From Buddhism to biography: Take a chance on non-fiction

Good ReadsBy John Hoover
©2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Most often this column recommends works of fiction. This month, however, the folks at Misty Valley Books are suggesting some non-fiction works that we found to be informative, intriguing, educational and/or just plain good reads.

bunny buddhismFrom Buddhism to history and biography the books we’ve chosen for April are ones that we are sure you will enjoy as much as we have.

Lynne’s recommendation is Bunny Buddhism: Hopping Along the Path to Enlightenment ($14) by Krista Lester. “Even if you’re not a Buddhist, this book will make you laugh and think. I quote, ‘A bunny does not find peace until he extends the circle of compassion to include all bunnies.’ Or this one, ‘The only truly rich bunny is the one who realizes he has enough carrots.’ And this, ‘Sometimes choosing not to hop is more powerful than hopping.’ The author’sconversations with a masked man intention is to bring a smile to the reader with the hope that one smile might lead to another and another (toward bunniness!). A wonderful gift and a deeper read than it looks.”

“Here’s a question:  Is memoir non-fiction?” Bill asks.  “One sort of hopes so, in order to believe what one is reading.  But what if the memoir/biography is about a spy?  Read John Hadden’s Conversations with a Masked Man – My Father, the CIA and Me ($24.99), a fascinating bit of work by a Shakespearean actor, accomplished writer and well-known local personality and decide for yourself.  You’ll be intrigued whatever you decide.  Hadden was at Misty Valley Books to present his book in February.”

civil wars of juliaAmanda says, “I don’t usually gravitate toward non-fiction, but Elaine Showalter’s The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe ($28) has made me rethink that. Julia Ward Howe, most famously known as author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, was a learned, sophisticated woman who chafed against the constraints of the roles of wife and mother in 1800s Boston.  The writing is quick-paced and lively, yet filled with insightful detail.”

Kim goes out to sea and back into history for her recommendation. “In the Heart of the Sea ($17) by Nathaniel Philbrick, tells the ill-fated story of the Essex, a whaling ship from Nantucket in the early 19th century. After an enraged whale heart of the seasinks their ship in the middle of the South Pacific, 20 men set out in three tiny lifeboats for the coast of South America. Three months later, only eight are still alive. This tragedy would become, in part, the inspiration for Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Philbrick does a great job of interweaving the survival story, with a history of the Nantucket whalers. Now I need to go back and read his other best seller, The Mayflower.”

Sylvan suggests a revised view of our nation’s history. “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States ($16) by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz is ‘our story’ in a light quite different from the version that usually begins with children reciting ‘Columbus sailed the ocean blue.’ Dunbar-Ortiz offers a clear and compelling narrative indigenious peoplesof more than 400 years of history. Even though the subject is sobering and difficult to read about, this is an accessible history book that I would recommend for anyone who wants a better understanding of what it means to have inherited our ‘land of the free.’ ”

To anyone who was a devout follower of Downton Abbey and wonders what happened to Britain’s aristocracy after the PBS serial ended, I heartily recommend Black Diamonds ($17) by Catherine Bailey. Beginning with the death of the 6th Earl Fitzwilliam in 1902, Bailey follows the fortunes of the Fitzwilliam family during the 20th century. From their palatial estate, Wentworth Houseblack diamonds in Yorkshire, they ruled an empire based on coal and were one of the richest families in England. Filled with anecdotes and scandal, Black Diamonds is a fascinating work of history.

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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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