Vermonters present state in fiction, travel, mystery and history

By John Hoover

©The Chester Telegraph – 2014

One of the things that has so impressed me about Vermont, my adopted state, is the wonderful variety of cultural activities that one finds so readily here. For the person who desires to hear music, there are concerts that range from bluegrass to classical. There are so Good Reads1 copymany visual artists working in a wide range of media that the annual Open Studio Tour brochure runs to many pages. But the thing that has impressed me most is the number of writers who have chosen to live and work in Vermont.

Each November Misty Valley hosts the Vermont Voices programs and has no trouble lining up authors to present their latest works. Additionally there are numerous works written about Vermont. Being that Vermont is such a rich source of the written word we’ve chosen Vermont as the theme of this month’s Good Reads.

Not WithougTo start off our literary tour of Vermont, Lynne suggests Not Without Peril ($15) by Marguerite Allis. “This historical novel tells the life story of Jemima Sartwell who lived along the Connecticut River in the 1700s. She lived a hard life, losing two husbands, being “captivated” (captured) by Indians along with her children, yet surviving to see Vermont become a state. Told in the language of the day, I really felt I was experiencing her life and time. Fascinating and unexpectedly wonderful.”

Archer MayorBill’s choice is any book by Vermont’s own Archer Mayor. “This fall, Archer Mayor’s 25th Joe Gunther mystery will appear.  Like clockwork, Mayor produces an intriguing novel every year, usually based in Vermont and invariably with a Vermont connection, and every year his previous year’s hardcover goes to paperback. They are great stories with a beloved cast of characters.  You may want to start at the beginning with Open Season ($14.95) although you don’t have to.  Start with last year’s Three Can Keep a Secret ($25.99), probably his best to date, set in the period during and after the flooding of Tropical Storm Irene, and then see what he comes up with this year.”

Archer Mayor 2Counting on GraceKim has two selections. First, Counting on Grace ($6.99) by Elizabeth Winthrop is a work of children’s historic fiction. “Set in the cotton mills of Pownal, VT, it explores the use, or more properly misuse, of children as workers in the early 1900s. The book and title character were inspired by actual photographs taken by famed photographer Lewis Hines, whose work was instrumental in the reforming of child labor laws in the US. This is an outstanding read and the 2007 Vermont Humanities Council’s choice for their annual Explorers guideVermont Reads program.”

Kim’s second choice is An Explorer’s Guide to Vermont ($21.95) by Christina Tree. “One of those go to books that usually rides around in the car with me, and gets pulled out any time we have out-of-town guests. Packed with all kinds of roadside history, event calendars, photos, maps, prices, scenic drives and alternate suggestions this is a great guide to places you may already be familiar with.”

ski areasNot able to choose just one book about Vermont, Amanda chose three. The first is The Vermont Encyclopedia ($55) by John Duffy, et al.  “It is a wonderful compendium of history, geography and lore that is a great reference for students (and adults!) of all ages.”  Additionally, she suggests “Lost Ski Areas of Southern Vermont ($19.99) by Jeremy K. Davis and Donald H. Thompson’s Lake Bomoseen: The History of Vermont’s Largest Little-Known Lake ($19.99), just two of the many Vermont-related titles published by The History Press.”

Bomoseensnowflake bentleyFor younger readers Jory’s selection is Snowflake Bentley ($17) by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian. “Wilson Bentley grew up in Vermont and was always fascinated by snowflakes. He wanted to see them up-close, and spent his life examining their complexities. This beautifully illustrated picture book biography tells about Bentley’s life and his scientific (and artistic!) discoveries about snowflakes.”

Invisible vermonterEvery once in a while a writer so captures the local ethos of a place that the reader longs to go there. Such is the case with Steve Delaney’s “Nilesburgh” trilogy. Starting with Kevin ($19.95), continuing with Cooney ($19.95) and concluding with Finulla ($19.95) Delaney presents a delightful picture of the town and people of this fictional Vermont community. I thoroughly enjoyed these books and highly recommend them. You can meet Delaney in front of the bookstore during Chester’s Fall Festival in September.

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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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