Writer as Illusionist

Uncollected & Unpublished Work

An illuminating collection of an author widely regarded as one of the twentieth century’s great unsung heroes of American literature.

As a fiction editor at The New Yorker from 1936 to 1975, William Maxwell helped shaped several generations’ sense of the literary short story. At the same time, Maxwell himself was also an exceptional novelist, short story writer, essayist, children’s author, and memoirist.

Given unique, unfettered access to Maxwell’s private papers, Alec Wilkinson—whose memoir My Mentor explores his twenty-five-year friendship with Maxwell—has gathered a stunning and revealing collection of some of Maxwell’s lesser-known and previously unpublished works of nonfiction and fiction.

The Writer as Illusionist includes biographical sketches; remembrances of fellow authors, such as the poet Louise Bogan and short story writer Maeve Brennan; a 1941 nonfiction piece about Bermuda that was the only piece of long reporting Maxwell ever published in The New Yorker; and Maxwell’s thoughts on the craft of writing, many of them made privately.

While Maxwell often said he never kept a journal because anything worth writing about was something a writer would remember, The Writer as Illusionist proves otherwise: included are many notes from his private journals, including some that became parts of his revered novels, such as The Folded Leaf.

Re-reading Maxwell’s work leads Wilkinson to think “I am still often amazed—at the subtlety of the art, the depth of what he saw, at his capacity for dramatizing situations that require a rare hand and eye.”

Maxwell passed away in 2000 at the age of ninety-one. The Writer as Illusionist celebrates his legacy in American letters and is part of Godine’s Nonpareil series.


“I suspect that one mark of great writers—writers who’ll be listed in the literary historical record; writers who’ll remain alive, for decades or centuries, after their earthly departures—is our ongoing interest in everything they wrote, thought, or said. Thanks to Alec Wilkinson’s brilliantly edited collection, my own convictions are confirmed: William Maxwell was, and remains, a great writer.”
Michael Cunningham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours

“This collection is much more than the sum of its parts. Alec Wilkinson has done a masterful job of creating an unexpected and insightful autobiographical portrait of William Maxwell, a magical writer who shines through as a person of great rectitude and character. What a marvelous book!”
Edward Hirsch, author of The Heart of American Poetry

“As when leaving an exhibition of landscape paintings you might see a harbor, field, or forest out of the painter’s eyes, so when you read William Maxwell’s thoughts and reminiscences, you will, for a little while, view life through his humorous and keenly intelligent mind. Although he tells us that his writing process involves revision after revision, his prose is simple and direct. It flows as if it came into being without artifice, without struggle. He never indulges in writing for writing’s sake. Rather he puts together exquisite sentences propelled by his search for understanding. He talks to you. His quiet voice is close by. You can imagine sitting by a fire while Maxwell answers your questions about how he became a writer or how an autobiographical fiction writer writes. He keeps a slight distance, a light touch. Thanks to this gentlemanly reserve, what he says is intimate without ever becoming cloying. He does not tell you more than what you want to know. As his stories unfold, you can picture his gentle smile. If he had a dimple, it would deepen.”
Hayden Herrera, author of Upper Bohemia

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Further Essays of a Sometime Farmer

Essays on rural life that not only address the many how-to questions that bedevil country dwellers, but also the larger direction that life is taking on this planet.

Perrin, a transplanted New Yorker and now a “real” Vermonter, candidly admits his early mistakes while giving concrete advice on matters such as what to do with maple syrup (other than put it on your pancakes), how to use a peavey, and how to replace your rototiller with a garden animal.

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Tom and Captain Najork two-book pack – SAVE 50%!

A Near Thing for Captain Najork

Tom is happy with his new Aunt Bundlejoy Cosysweet who is delighted to be asked to join him in his latest invention, a jam-powered frog. When the frog hops past Captain Najork’s window Tom does not expect to be chased by a pedal powered snake, complete with the Captain and his hired sportsmen, bent on revenge. As Tom, the Captain and Aunt Fidget Wonkham-Strong Najork all converge on a nearby girls’ boarding school, the tables are suddenly turned with the Captain finding himself in a very precarious situation. . .

