Fire-side reading: The warmth of a good book from classics to mysteries

Good Reads1 copy
By John Hoover
©2015 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The winter solstice has come and gone and the days are getting longer. However, the nights are still plenty long and, with little else to do, it is the perfect time to pick up a good book to help you pass a long winter’s evening. Fix yourself a cup of tea or an adult beverage, sit by the fire or the wood stove (or perhaps the image of a crackling fire on your computer) and open up one of our Good Reads recommendations. It will be spring before you know it.

End of InnocenceLynne suggests a book by one of our New Voices 2015, Allegra Jordan. The End of Innocence ($24.99) tells the story of three Harvard/Radcliffe students on the eve of World War I: Helen Brooks, from an upper class Boston family; Riley Spencer, a British aristocrat; and his German cousin, Willhem Brandl. Tragically, all their lives are changed when war is declared. Helen and Wils have fallen in love, patriotism and violence erupt on campus, and Riley and Wils are called back to their respective countries — now enemies. A wonderful exploration of the complications involved when war becomes personal and a testimony to healing and reconciliation. See the trailer at and come hear Allegra January 31, 2015 in Chester.”

you are not that specialBill’s choice is by another New Voices 2015 author, David McCullough Jr.  You Are Not Special, And Other Encouragements ($21.99) is a book that grew out of his commencement address in 2012 at Wellesley High School, where he teaches English. His message that “if everyone is special, then no one is” went viral on YouTube, with 1.9 million viewers.  The subsequent book may not be comfort reading in front of the fire, but he (son of the eminent historian David McCullough) makes very good points on the real advantages of learning.”

In addition to her love of cookbooks, Amanda also loves a good mystery/thriller and her choice for January is one of the best. “A perfect read for a bleak mid-winter’s night (or day!) is Norwegian author Jo Nesbo’s latest, The Son ($25.95).  Thinking this would be a continuation of Nesbo’s excellent Harry Hole detective series, I was surprised to find a whole new cast of characters.

The SonThe original plot twists and suspenseful action keep the reader engaged throughout the novel.  Despite protagonist Sonny Loftus’ unconventional pursuit of justice, we find ourselves empathizing with his methods to root out corruption in the Oslo police force.  Saying any more would give away crucial plot elements – if you’re a detective/mystery fan, read it for yourself; I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!”

Sylvan turns to the classics for her recommendation for January. “My recommendation is to take a look at the Dover thrift edition rack with paperbacks that are designed to be easy on your wallet (which is helpful after the holidays). My personal favorite is Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations ($5.50). In my opinion, there has never been another author who can weave a plot as compellingly as Dickens.

Great ExpectationsHis larger-than-life characters are sure to add some color to the gray days. I guarantee that even if you’ve seen a movie adaptation of this amazing story, or read the book before, there are details you’ve forgotten and will smile to experience again.“ Kim also recommended Great Expectations, saying “I LOVED that book! One: I was introduced to (the movie) in grade school, had to read in high school, and have re-read several times since just because!”

For our younger readers, Jory recommends I’ll Give You the Sun ($17.99), by Jandy Nelson. “This is gloriously written YA for a full day by the fire. Twin siblings are hugely changed by an event that happens when they’re 13. Noah narrates the events leading up to the incident. Jude narrates from her 16-year-old self, looking back at the event. It isn’t until the final pages that the reader is able to piece together the whole story. “

give you the sunBeing a fan of the dystopian genre of fiction, I was delighted to discover James Howard Kuntsler’s World Made By Hand trilogy. Book One, World Made By Hand ($14.95) takes place in the village of Union Grove, N.Y., in the period following a series of catastrophes that totally disrupts the nation’s infrastructure resulting in an intermittent supply of electricity and no communications and no oil. It details the efforts of a small group of people to develop new ways of living that are very like ones from our pre-industrial past. I look forward to reading Book Two, The Witch of Hebron ($14.95) and Book Three, A History of the Future ($25).

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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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