Nonfiction works will enlighten, intrigue and entertain

By John Hoover

H ave you ever had a burning question or wanted to know something about a particular subject?Good Reads1 copy While reading a work of fiction is a lot of fun, it often doesn’t answer questions we might have.

We at Misty Valley Books we often head for the nonfiction sections of the bookstore where there are a wonderful array of works that enlighten and entertain us as well. This month, our recommendations range across the fields of biography, history, geopolitics and science

Left for DeadKim went in a local direction with her recommendation of Hetty ($13.99) by Charles Slack. Hetty Green, dubbed “The Witch of Wall Street” because of her eccentricities, is often disregarded today. But in her heyday, she was one of the most powerful players in the world of finance, going toe to toe with giants such as Andrew Carnegie, the Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts. There’s also a local connection to Bellows Falls, where she is buried and where her husband’s family lived.

Kim also recommends Pete Nelson’ s Left for Dead ($8.95).  As an 11-year-old, Hunter Scott learned of the story of the USS Indianapolis from the movie Jaws. Still considered the worst disaster in naval history, the U.S. Navy, needing to fix blame for the WWII sinking, court-martialed the ship’s captain. It took an 11 year old boy, some 50 years later, to right that wrong.

Lynne says Shahan Mufti’s The Faithful Scribe: A Story of Islam, Pakistan, Family and War ($26.95) is a book she couldn’t put down. Mufti, who was born in the United States, went to Middlebury College and is a professor of Journalism at the University of Richmond in Virginia and has written a book that takes you from the beginning of Pakistan in 1947 to now. He does this effortlessly, telling the story through his family’s experience.The Faithful Scribe

Bill recommends In the Garden of Beasts ($16) by Erik Larson. The new ambassador to Germany and his family gradually realize what a mess they and Germany are in as the Nazis come to power.  A deftly told, true story by the author of The Devil in the White City.

Amanda says that if you’re looking for a biography that reads like exciting fiction, West with the Night ($16) by Beryl Markham is just the thing.  Set in East Africa in the early 1900s, the book follows the author’s unusual childhood and career as a bush pilot.  The book, which is wonderfully written, gives a sense of a different era and way of life.

I couldn’t decide between two recently read works, so I’m going to recommend both. First is Bill Bryson’s At Home ($15.95). Bryson uses the house in which he lived in England as the setting for a history of the structures people have lived in and how we live in them today. Along the way, he helps us understand how our modern way of life came about. Second on my list is How It Ends ($16.95) by Chris Impey. A fascinating look at the end of everything from bacteria to humans to the universe itself. Lots of good science told in layman’s terms.

Pizza in PienzaFor our younger readers, Jory recommends Pizza in Pienza ($17.95) by Susan Fillion. This is a playfully rendered picture book history of pizza that perfectly captures the modernity and antiquity that are still alive in Italy today. The story is told in both English and Italian. And there’s a eecipe for Pizza Margherita in the back! Jory also recommends Titanic: Voices from the Disaster ($17.99) by Deborah Hopkinson. This history of the Titanic is written for teens, told by many of the passengers aboard this monumental ship. Despite the well-known subject, this book offers much that is new.

Next month we’ll take a look at some of those books we read (or should have read) when we were in high school.

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeGood Reads

About the Author: After a 35-year career as a high school social studies teacher, John Hoover and his wife, Sally, retired to Vermont. He lives in Windham where he serves as a Justice of the Peace and Library Trustee. He works part time as a book-seller at Misty Valley Books, is active at St. Luke's Episcopal Church and sings in several choral groups.

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