How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen

Tom is so good at fooling around that he does little else. His Aunt Fidget Wonkham-Strong, who thinks this is too much like having fun, calls upon the fearsome Captain Najork and his hired sportsmen to teach him a lesson. So the Captain challenges Tom to three rounds of womble, muck, and sneedball, certain that he will win. However, when it comes to fooling around, Tom doesn’t fool around, and his skills prove so polished that the results of the contest are completely unexpected. . .

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Paris Notebooks

Essays & Reviews

“Riveting . . . rollicking . . . elegantly captures a changing France reckoning with the cultural revolutions of the mid-20th century.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Enthralling essays on the expatriate experience in Paris and shrewd literary criticism by one of the twentieth century’s finest writers. Mavis Gallant is revered as one of the great short story writers of her generation, but she was also an astute observer and formidable reporter. This selection of Gallant’s essays and reviews written between 1968 and 1985 begins with her impressions of the Parisian student uprising in May 1968. Originally published in The New Yorker, “The Events in May” inspired Wes Anderson’s film The French Dispatch and Gallant herself served as inspiration for the journalist portrayed by Frances McDormand.

Paris Notebooks presents a whole range of subjects portraying French society, ranging from architecture and literature to the gripping story of Gabrielle Russier, a young French schoolteacher driven to imprisonment, madness, and suicide as the result of an affair with one of her students. Also included are Gallant’s astute reviews of books by major figures such as Vladimir Nabokov, Simone de Beauvoir, Colette, and Günter Grass. No matter what form she’s working in, Mavis Gallant’s flawless prose is always full of wit and acuity.

This edition includes a new foreword by acclaimed literary biographer Hermione Lee.

Paris Notebooks is part of Godine’s Nonpareil series: celebrating the joy of discover with books bound to be classics. See here for a complete list of Nonpareils.


A stirring memoir of a young, single woman’s laborious struggle to save her family’s New England apple farm from going under during the Great Depression.

The Orchard is an exquisitely beautiful and poignant memoir of a young woman’s single-handed struggle to save her New England farm in the depths of the Great Depression. Discovered by the author’s daughter after the author’s death, it tells the story of Adele “Kitty” Robertson, young and energetic, but unprepared by her Radcliffe education for the rigors of apple farming in those bitter years of the early 1930s. Alone at the end of a country road, with only a Great Dane for company, plagued by debts, broken machinery, and killing frosts, Kitty revives the old orchard after years of neglect. Every day is a struggle, but every day she is also rewarded by the beauty of the world and the unexpected kindness of neighbors and hired workers.

Animated by quiet courage and simple goodness, The Orchard is a deeply moving celebration of decency and beauty in the midst of grim prospects and crushing poverty.

In addition to a foreword and epilogue by Betsy Robertson Cramer, the author’s daughter, this edition includes a new afterword by award-winning author Jane Brox.

The Orchard is part of Godine’s Nonpareil series: celebrating the joy of discover with books bound to be classics. See here for a complete list of Nonpareils.

We of Little Faith

Why I Stopped Pretending to Believe (and Maybe You Should Too)

An atheist’s impassioned call for nonbelievers to be honest with themselves and their families about their lack of belief—and in so doing change the American cultural conversation.

Even though a growing number of Americans don’t believe in god, many remain reluctant to say so out loud. Kate Cohen argues that not only is it rewarding for those of little faith to announce themselves, it’s crucial to our country’s future.

As she details the challenges and joys of fully embracing atheism—especially as a parent—Washington Post contributing columnist Kate Cohen does not dismiss religion as dangerous or silly. Instead, she investigates religion’s appeal in order to explain the ways we can thrive without it.

Americans who don’t believe in god call themselves atheists, agnostics, humanists, skeptics, and freethinkers. Sometimes they are called “nones,” based on the box they checked on a survey identifying their religion. And sometimes they call themselves Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or Buddhist.

Whatever you call yourself, if you don’t believe there’s a supernatural being in charge of the universe, it’s time to join the chorus of We of Little Faith.


