After four years, Hoover bids farewell to Good Reads column

Editor’s Note: Four years ago, The Chester Telegraph began the Good Reads column. It was a collaboration with Misty Valley Books, with bookseller, John Hoover, compiling the monthly recommendations of the staff and adding his own. It has been a genuine pleasure to work with John.  I have enjoyed editing his columns and discovering new books and revisiting the classics. And I have bought quite a number of those for myself and for others.
This book column has been a reflection of one characteristic of our communities: you are indeed avid readers. But with John’s retirement from bookselling, it looks like the column with be retiring as well. We thank John and the folks at Misty Valley Books for their dedication to this endeavor and look forward to finding another way to deliver news from the world of books to Telegraph readers.  — Cynthia Prairie

By John Hoover
© 2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

John Hoover, our Good Reads columnist, retires.

For the last four years, the Good Reads column has appeared each month in The Chester Telegraph. In those 46 columns, I’ve shared with you books — more than 340 — that the owners and staff at Misty Valley Books (now Phoenix Books at Misty Valley) have enjoyed and recommended.

As the saying goes “all good things must come to an end” and my time as author of this column and as a bookseller at the store ended with my retirement in January.

Writing this column has been a joy and my experience over the last 10 years at Misty Valley Books/Phoenix Books incredibly enriched my retirement from teaching. It is impossible for me to tell you how much being a part of the Misty Valley family and the Chester community has meant to me. Your many kindnesses when we’ve met at the store, the stories we have shared and the warmth I have felt from you are things that I will never forget. I can only thank you from the bottom of my heart and hope that we will meet often in the future.

As this is my last Good Reads column, I allowed the staff to review any book they wanted, without regard to a theme. Some chose to recommend a book that fits with Valentine’s Day, while others chose something they’ve read that was a favorite Good Read.

Kim couldn’t make up her mind as to only one book so she’s recommending two. “Now that the chaos of the holidays are behind us and winter has settled in, I finally have some time to curl up with the growing stack of books I have at my bedside. Never one to take the easy way and only read one book at a time; I have two books to share. The first is an older book called The Devil’s Rooming House ($24.95) by M. William Phelps, which tells the (true) story of Amy Archer-Gilligan, who was the deadliest female serial killer in American history. The play/movie Arsenic and Old Lace, while transformed into a comedy, was inspired by Archer-Gilligan, who ran a nursing home/boarding house in Connecticut in the early 1900s. Rather than care for her residents though, she murdered them for their money.”

Kim’s second recommendation is Shadows of Sherwood ($16.99) by Kekla Magoon. “Shadows of Sherwood is a children’s book on this year’s Dorothy Canfield Fischer list. Set in a futuristic but relatable world, it’s a retelling of the Robin Hood legend, but with a mysterious ethereal twist. In this version, Robyn is not only chased through Sherwood by the Sheriff of Nott City, but is searching for her parents while fulfilling a Moon Lore prophecy as old as the Earth itself. Very much looking forward to seeing what happens to our heroes in book No. 2, Rebellion of Thieves.

This last column once again finds Amanda in the kitchen with her stack of cookbooks. “As I think back over four plus years of Good Reads recommendations, I realize I’ve suggested many favorite cookbooks, since I love to collect and read them. For this column I’ve decided to recommend any of Mark Bittman’s many cookbooks.  His How to Cook Everything ($24.95) and How to Cook Everything Fast ($35) are now indispensable in my kitchen.  My most recent Bittman addition though is his How to Bake Everything ($35). The recipe for Fig Bittmans (his version of a Fig Newton) is delicious.  The cookies keep well, although are rarely given the chance to!”

Sara combines Valentine’s Day and mystery for her selection. “Do you have a secret admirer? Well, the children in this A to Z Mystery certainly do, and it’s up to them to solve the case and figure out who wants to be their Valentine. I recommend Secret Admirer ($5.99) by Ron Roy to any adult or child looking for a fun case to crack during this Valentine’s Day season.”

Wendy’s choice is The Maytrees ($13.95) by Annie Dillard. “Lou and Toby Maytree fall headlong in love, marry and live a spartan yet vibrant life among the bohemian, non-conformist community of postwar Provincetown in the ’40s. The story follows them, and their circle of friends, through the whole course of their lives, as they immerse themselves in the wonder of living — through books, ideas, writing, painting, walking the dunes. We follow the arc of these quirky, creative, marvelous characters and their complicated, intertwined relationships that evolve in very unconventional and unexpected ways.”

Two years ago, Bill Reed reviewed Me Before You ($16) by Jo-jo Moyes in this column. More recently I read that book and its sequel, After You ($16) and found them to be charming love stories. In Me Before You, Lou Clark falls in love with her quadriplegic charge, Will Traynor, who is intent on ending his life. Lou is given the job of trying to change his mind. After You starts with Lou in a dead-end job at an airport lounge and attempting to find direction in her life. After a fall from the roof of her apartment building she finds plenty of direction when Will’s daughter turns up and the paramedic who treated her after the fall becomes interested in getting to know her better. Both novels are poignant and often witty stories that are ideal for Valentine’s Day.

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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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  1. philip a. sereni says:

    It was my pleasure to have taught for 25 years with John. I wish him and Sally nothing but the best.