rental cars prowling remote areas of the Adirondacks to ticked-off elected officials who didn’t want to face reality.  

Melewski tells interesting stories, and has the insider knowledge to shed an unseen light on topics that even the most studious of Adirondack readers haven’t seen.  

The Adirondack Council also has a selection of Adirondack-related books for readers of all ages, and every purchase helps support our work on behalf of the Adirondack Park. 

I hope you enjoy one or all of the books above, and as my old high school ski coach used to say, Think snow!” 

 

Justin Levine

Justin Levine joined the Council staff in 2021 as the Communications and Outreach Assistant. He previously worked as a regional marketing manager for the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism and was an award-winning journalist and photographer for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and Lake Placid News. Since graduating from Paul Smith’s College in 2004, Justin has worked in the environmental field in various roles in both the Adirondacks and Florida. When not working, Justin loves spending time with his family, running, and doing all the outdoor things the Park has to offer.

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