“Kate Cohen’s We of Little Faith is outstanding: it speaks beautifully to the largest ‘religious’ group in America today: the ‘nones,’ who claim no religious affiliation, but are hesitant to speak about it. Cohen writes with the perfect mix of intelligence, compassion, and humor to let them know they’re not alone.”
Ali Rizvi, author of The Atheist Muslim

“A breathtakingly well-referenced, nimble, and thought-provoking book.”
Alexandra Petri, author of Alexandra Petri’s US History: Important American Documents (I Made Up)

We of Little Faith is a deeply personal, often funny, and always astute look at what we stand to gain when we question not just the existence of God, but all of the ways in which our societies, cultures, traditions, and tropes assume there’s a big man in the sky. A trenchant and thoughtful read, this is the perfect book for people who are atheism-curious, and for those who are religious but open-minded.”
Jill Filipovic, CNN columnist, author of The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness

“This is a wonderful book. While many popular books about atheism are written with a goal of deconverting readers, Kate Cohen takes a welcome detour in We of Little Faith. By sharing her own religious journey, Kate shows us that atheism doesn’t come from a place of rebellion, but rather a desire to embrace radical honesty. We of Little Faith is a delightful journey through both the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of atheism.”
Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist podcast

We of Little Faith is a must-read for every American, whether atheist or Zoroastrian or somewhere in between. Cohen’s witty, compassionate take on America’s religious culture is atheism as it should be, as it truly is: fulfilled, happy, and true to one’s self. This is the quotidian atheism your friends and family may be too timid to discuss, but which Cohen illuminates with absorbing eloquence. If you think about religion, you owe it to yourself to read this book.”
Andrew L. Seidel, author of American Crusade

“An engaging, enjoyable — and very timely book. As more and more Americans shed their religion, it is essential that the voices and values of atheists are well articulated and better understood. Cohen’s work is a warm, wonderful addition on this front.”
Phil Zuckerman, author of Society without God

See Kate Cohen interviewed on the Friendly Atheist YouTube Channel


When West Point Rugby Went to War

Before 9/11, the rugby team at West Point learned to bond on a sports field. This is what happened when those 15 young men became leaders in war.

Filled with drama, tragedy, and personal transformations, this is the story of a unique brotherhood. It is a story of American rugby and a story of the U. S. Army created through intimate portraits of men shaped by West Point’s motto: “Duty, Honor, Country.”

Some of the players deployed to Afganistan and Iraq, some to Europe. Some became infantry, others became fliers. Some saw action, some did not. One gave his life on a street in Baghdad when his convoy was hit with an IED. Two died away from the battlefield but no less tragically.

Journalist Martin Pengelly, a former rugby player himself, was given extraordinary access to tell this story, a story of a brutal sport and even more brutal warfare.

Brotherhood breaks the heart with its dramatic story of a fraternity of teammates broken by war.”
David Abrams, author of Fobbit

“A memorable and moving book, a significant contribution to the literature of the American military after 9/11.”
Thomas E. Ricks, author of Waging a Good War: A Military History of the Civil Rights Movement, 1954–1968

“In rugby, we often talk of ‘going into battle’ with your team. It’s just a game, of course, but in Brotherhood, sport, war, and friendship leap from the pages as players really do become warriors—and heroes.”
Dan Lyle, U.S. Rugby Hall of Famer and NBC Sports analyst

Winter Solstice

An Essay

A celebration and meditation on the season for drinking hot chocolate, spotting a wreath on a neighbor’s door, experiencing the change in light of shorter days. All aspects of Winter, from the meteorological to the mythological, are captured in this masterful essay, told in wise and luminous prose that pushes back the dark.

Winter begins with the shortest day of the year before nightfall. As in the companion volume, Summer Solstice, the author meditates on both the dark and the light and what this season means in our lives.

“Winter tells us,” Nina MacLaughlin says, “more than petaled spring, or hot-grassed summer, or fall with its yellow leaves, that we are mortal. In the frankness of its cold, in the mystery of its deep-blue dark, the place in us that knows of death is tickled, focused, stoked. The angels sing on the doorknobs and others sing from the abyss. The sun has been in retreat since June, and the heat inside glows brighter in proportion to its absence. We make up for the lost light in the spark that burns inside us.”

