Gifts for a New York State of Mind

A book lover’s guide to local publication gift concepts.

For those who have book-lovers on their Secret Santa lists, there are plenty of local reads that can be selected for stocking stuffers.

The Catskills: Its History and How It Changed America. (Alfred A. Knopf; 448 pages; hardcover/$45). For those who think they know all about the Catskills from watching Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing, this fact-filled study about the picturesque paradise from authors Stephen M. Silverman and the late Raphael D. Silver could be a revelation. The mountain resort region really came to prominence in the post-World War II years, when it was the home to Borscht Belt comedians who honed their craft in front of vacationing middle-class Jewish audiences. Underneath a photo of the swanky dining room at the legendary Grossinger’s entertainment complex is a caption citing Billy Crystal’s comment that in the Catskills, “Jews ate like Vikings.”

Images of America: Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office. (Arcadia Publishing/History Press, 420 Wando Park Blvd., Mount Pleasant, S.C.; 128 pages; softcover/$21.99). Arcadia’s seemingly inexhaustible “Images of America” regional series of photo-laden books concerning statewide points of interest marches on with this profile on Central New York’s top cops, who cover the county’s 827-square-mile expanse. The book’s author, Lt. Jonathan L. Anderson, who also serves as historian for the sheriff’s office, handles the biographical factoids that accompany the many black-and-white historical pictures of sheriffs on duty, from dress parades and funeral processions to casual photo ops as they pose alongside their decked-out squad cars and motorcycles. After witnessing page after page of these imposing lawmen over the decades (did Onondaga County Sheriff John Dillon ever crack a smile?), those contemplating a life of crime might well consider a new hobby. Arcadia’s always entertaining pictorial books are often found at retailers such as Barnes and Noble and Wegmans, and you can also order it at or call (888) 313-2665.

Murder in the North Country: An Adirondack Mountain Mystery. (North Country Books, 220 Lafayette St., Utica; 256 pages; softcover/$19.95). A sheriff and a police lieutenant have differing perspectives when two women in a small town are stabbed to death by a killer in first-time author Anita M. Rowlands’ page-turner.

Fairy Tales and Horror Stories: A Memoir. (self-published; 288 pages; softcover/$22.50). Author Merlyn Fuller is part of the local minstrel duo known as Merry Mischief, as she and her partner Wayne “Harry” Fuller have brought their popular costumed show to Renaissance fairs, music festivals and holiday events. Fuller, who describes herself as “a cross between Erma Bombeck and Flannery O’Connor,” offers more than 80 short stories about her life, some whimsical and others jaw-dropping. The chapter titled “Artie” concerns the twisted memory of young Arthur Shawcross, then her childhood neighbor, who later gained notoriety as “the Rochester strangler” for murdering 14 people. To obtain a copy of Fuller’s book, send $22.50 (which includes postage and handling) to Merry Mischief, P.O. Box 425, Jordan 13080, or get it online at

Finger Lakes Uncorked: Day Trips and Weekend Getaways in Upstate New York’s Wine Country. (Farm Fresh Books, 373 Enfield Falls Road, Ithaca; 246 pages; softcover/$14.95). Area wineries get their due in this extensive guide, which is broken down into “entry points” to detail various destinations in Skaneateles, Canandaigua, Hammondsport and Ithaca. Aside from the beer and wine trails, there are also mentions for bakeries, ice cream emporiums, taverns, museums, hotels and more. Author Michael Turback clearly has “a focus on the good stuff,” since he ran the former Ithaca restaurant Turback’s for nearly three decades.

Cursed in New York: Stories of the Damned in the Empire State. (Globe Pequot, Guilford, Conn.; 211 pages; softcover/$16.95). Author Randi Minetor compiled this collection, with local readers sure to peruse Chapter 22’s “The Legend of Thirteen Curves,” about the otherworldly events rumored to have occurred along the winding pavement of Cedarvale Road near Marcellus. Other “curses” seem more tongue-in-cheek, however, especially the ones that involve sports franchises.

NFT: Not for Tourists Guide to New York City. (Skyhorse Publishing, 307 W. 36th St., New York City; 371 pages; $18.99). This pocket-size compendium features maps of Manhattan, transit details (including a four-color pullout map with info on bus and subway lines), neighborhood overviews, plenty of points of interest (more than 1,000 restaurants, ice cream shops and pizza joints are mentioned), and much more, all of it written in a peppy, in-the-know style. The type font can be teensy, however, so bring your spectacles.

100 Things Syracuse Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die. (Triumph Books, 814 N. Franklin St., Chicago, Ill.; 336 pages; softcover/$14.95). Scott Pitoniak’s 2014 book opens with a forward by Syracuse University football great Floyd Little, then offers an SU catalog of all things Orange, most of it sports-related, from basketball coach Jim Boeheim as the “patron saint” of the 2-3 zone, to the Manley Field House’s former reputation as a “zoo,” to the meaning of No. 44. Non-sports figures are also checklisted, including TV’s Ted Koppel and Sheldon Leonard, yet this trivia-packed book seems mostly designed for the couch potato-jock sniffer demographic.

Dolph Schayes and the Rise of Professional Basketball. (Syracuse University Press; 185 pages; softcover/$24.95). Adolph “Dolph” Schayes’ Dec. 10 death at age 87 should spur renewed interest in author Dolph Grundman’s 2014 biography on the popular sports figure, who anchored the professional Syracuse Nationals hoops team during the 1950s and early 1960s. Schayes also broke several NBA records during his career, such as being the first player to notch 15,000 points on Jan. 12, 1960. And this was before the 3-point rule.

Header photo provided by -slav- via Thinkstock.
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