If you’re looking for books with a Dayton connection, options abound. The Dayton region is blessed with numerous, prolific authors; what’s more, other writers seem to find our region’s people and history worthy of literary coverage as well.
So, how to choose just 12?
The following list focuses on books that were published in 2014 or 2015, that are about Dayton or are by Dayton authors. (As it turns out, all but one of the authors live in or are originally from Dayton.)
Books were also selected based on awards, tie-ins with significant historical anniversaries, and to provide a range of genres. The books include history, biography, current event analysis, fiction — literary, science fiction and historical — memoir, and poetry.
In other words, something for every literary lover.
“THE WRIGHT BROTHERS,” by David McCullough
Publication info: Simon & Schuster, May 5, 2015. List price: $30 (hardcover)
Why this book should be on your list: “The Wright Brothers” travels back in time to recreate the story-behind-the-story of how Wilbur and Orville Wright changed the world with the first heavier-than-air piloted flight in 1903. For anyone living in Dayton (or from Dayton), the book should be of particular interest; the city’s identity is connected to its famous native sons, the inventors of powered flight.
“LOCK IN,” by John Scalzi
Publication info: Tor Books, Aug. 26, 2014. List Price: $24.99.
Though originally from California, John has long embraced the Dayton area as home; he lives north of Dayton in Bradford with his family. In 2015, John made headlines in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and in publishing circles everywhere with a newsworthy deal with his publisher, Tor: $3.4 million dollars for 13 novels to be written and published over the next 10 years.
Why this book should be on your list: All of John’s books are great gifts for science-fiction lovers — or for anyone who enjoys a good story, for that matter. “Lock In,” though is a near-future thriller in which a virus makes its way around the world, which for most people causes merely uncomfortable flu-like symptoms, but for an unfortunate few, causes “lock in” — a condition of being fully awake but unable to move or communicate.
“THE 13TH GIFT,” by Joanne Huist Smith
Publication info: Harmony Books, an Imprint of Crown Publishing, October 28, 2014. List Price: $15.
Joanne is a Dayton native. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English at Wright State University and was a long-time reporter for the Dayton Daily News. She continues to make her home in the Dayton area and is a long-time volunteer for the Antioch Writers’ Workshop. This is Joanne’s first published book.
Why this book should be on your list: This memoir shares the story of how Joanne and her three children were just about to give up on Christmas after the sudden death of Rick, Joanne’s husband and her children’s father. But then an anonymous “true friend” begins leaving simple but sweet gifts at their house, one for each of the 12 days leading up to Christmas. The resulting “13th” gift is the bereaved family’s ability to find solace, hope and reconnection to the holiday spirit thanks to these gifts and the realization that their community cares about them. The book, which hit the New York Times’ best-seller’s list, has received rave reviews from reviewers in sources such as Women’s Day and Good Housekeeping and from readers around the world — the book has been translated into numerous languages. The book is a quick, poignant read, sure to generate catharsis and create a warm glow of holiday spirit for all those who have lost a loved one. Daytonians will also love all of the local references.
“THE INVISIBLE SOLDIERS: HOW AMERICA OUTSOURCED OUR SECURITY,” by Ann Hagedorn
Publication info: Simon & Schuster, Aug. 19, 2014. List Price: $28.
Oakwood native Ann Hagedorn is the award-winning author of five books. She’s been a staff writer for The Wall Street Journal, New York Daily News and San Jose Mercury News. She holds an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University and an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Denison University, where she also earned a B.A. degree. She now resides in southern Ohio.
Why this book should be on your list: “The Invisible Soldiers” won the 2015 Ohioana Award for best nonfiction. It goes into deep, thoroughly researched detail about how much of the United States’ national security has been privatized, and where this industry comes from, how it works and where it’s likely to head. The details, profiles and accounts are woven together in a manner befitting a top-notch thriller — and yet, it’s all true. Important reading for anyone concerned with national — or international — security issues.