If Winter is a time you love for its memories and traditions, if you love writing that takes your breath away with lyrical leaps across time and space, Winter Solstice is an unforgettable book you’ll cherish.

Also available: Summer Solstice

Praise for Winter Solstice

“Nina MacLaughlin returns to celebrate the winter solstice, and delivers a most sensual hymn and harbor for the human ability to feel our way through the darkness towards wise, unexpected connections. This ethereal collection offers us a candle at night—it’s an astonishing gift.”
Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments

“Nina MacLaughlin stands shoulder to shoulder with such writers as José Emilio Pacheco and Fleur Jaeggy. In Winter Solstice we are invited into the impending dark, guided through our own, and in the end given just enough light to survive. MacLaughlin’s meditation is both universal and uncommonly distinct. An immense joy to read, Winter Solstice is not so much an essay as it is a vision.”
Matthew Dickman, author of Husbandry

“Smart and lyrical—this book makes you feel alive.”
Nicholson Baker, author of The Anthologist

Last Island

Discovery, Defiance, and the Most Elusive Tribe on Earth

A journey to the coast of North Sentinel Island, home to a tribe believed to be the most isolated human community on earth. The Sentinelese people want to be left alone and will shoot deadly arrows at anyone who tries to come ashore. As the web of modernity draws ever closer, the island represents the last chapter in the Age of Discovery—the final holdout in a completely connected world.

In November 2018, a zealous American missionary was killed while attempting to visit an island he called “Satan’s last stronghold,” a small patch of land known as North Sentinel in the Andaman Islands, a remote archipelago in the Indian Ocean. News of the tragedy fascinated people around the world. Most were unaware such a place still existed in our time: an island unmolested by the advances of modern technology.

Twenty years before the American missionary’s ill-fated visit, a young American historian and journalist named Adam Goodheart also traveled to the waters off North Sentinel. During his time in the Andaman Islands he witnessed another isolated tribe emerge into modernity for the first time.

Now, Goodheart—a bestselling historian—has returned to the Andamans. The Last Island is a work of history as well as travel, a journey in time as well as place. It tells the stories of others drawn to North Sentinel’s mystery through the centuries, from imperial adventurers to an eccentric Victorian photographer to modern-day anthropologists. It narrates the tragic stories of other Andaman tribes’ encounters with the outside world. And it shows how the web of modernity is drawing ever closer to the island’s shores.

The Last Island is a beautifully written meditation on the end of the Age of Discovery at the start of a new millennium. It is a book that will fascinate any reader interested in the limits—and dangers—of our modern, global society and its emphasis on ceaseless, unbroken connection.


“Adam Goodheart’s The Last Island thrills you from the beginning with an 18th century-style tale of adventure set in the present day. But it moves into a deeper reflection on a small tribe and its ancient culture standing alone in a globalized modern world. This book is both exciting and important—an adventure worth contemplating.”
Mark Kurlansky, author of Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World

“A thrilling book that will leave you contemplating the concept of civilization.“
Kirkus, starred review

The Last Island has the elegance of a spiraling seashell. In the fascinating tale of one small island caught in the mesh of modern imperialism and technology, Adam Goodheart has crafted a narrative that winds outward from a personal obsession to a broad interrogation about the value and purpose of human contact. This beguiling book holds within it the echo of vast historical tides.”
Maya Jasanoff, author of The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World

“Adam Goodheart takes us on a fascinating journey to a place that has so far eluded the devious entanglements of our hyperconnected world: North Sentinel Island at the outer edge of the Bay of Bengal. Part travelogue, part history, The Last Island is full of teasing enticements and disturbing revelations, a mesmerizing chronicle of a people at the frayed edge of so-called civilization.”
Nathaniel Philbrick, author of In the Heart of the Sea, Mayflower, and Travels with George

“Adam Goodheart has achieved something most of us can only dream of: finding a place where few of his compatriots have ever been. I wish I had been with him on the journey, but this gracefully written book is the next best thing.”
Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa

“In a world that is fully mapped, where distances are not what they used to be, Adam Goodheart’s genius lies in his ability to take us back centuries. The Last Island awakened in me a primordial sense of wonder.”
Aatish Taseer, author of The Twice-Born: Life and Death on the Ganges