Small World: A fun New Year’s resolution

Henry Precht

By Henry Precht

BN Columnist

By the time you read these words, you will most likely have already broken one or more resolutions for 2013. It’s not too late, however, to do a repair job.

To that end, let me suggest a burden-free repair patch that will keep you going all year and leave you in better shape for the next one: Solemnly vow to read from one or more good books every day of the year.

To start you off, let me mention a few titles that I have liked:

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson tells a story of encounters between generations, personalities and ethnicities in an English village. Intelligent, wise, witty and beautifully written, it will make you laugh out loud. I did — countless times.

Fortress Israel: The Inside Story of the Military Elite Who Run the Country — and Why They Can’t Make Peace by Patrick Tyler. A rarely published view of a perhaps overly-trusted friend. Tyler was until retirement an eminent reporter for the Washington Post and New York Times. His writing is fine and his arguments fairly and amply supported.

Inferno, the World at War, 1939-45 by Max Hastings. Here is the fast-moving story of WWII told from the perspective of all the countries that fought in that terrible conflict. The author pulls no punches in evaluating the leadership of all the combatants, frequently correcting propaganda from the victors.

Wolf Hall and its recent sequel, Bring up the Bodies by Hillary Mantel. Intrigue at the court of Henry VIII. Gripping fictionalized history, the way it wasn’t written for your high school. Should hold you until well past time to get the garden started.

Skios by Michael Frayn, another hard-to-put-down, laugh-out-loud book, a wacky farce I wished would never end until the end fizzled. Set on a Greek island, it depicts romance, utter confusion and deft satire of intellectual pomposity.

The Passage of Power, the fourth installment of Robert Caro’s biography of LBJ. Takes you through the hard times of his vice presidency to the days after he succeeded Kennedy. Rich in the details of governance and of LBJ’s difficult relations with Bobby Kennedy and friends, the text (I listened to rather than read it) forces us to admire the forceful and abused leader — Vietnam will be covered in the next and final volume.

The Last Chronicle of Barset (or any of the other novels in the series) by Anthony Trollope. There’s nothing like a plot and personality-rich, meaty Victorian novel to make the days pass quickly, too quickly whether under two feet of snow or two feet off the ground in a summer hammock.

Rome by Robert Hughes, a perfect guidebook whether or not you’re going there. Never lacking strong opinions, Hughes takes us from the [sometimes] glory days of Empire to miscreant popes to fumbling fascists with plenty of commentary on artists and thinkers who helped fashion the great city and Western culture.

There, that should help you get started. Holly at Bridgton Public Library or Justin at Bridgton Books will be happy to see you through the entire year — which I hope will be a happy and literary one.

Henry Precht, author of A Diplomat’s Progress – Ten Tales of Diplomatic Adventure in and Around the Middle East, is a summer resident of Bridgton.

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