“THE PROMISE,” by Ann Weisgarber
Publication info: Skyhorse Publishing, April 1, 2014. List Price: $24.95.
Ann Weisgarber is a Dayton native, graduating from Fairmont West High School and Wright State University. She now makes her home in Texas.
Why this book should be on your list: This historical literary novel, set in 1900, follows Catherine Wainwright as she flees Dayton after a terrible scandal by marrying a childhood friend and prosperous rancher in Texas. The warm, engaging novel then goes on to follow the stories of Catherine and, later, her housekeeper Nan. Read it for the enveloping story, the Dayton connection, and the lyrical prose, which Publishers Weekly described in its review as having “shades of Willa Cather, Sinclair Lewis and Conrad Richter.” Perfect for a night of reading curled up by a fireplace or under a nice warm blanket.
“THE FATHER OF THE ARROW IS THE THOUGHT,” by Christopher DeWeese
Publication info: Octopus Books, Aug. 25, 2015. List Price: $14.95.
Christopher is an Assistant Professor of English Language & Literatures at Wright State University, focusing on poetry. He grew up in the state of Washington, attended Oberlin College and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. His first book of poetry, “The Black Forest,” was published in 2012 by Octopus Books.
Why this book should be on your list: Everyone should read more poetry. So, why not read this collection by an area poet and professor? If you’d like deeper reasons, look no further than Publishers Weekly review of Christopher’s second collection, which the review called “mesmerizing” and proclaimed that it “…pushes against the limits of the Romantic lyric and finds way to break through. .. in such pieces as ‘The Tide,’ an impressive rumination on time, youth and parenthood, his lines are taught, on target and strike with surprising poignancy.”
“THE DAYTON FLIGHT FACTORY: THE WRIGHT BROTHERS AND THE BIRTH OF AVIATION,” by Timothy R. Gaffney
Publication info: The History Press, June 24, 2014. List Price: $19.99.
Timothy has lived in this area most of his life, currently in Miamisburg with his wife Jean, who is a librarian for the Dayton Metro Library. After earning a bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University in Columbus in 1974, he worked for the Piqua Daily Call, the Kettering-Oakwood Times and the Dayton Daily News, where he was the aerospace and defense writer for 21 years until his retirement in 2006. He is the author of 15 books about aviation, space, exploration and science, mainly for children and young adults.
Why this book should be on your list: Whereas David McCullough’s biography focuses on the Wright Brothers, Timothy’s book takes a hometown perspective, giving a virtual tour of historic places in the Dayton area where they lived and worked — their neighborhood, the prairie where they flew the 1905 Wright Flyer III, and their factory, the first one in the United States created to produce airplanes.
“THE REAL MCCOY, MY HALF-CENTURY WITH THE CINCINNATI REDS,” by Hal McCoy
Publication info: Orange Frazer Press, March 1, 2015. List Price: $19.95.
Hal, who lives in Englewood, is a Hall of Fame baseball writer. He retired from the Dayton Daily News after covering the Cincinnati Reds for 37 years, though he continues to contribute to the newspaper and share his insights in his “The Real McCoy” blog hosted on the newspaper’s site. Hal has been an award-winning sports journalist for 53 years.
Why this book should be on your list: Baseball is summer and who wouldn’t like a nice dollop of summer in the middle of winter? Hal’s memoir covers many summers with the Cincinnati Reds with behind-the-scenes stories of what it was like to get the inside scoop on the baseball team, with inside-the-dugout insights that Reds fans in particular and baseball fans in general are sure to love. He weaves in highlights and anecdotes from his own Hall of Fame career (he logged more than 25,000 bylines). For the baseball fans on your list, this is one book gift that’s sure to hit it out of the park.
“A HISTORY OF PEACE IN DAYTON,” by Tammy Newsom
Publication Info: The History Press, Oct. 19, 2015. List Price: $21.99.
