Thursday, March 22, 2007

Opinions were like kittens, I was giving them away

I've just started Tom Holland's Persian Fire. This guy writes history for people who run screaming from history books. His Rubicon is in the top five (popular) histories I've ever read (dare I say top 3?). This one is about the Greco-Persian wars and is ideal for those whose interest in the period was whetted by 300.

So what is so nifty about the guy? He manages to balance a compelling narrative, use of professional historical sources, a connection the modern day and a cheeky sense of humor. This is tricky balance. Most people who tie to the modern throw an ideological bent to the text. Not here. Most people who aim for humor spoil the narrative. Not this guy. And the books are just the right length. I will say this. If you are enjoying Rome (the tv program) and have not read Rubicon, you should stop what you are reading and read Rubicon.

Part of his success may come from his experience as a fiction writer. In the 90s, he wrote books about Lord Bryon as a vampire. Here is an interview from before he started writing history that hints at the change.

Sadly this one is a tad large for my upcoming vacation, but I may need to make room. I would hate to put it down. So far the following books are coming: Ghosts by Noel Hynd (horror - risky!); Bone Doll's Twin by Lynn Flewelling (Powell's recommendation); The Shield of Achilles ( I admit I will be skimming sections of that one); The Road to Verdun by Ian Ousby (should be uplifting!); Straight Man by Richard Russo (comes highly recommended by many) and Scribbling the Cat by Alexandra Fuller.

That is more books than I can read in the time frame. I always need a book hedge strategy. I might hate half of them, or simply not connect in the vacation context. Is there anything worse than being stuck somewhere and being out of books? . Not only will have to pick up something less than ideal, you will be placing something ahead of line of your piles and piles of anxiously awaiting books at home. Better to bring more that you can read.


Anonymous said...

I always bring my Compete Jane Austen with me on any vacation or to the desert), just in case my book supply runs dry or fails to interest me.

And have you ever checked out the "beach reads" section of the bookstore? Apparently when on vacation I am required to "enjoy" chick fic. Ack.

- nic

Tripp said...

beach read is reviewer code for crappy I think or brainless reading.