… and I Love Turning Those Pages
By Jeff Salter
We’re discussing books as gifts this week and the Monday Fox wondered what titles we might give to particular people or for specific occasions.
An excellent question, because I love receiving and giving books — always have. I remember, in fifth grade, there was a class gift exchange and a girl, Robbie B., received a hardcover version of Pinocchio. Others who saw her unwrap that gift made such a stink about how she’d been gypped that Robbie also decided she felt that way. Recognizing an opportunity to expand my personal library, I stepped in and offered to trade whatever toy I’d received for Robbie’s book. She seemed quite grateful, the teacher proclaimed me a gallant hero, and I got a new book out of the deal! Win win win.
So anyway, that was some 55 years ago and I still have that book — somewhere. Now to the task of creating a list of titles I’d give… or would recommend as gifts. But my twist on the topic is to list them by subject or genre.
For James Bond movie fans, I’d recommend you go back to the original Ian Fleming novels and see what Bond was really like. Start with either From Russia With Love or Goldfinger.
For fans of the early spy novel genre series, I’d suggest reading the first dozen or so of the Matt Helm books by Donald Hamilton. I didn’t think the later titles were as good as his earlier ones.
If you want to laugh so much that your tummy hurts, read Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. Redford and Nolte star in the movie, which I have not yet seen, but it could not compare with the text. Another truly funny book is Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 — and much better than the film.
Love military history, but don’t know where to start? Start with World War II and begin with one of the better unit histories. Stephen Ambrose perfected those with Band of Brothers, but another excellent example was his Pegasus Bridge. After you’ve read a couple of unit histories, move on to the books which cover a single campaign, such as Cornelius Ryan’s The Longest Day. After you’ve gotten acquainted with how a unit functions and seen how an entire campaign is run, you might graduate to the excellent Liberation Trilogy by Rick Atkinson, starting with An Army At Dawn, which pulls back the camera to cover entire fronts and theaters of war.
If you prefer to receive your dose of military history through the prism of fiction, try one of Jeff Shaara’s many novels — he’s got one or more on the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WW1, WW2… and possibly beyond. Superb mesh of history brought to life with fleshed-out dialog and thoughts and feelings of the actual principals. The one I’m reading now is Rise to Rebellion. And Shaara has me right in the chair with John Adams and Ben Franklin… and on the horse with George Washington.
Want to be scared to death? Read the Amityville Horror by Jay Anson. Believing it to be literally true when I read it, I didn’t sleep for a week. I’ve since read that the author allegedly embellished a lot and mixed in some fiction with his fact. But it’s still scary.
Want a pulse-pounding adventure thriller? Read James Dickey’s Deliverance. The movie – one of Burt Reynolds’s best dramatic roles – is also quite good.
Want to know what’s REALLY flying around in our skies under the overly-general and under-investigated category of Unidentified Flying Objects? Read Leslie Kean’s UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record.
What title would you recommend for a special person or for a specific occasion? Or, as I’ve attempted to do here, what titles would you recommend in certain subjects or genres?
[JLS # 284]