Tammy grew up in Germantown, now lives in the Dayton area and works as a program administrator for the Logistics Training Course offered through Montgomery County Job and Family Services. She has been a published freelance writer since the early 2000s with numerous news articles published in the Dayton City Paper, Dayton Daily News and Impact Weekly. This is her first book publication.
Why this book should be on your list: While Dayton is well-known as the birthplace of aviation— two books related to that history are on this list — it’s also quickly becoming known as a city that works toward the mission of peace. This is thanks to the Dayton Peace Accords (which reached its 20th anniversary this year) that ended the Bosnian War and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, inspired by the accord, which hit its 10th anniversary this year. However, the area’s history of peace work is much longer, going back to abolitionists, Quakers and even the Wright brothers.
“DAYTON THROUGH TIME,” by Curt Dalton
Publication info: America Through Time, April 13, 2015. List Price: $22.99.
Curt is the author of more than 20 books about the life and history of Dayton. His books were selected as official publications of the city’s 1996 Centennial Celebration. He joined Dayton History, Montgomery County’s official historical organization, as Visual Resource Manager, taking care of the organization’s 1.5 million photographs, negatives and motion picture films. In 2004, he launched Dayton History Books Online, a resource of free access to materials about Dayton’s history, with more than 1,000 books, booklets, articles and videos, plus nearly 700 photos.
Why this book should be on your list: This slender volume, at 96 pages, is chock-full of Dayton history in a unique format: each page has a historical photo and a modern photo of an important landmark or building, and accompanying description. For example, a 1910 photo of Memorial Hall is paired with a modern photo of the building, along with description between the photos.
“LINCOLN’S BODYGUARD,” by TJ Turner
Publication info: Oceanview Publishing, April 7, 2015. List Price: $26.95.
TJ, who grew up in upstate New York, lives with his wife and children in the Dayton area. He grew up loving science and books; his love of science saw him all the way through a PhD in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science from Cornell University. Shortly after that, he went to Officer Training School in the Air Force and was then stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in 2003; he’s worked in the area ever since. He’s served three tours of duty in Afghanistan and in 2013 was awarded a Bronze Star for combat action. In 2006, he attended the Antioch Writers’ Workshop’s summer program in Yellow Springs, after winning the Bill Baker Scholarship. He’s served on the workshop’s board of trustees for several years, now as President. “Lincoln’s Bodyguard” is TJ’s first published novel; his second historical mystery novel is slated for publication in 2016.
Why this book should be on your list: This historical novel spins a fascinating “what-if” alternative history story: what if President Abraham Lincoln had survived the assassination attempt? How would history, the United States, and the ensuing Civil War have changed? In this context, the story follows Lincoln’s bodyguard, Joseph Foster, as the President turns to him for help on a secret mission, which ends up dovetailing with Joseph’s own personal mission to find his daughter as well as the ultimate outcome of the war. The novel is a perfect blend of thriller, alternate history and page-turning story-telling.
“FANNY SEWARD: A LIFE,” by Trudy Krisher
Publication info: Syracuse University Press, January 6, 2015. List Price: $29.95.
Long-time Dayton area resident Trudy Krisher is well known for her literary works of fiction for young readers, including the much-lauded young adult novel “Spite Fences.” Trudy, who moved to the Dayton area 40 years ago with her family, taught English at University of Dayton for 18 years and at Sinclair Community College for 10, retiring from the latter institution in 2013.
Why this book should be on your list: While TJ Turner’s alternate history novelization provides a fascinating “what if” story, this biography — again timed well with the 150th anniversary year of Lincoln’s assassination — offers up a fascinating look at the Civil War era through the eyes of young Fanny Seward, the only daughter of Secretary of State William Seward. On the night of April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth famously assassinated President Lincoln; Booth’s conspirator Lewis Powell attempted to assassinate Secretary Seward. Fanny’s diary from 1858 to 1866 captures the years around that night, as well as details of that horrific evening; the diary, along with other research, serves as the basis for Trudy’s well-realized portrayal of the Civil War era through the point of view of a young woman in a position to make keen and poignant observations.