Two Stonecoast faculty members earn spots on NYT book list

Every winter, the New York Times names the most notable books published in that year. Barack Obama’s book has been on the list. So have works by Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy, and Elizabeth Strout.

And, this year, so have books by two Stonecoast faculty members. 

“Hokuloa Road” by Elizabeth Hand and “Night of the Living Rez” by Morgan Talty made the New York Times list of 100 Notable Books for 2022

“It just came out of nowhere,” said Talty. 

While Hand’s work has appeared on the New York Times list before, this is Talty’s first time — and his first book. 

“It’s been a few years (since appearing on the list), so it was really exciting,” Hand said. “But I was really genuinely and especially excited because Morgan was there, too.”

“Night of the Living Rez” is a short story collection set in a Native community in Maine. Talty, a member of the Penobscot Indian Nation, graduated from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast low-residency MFA program in 2019 and began teaching there not long after.  He is also an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Maine.

Published by Tin House in July, Talty’s book quickly earned rave reviews, including from the New York Times. It won a New England Book Award for fiction and was a finalist for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Fiction. It’s been named one of the best books of 2022 multiple times, including by TIME, Publishers Weekly, NPR, and Esquire. It’s a national bestseller.

Hand is working on the final revisions to “A Haunting on the Hill,” an authorized follow-up to Shirley Jackson’s classic “The Haunting of Hill House.” That book is set to be published in 2023.

“It’s been surreal. It’s just been an unexpected trip, and it’s still going,” Talty said. “Every week there’s something — there’s something that somebody says about it that keeps it going, which is cool.” 

The New York Times’ annual book list is among the most well known and carries a lot of sway with readers looking for recommendations. 

Elizabeth Hand, who has published nearly 20 novels. Photo by Judith Clute.

“It’s fantastic seeing two of our Stonecoast faculty members receive this recognition for their books,” said Stonecoast Director Justin Tussing. “Elizabeth Hand and Morgan Talty aren’t just remarkable writers; like the rest of their colleagues at Stonecoast, they’re also extraordinary teachers who are invested in helping others realize their writing goals.”

Hand’s “Hokuloa Road” is a mystery/thriller centered on a young Maine man who goes to work as a caretaker for a luxury property in Hawaii and discovers that people in the area tend to disappear. Published by Mulholland Books in July, it also quickly garnered rave reviews, including from the New York Times. 

Hand has published nearly 20 novels and a number of short story collections. She has taught at Stonecoast for 15 years. 

“It’s a wonderful community of writers,” Hand said of Stonecoast. “There’s not this sort of hierarchy of faculty members, writers, and student writers. It just feels like a whole lot of writers.”

Talty is currently working on a new book, his first novel, called “Fire Exit.” That book is set to be published in 2024.