Local Author Spotlight

Our community is home to a large number of outstanding authors. To celebrate them, we will offer – every two months – an introduction to a different children's or adult author who resides or works in one of the four towns in our school district and who has published a new book within the past year. The selection shall be made by a vote of our librarians. Happy reading!

See More Books by Local Authors!
January – February 2021

Jonathan Adolph


Do you have a favorite book that is set in or about the Pioneer Valley or New England?

Though it ranges farther afield, John McPhee’s The Founding Fish has some great scenes of shad fishing at the Holyoke dam, where I too go to lose tackle and envy the luck of others during the annual spring run. I would read anything by McPhee, the longtime New Yorker writer who first hooked me decades ago with an entire book on oranges.

Why did you write your new book?

I wish I could tell you that I predicted the entire 2020 pandemic and decided to write Cardboard Box Engineering because I knew families would be stuck inside with bored children and piles of shipping boxes. But when I began, all I had was the suspicion that today’s digital generation might like the chance to build cool stuff with their own hands. I figured projects that involved using knives, saws, pointed skewers, and hot glue guns might be enough to lure them from their screens. But I also saw the book as having a social payoff. The more kids tinkering with cardboard today, I reasoned, the more inventors and engineers we’ll have tomorrow, helping create a more sustainable world.
Jonathan Adolph
What was your favorite book growing up?

I still recall reading My Side of the Mountain by Jean George, and for years afterward wishing I could live in a hollow tree with a pet falcon. Combined with my Ranger Rick magazines, that book was my gateway drug to environmental awareness, which in turn led me to an appreciation for the sciences. Those passions have only intensified: I am now a staunch defender of the natural world (except for the freeloading creatures eating my garden — you know who you are!), and I’ll rant at length about why reason-based humanism represents our best hope for a livable future. Blame it all on Jean George.

Recent Books by Jonathan

  (see all his books)

Jonathan's Favorite Books

  (with his comments)
YouTube may be able to teach me how to do just about anything, but I’m still drawn to well-designed, thoughtfully edited, instructional books. Two I’ve consulted repeatedly over the years:

The New Victory Garden by Bob Thomson. I acquired this how-to guide back in 1987, when I was planting my first vegetable gardens, and it’s been a trusted resource ever since. It approaches gardening as a yearlong campaign, with each chapter presenting a month’s tasks. My only quibble is it doesn’t offer psychological counseling to help with gardening’s inevitable, soul-crushing disappointments.

You Can Teach Hitting by Dusty Baker (and others). A quirky pick, I realize, but one that baseball coaches and players will appreciate. I bought my now dog-eared copy 20 years ago when I was enlisted to coach my son’s Little League team. The design, photography, and clear language throughout all help ease the pain of what every kid (and creaky old-timer) soon discovers: hitting a baseball consistently is very difficult. Baker’s MLB success makes him a voice of authority, but what comes across even more strongly is his compassion for those of us whose love for the game far exceeds our ability to play it.

Other books that have left an impression:

Straight Man by Richard Russo – has hilarious resonance for anyone living in a college town.

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby – let me hang out with characters who are even more neurotic and obsessed with music than I am.

Growing Up by Russell Baker – showed me how a gifted journalist can sift significance from life’s everyday moments.

Authors Previously Spotlighted

Lawrence Douglas

Annye C. Anderson

Artemis Roehrig & Corrine Demas

Ilan Stavans

Ocean Vuong

Christopher Benfey

Micha Archer

Joanne Creighton

Bruce Watson

Aaron Becker

Charles Mann

Holly Black

Lewis Mainzer

Nicole Blum & Catherine Newman

Michael Ponsor

David Hyde Costello

William Taubman

Rich Michelson

Madeleine Blais

Cammie McGovern

View our earlier Local Author Spotlights by year: 2020, 2019, 2018 & 2017 | Or browse more books by local authors