I was plied with information from MaineGeneral Medical Center before my recent knee replacement surgery. I had a giant white binder that Leslie Knope of NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” would have been proud to tote around.

But there was one bit of advice I didn’t find necessary to think about. I wasn’t worried about keeping my mind occupied during my recuperation. I’m a reader.

With books, I’m never alone or bored. And usually not anxious, but since I’m a fan of thrillers, this is not always true. In fact, my smart watch has been known to tell me to breathe at particularly intense reading moments.

Still, I knew that, as they had in past difficult situations (including all of 2020 and most of 2021), books would get me through.

In fact, I more than doubled my usual average of a book a week.

I keep a record of my reading and I was interested to see that I finished a book the day before surgery (“Fever,” by Meg Abbott, a solid psychological thriller), but it took me two weeks to note I’d finished another. That’s because the first two weeks of recuperating from knee replacement are the most difficult. If I wasn’t working with a physical therapist or doing exercises on my own, I was napping.


But the other big part of getting back on my feet was icing. After every exercise session (three times a day), I’d ice for 20 minutes. I’d also ice at other times. And what did I do while I sat there with my leg wrapped up in a cold pad, my IceMan machine purring next to me? Why, I read, of course.

One book that has stuck with me, that I’ve been recommending to others, is “Downeast: Five Maine Girls and the Unseen Story of Rural America,” by Gigi Georges. The author followed the lives of several young women in the Milbridge area, students at Narraguagus High School in Harrington.

I thought it was going to be a depressing tale of poverty and low aspirations, but it was both fascinating and uplifting. As a school librarian, I appreciated the insights into the teenage mind. And although Washington County is certainly a place unto itself, the issues young people face when moving from small, rural communities into the wider world is applicable to my students in Augusta as well.

Claire Keegan’s “Small Things Like These” is a small gem of a book, only 70 pages. In the 1980s, Bill Furlong enjoys a quiet life with his family in a small Irish village. Then he realizes that the local convent is a “Magdalene Laundry” (abusive workhouse for single, pregnant women), and he makes a decision that will surely upend his life.

Most of my reading time was taken up by mysteries of one sort or another. It’s my favorite genre, but also well-suited to recovery. When I am feeling sore and tired, I really want a page-turner to distract me.

I thoroughly enjoyed “The Maid,” by Nita Prose. Molly Gray works in housekeeping in a fancy city hotel. Molly is very literal, and also very naive, which is how she finds herself plumb in the middle of a murder investigation. This book is fun, heartwarming and clever.


Ann Cleeves’ series set in Scotland’s Shetland Islands, featuring Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez, has been a favorite of mine. Boy, was I sad to realize “Wild Fire” was the last in the series. I shed a tear at the final page, and told myself to be grateful that the Britbox series, featuring Douglas Henshall as Jimmy, carries on.

“Hello, Transcriber,” by Hannah Morrissey was refreshingly different. Hazel works the night shift in the cop shop in crime-ridden Black Harbor, Wisconsin, typing up detectives’ recorded reports. She gets seriously entangled in an investigation and with one of the investigators — and learns a lot about herself in the process.

Peter Swanson is another favorite author, and his latest, “Nine Lives,” is delightful. Well, maybe that’s not the right word to use to describe a book in which nine people on a list look like they’re going to get picked off one by one. Yes, it sounds like Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None,” which Swanson freely acknowledges, but it’s an entirely original premise.

The coup de grâce for me was the written confession by the murderer. Turns out his birthday is the same as mine — June 21. Now that is deliciously weird.

The highlight of my recovery might have been securing an electronic advanced reader’s copy of Paul Doiron’s latest. I’m a huge fan of his series featuring Maine game warden Mike Bowditch. It’s one of the few series that I’ve read right in a row, which I did in the summer of 2020. I enjoyed “Dead by Dawn” while on vacation last summer, and was looking forward to a new Bowditch for vacation 2022. But when the opportunity of an ARC presented itself — well, I simply couldn’t refuse.

I’ll just say that at one point in “Hatchet Island,” I had to put down my iPad to digest a startling plot twist. It’s summer on the coast of Maine, there are angry lobstermen and evil people from away. Doiron fans will be happy to know Stacey is in the picture. I devoured it in two days.

While the IceMan purred beside me.

Liz Soares welcomes email at [email protected]

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