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Deserving books that may pique your interest

On the red wooden chair near my desk, 14 inches high, is a mound of books waiting for review. Three or four of them have taken up residence on that red chair for months, clamoring for attention. Others are more newly arrived. 

Some of these books I will never read, but feel they deserve at least a note or two here. In some cases, the authors or publishers sent them to me and, in the words of playwright Arthur Miller, “Attention must be paid.” Some of these books rouse in me no real desire other than to casually thumb their pages, a fault that doubtless belongs to me as much as the book. Like most people, taste dictates what I read, and my tastes are sometimes not always those of the general public. A student, a bright kid who later entered Brown University, was aghast that I, his Advanced Placement English Literature teacher, had never read the Harry Potter books. My own children had dashed through all seven books in the series, and I tried to follow suit several times, beginning one of the books, putting it down after 20 pages, and finding it a month later beneath other books or a stack of mail.

Meanwhile, readers have bought more than 500 million copies of the Harry Potter books. Uncounted others have checked them out of libraries or shared them with their siblings and friends. With numbers like these, clearly the fault lies not with Harry Potter, but with me.

At any rate, here are four books that have made their way to my desk and will receive only cursory attention, but volumes that might nonetheless interest other readers.

Andrew Roberts’ Churchill: Walking With Destiny (Viking, 2018, 1105 pages) received rave critical reviews. Churchill is a hero of mine. I have read the three-volume set of The Last Lion, several shorter biographies, and several of Churchill’s own books. When in London four years ago, I had a friend snap a photo of me standing beside Churchill’s statue, and a tour of Churchill’s underground war headquarters beneath the streets of Westminster was a highlight of my visit to that city. I handily made my way through the first hundred pages of Roberts’ biography and found it as excellent as reviewers had promised, but decided, because of the length of the book, that time and circumstance dictated a break from the great man.

Paul David Bauer’s novel Saint Ed, a beautifully written self-published novel, tells the story of a Jewish-American and Princeton student, Ed Rybowski, who takes off on a road trip in 1939 with the wealthy son of a Virginia junior senator. Along the way both young men discover or share family secrets that will soon doom their friendship. A blurb describes Saint Ed as reminiscent of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, one of my top 10 twentieth century novels. Again, however, the length of the volume — 445 pages — and the demands of time and obligations have prevented me from reading it for review. 

In Love Is The Answer: How to Love Yourself, Improve Your Relationships, and Find Inner Peace (TCK Publishing, 2018, 269 pages), Sharon Cheney, a self-described psychic, soul reader, and teacher, looks at love in regard to the individual in all its aspects: romance, parental love, love of family, love of humanity, and so on. Her advice regarding love includes many practical tips, covering everything from raising teenage daughters to engaging with your ex after a divorce. Near the end of her book, Cheney discusses such subjects as how love may affect our health and the benefits of love in all parts of our life. One main theme to which Cheney returns again and again is that many of us suffer from a lack of self-love and are consequently dependent on the affirmation of others. Cheney thoroughly tackles the many facets of love, but Love Is The Answer came to me at a time when the last thing I wanted was advice about love. 

Tom Baker’s novel The Hawk and the Dove (Page Publishing, 2018, 493 pages) guides us through six different arenas of warfare, from the Viking Era to Vietnam. The hawk and the dove that fly over these battlefields represent humanity’s pursuit of both war and peace. Baker is a combat veteran from the Vietnam War and a forester and logger in Western North Carolina for over 40 years. A former president of the Ernest Hemingway Foundation and Society, James H. Meredith, highly praised The Hawk and the Dove, writing that it contains “both gripping combat sequences and informed commentary about the ultimate consequences of the that combat experience.” Meredith then compared The Hawk and the Dove favorably to Hemingway’s novel about the Spanish Civil War, For Whom The Bell Tolls.

“Too many books, too little time:” so the old adage goes. In my case, I will always wonder what I have missed in my reading, what books might have brought me wisdom, solace, or insight, or even changed the course of my life. 

All four books are available online or from your local bookstore. 

Read more about them online and see what you think. 

(Jeff Minick is a writer and teacher. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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