Five great books

My recent speaking tour, which took me around the world, allowed for down time and I was able to read a number of great books.  I pass them on to my friends….

 

Boone: A Biography

(Algonguin, Chapel Hill)

By Robert Morgan

 

This is the definitive modern biography of Daniel Boone, an American hero.  Morgan is a true historian who weaves his narrative steadily onward, carefully outlining the multiple versions of this story, without letting the controversies and factual debates slow his pace. It turns out that Boone is as complicated as the rest of us, neither all good or all bad and a lot unknown, even to himself.  But this account will add much to your understanding of America and what it is and how it thinks and all within a heart pounding adventure of the wild and rugged west.

 

Sniper One

(St. Martin’s Press)

By Sgt. Dan Mills

 

An alpha man’s book, written with colorful description, that gets right to the action with minimum delay.  Mills masters the hardest part of writing a good book, making each chapter interesting from beginning to end.  And this is the Iraqi conflict from a British perspective, which offers some surprising angles for American readers.

 

Sex with Kings

(Harper-Perennial)

Eleanor Herman

 

This may be the greatest “honey you have to read this” book of all time.  Why it didn’t dominate the bestseller lists for years is beyond me.  Perhaps it is the fault of the unfortunate title because this is a serious history that covers 500 years and cuts to the richest, most titillating moments within that gargantuan time span.  Dungeons with rats, perfumed silk sheets in adulteress beds, palace intrigue and betrayal on an epic scale are only some of the features in history’s greatest, behind the scenes stories of passion, greed and redemption.

 

There are a handful of factual errors but given the scope they are insignificant, which makes Herman a great historian as well as a great storyteller.  Fasten your seat belt before you read this one.  And find someone to talk to about it because you won’t be able to stand it all alone.

 

Operation Homecoming

(Random House)

Edited by Andrew Carroll

 

This is a fascinating collection of letters and observations from soldiers and their families with commentary on the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Produced by the National Endowment for the Arts, this volume, with hundreds of authors, takes some unlikely turns and has unexpected moments of exquisite pathos and irony.    It will be a great historical resource, with anecdotal evidence supporting just about any opinion on this controversial and complex time.

 

Fugitives of the Forest

(Lyons Press)

Allan Levine

 

I actually read this book while flying over the very forests it speaks of and when I landed, I learned that there is a new movie out, Defiance, based on this story of Tuvia Bielski and other Jewish heroes of resistance during the Nazi war in the East.  I hope the author who painstakingly reconstructed the story brick by brick was paid something for his efforts and didn’t see it stolen by another book, bait and switch Hollywood style.

 

There is so much resigned pain in holocaust stories, such feelings of helplessness and inevitability, as each one of us identifies and realizes that we too would have likely tried to keep our family together and thus stumbled on like sleepwalkers to our fate.  But here, finally, is a story that exceeds anyone’s imagination.  It may be insignificant compared to the great numbers of World War II but it is such sweet revenge.  There are the teenagers who abandoned the family and ran to the woods.  And there are even some Gollum-like wretches who climb over corpses and out of the death pits, fleeing to the woods to find guns and kill and harass their murderers.

 

This is a story told just in time, for the many eyewitnesses are dying every year now.  But Levine carefully documents their accounts and reconstructs a powerful moment of triumph in the middle of the modern world’s greatest catastrophy.

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