From humor to history, ‘wild card’ books offer a full deck of Good Reads


Editor’s Note: This week, Chester-Andover Elementary School students Taylor Cote and Olivia Wright, under the guidance of teacher Frank Kelley, have taken a turn at book reviewing. Read their review of Wonder by clicking here.

Good Reads1 copyBy John Hoover

When it comes time each month to write the Good Reads column for The Chester Telegraph we at Misty Valley Books put our heads together, come up with a theme, then recommend books that fit that theme. For our May column we decided to do something different. Instead of a theme, we’ve declared May a “wild card” month where we’ve picked favorite books just because they are favorite books. The books chosen for May range from the humorous to the spiritual, from the moving to the historical. We think you’ll find something on this list that you will also consider a Good Read.

BaddhaLynne’s choice for our “wild card” column is Baddha ($12.95) by Elson Quick. “Quick, a pseudonym for an internationally best-selling author, has written a fascinating book: a trip through Southeast Asia with a protagonist who is searching (of course). He lives an expat life of travel, drugs, prostitution, and yet he has moments where he glimpses the essence of what truly matters. A very interesting take on the tenets of Buddhism. I didn’t really enjoy reading it but I couldn’t put it down. I also wonder who the author really is!”

Baby BoomBill says, “I’ve just finished The Baby Boom ($25), by P.J. O’Rourke, feeling, well, uh, it’s all about me! Which, of course, was sort of the theme of the generation coming of age, me with ’em, in the ’60s. O’Rourke is very funny and a keen observer. Here’s a quote: “The 1960s was an era of big thoughts. And yet, amazingly, each of those thoughts could fit on a t-shirt.”

Bringing down the houseTaking the phrase “wild card” literally, Amanda says “May’s theme brings to mind Ben Mezrich’s Bringing Down the House ($16) a fast-paced, suspenseful non-fiction account of several MIT students’ card-counting shenanigans in Vegas.

I wish I‘d had a math teacher like these students had – I might have paid more attention!  It’s a fun read – perfect for beach or lake vacation reading (yes, it will get warm!)

Tell the wolves i'mhomeAs her favorite book this past year Jory picked Tell the Wolves I’m Home ($15) by Carol Rifka Brunt. “June Elbus is 14, and her uncle, Finn, has just died of AIDS. It’s the ’80s, and the disease is still an “untouchable”topic. Finn was June’s closest confidante, and without him, she feels utterly lost. This was one of the most moving books I read last year – reading about June was like entering into another world of thought.”

A Walk in the WoodsIt seems that Kim has so many “favorite” books that is was almost impossible for her to narrow the field down to one book but in the end she chose Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods ($15.99). She says “my favorite book, by one of my favorite authors. Two out of shape, ill prepared, middle aged men set out to hike the Appalachian Trail – with hilarious results.

Bully pulpitCurrently I’m reading The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism ($40) by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Anyone who doesn’t believe that history repeats itself needs to read this book, the resemblances between now and the early 1900’s progressive era are uncanny. In addition to the two presidents named in the sub-title Goodwin details the impact the men and women of the press had on the events of the day. Not a lightweight at 750 pages this book is one of the best works of history I’ve ever read.

the martianSince I’m also a fan of the novel I have to recommend my new favorite work of fiction, Andy Weir’s The Martian ($24). Astronaut Mark Watney finds himself stranded on Mars and has to figure out how to survive for three years on supplies meant to last his mission’s crew of six a total of six weeks in addition to keeping all the essential life-support equipment running. A rousing good story as well as some incredible but easily understood science and technology.

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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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