Eclectic mix of books tantalizes with beautiful writing

Good Reads1 copyBy John Hoover
©2015 Telegraph Publishing LLC
As the summer of 2015 nears its end, I left it up to the folks here at Misty Valley Books to choose whatever they wanted to review for our August Good Reads column.

Their choices are, as always, an eclectic mix of titles (much like the titles that Lynne orders for the store), a list on which just about everyone will find a pleasing title or two.

last first dayFrom Bill’s non-fiction recommendation to Kim’s pick about cholera in 19th century London, I think we’ve covered all the bases and hope that, as our summer draws to an end, you will have time for a Good Read or two.

Lynne recommends a title that is not only a wonderful story but is also beautifully written. “Leafing through The Last First Day ($15.95), a new novel by Carrie Brown, I came across a passage that was so beautiful that I knew I had to read the book. Peter, headmaster of the Derry School, and his wife, Ruth, have been at the school for 40 years. The end of his tenure (not wished for) and the story of their life are beautifully drawn and more poignant than I would have thought.”

Class DivideHaving attended Yale, Bill had a special interest in his choice for this column. “Class Divide ($29.95) by Howard Gillette is a fascinating portrait of the ’60s from a special perspective.  Subtitled Yale ‘64 and the Conflicted Legacy of the Sixties, Gillette’s book is what the era looked like in the eyes of a privileged undergraduate and what Gillette’s assessment is now – he’s a retired history prof –  of the changes that, as they said then, went down.”

Gillette and two of his Yale classmates will discuss the events of thatat Misty Valley Books at 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22.

Great TroubleKim says that summer reading for her is usually about catching up on some of the newer children’s fiction. “The Great Trouble ($7.99) by Deborah Hopkinson is a historical fiction account of the cholera plague in London in the 1850s, as seen through the eyes of a street urchin from the Broad Street neighborhood. Young Eel gets a job assisting celebrated Dr. John Snow, whose meticulous research conclusively proved that ‘the Blue Death’ was in fact spread by contaminated water, rather than  bad air as was the prevailing theory. An especially interesting topic to me personally, as several direct relatives died from cholera around this same time period.”

The ChefIt would appear that Sylvan had much the same thoughts about summer being almost over. “As summer comes to a close, I decided to take a literary vacation, picking something that, for me, was completely exotic. Martin Suter’s The Chef ($14.95) is set at a Zurich nouvelle cuisine restaurant, where the recession is being felt by its clientele who now order wine that costs 120 francs instead of their usual at 420. The main character is a struggling immigrant dish-washer with a talent for literally seductive spices and a desire for the stunningly beautiful and unavailable waitress.

“The two start their own catering company called Love Food, and as the plot and their venture take off, questions of love, attraction, social and moral responsibility arise.”

Secret Wisdom of earthOften life gets in the way and I don’t have the time to read a book when it first becomes available. Such was the case with Christopher Scotton’s The Secret Wisdom of the Earth ($26). Scotton was in Chester for Misty Valley’s New Voices last January and I picked up a copy then but it wasn’t until July, at the urging of my wife, that I finally got around to reading it.

Set in the hills of Kentucky, the story is told by a 14-year-old boy who comes to spend a summer with his maternal grandfather in a small town in an area where mountain top removal coal mining is quickly changing the face of the land around them. Secret Wisdom is a debut novel and is superbly written, showcasing an exceptional talent. It is one of the best  coming of age stories I’ve ever read. I’m almost done and hated to put it down to write this column.

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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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