Sometimes there is a wall between me and books.
I blame the internet and popular culture. I only have so many books to read in my lifetime and I've got to get to them. Why? (How dare you ask that!) Because they feed my inner world that grows richer and richer with each good book. But sometimes (hopefully not often) I am distracted by an article on the internet, or information on Wikipedia, or something on Netflix, and what do I gain from it? Nothing.
Would a dying man in a hospital be better off watching the ubiquitous television in his room or having a loving friend read to him? We are all that man in the hospital and we are all that loving friend. Holden Caulfield said it best about the movies, and I won't get started either.
But with that written—what are my reading plans for the New Year? Well, I want to know more about America. I know so little. Every time I read a good book on American history, I am shocked, shocked by how little I know.
My favorite historian is David Hackett Fischer. That man knows soooo much, and has synthesized his knowledge into highly readable and entertaining books. Paul Revere's Ride is a masterwork. After I read it, I went to the Battle of Lexington re-enactment on Lexington Green on Patriot's Day and had such a good time because I had a feel for what was going on because of Fischer.
So, in the New Year I'm going to read his Champlain's Dream. That book is about early Canadian history and its relation to North American history, I'm so looking forward to it because I will be stunned and amazed constantly.
History is never like what I imagine. Another aspect of American history I know nothing about is the Civil War. One thinks one knows something about a subject just from general education, but for me I find I know nothing until I read a good book or books on a subject closely. For the Civil War I'm going to read my uncle's quartet of books, Lee's Southern Strategy. My uncle Joseph Harsh was always so kind to me and I'm going to read them as a tribute to him. His books are more for the Civil War expert, but I will also be reading Douglas Southall Freeman's biography of Lee, which a learned customer highly recommends.
Another learned and well-read customer is constantly selling me books on modern political history, so I'm going to read one of the books he brought in and recommended, Revolt Against Modernity by Ted McCallister. My trusted employee John Newhall is also a good source of what to read. He loves science fiction and fantasy and highly recommends the Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula LeGuin (Knausgaard was a fan as a kid as well, so there's that.)
And speaking of Knausgaard, hopefully I will be reading a new novel by him, his follow up to The Morning Star, which was magnificent. I will also be like a dog on the beach, going from one book to another, racing here and there to read what interests me and feeding my inner world.
Mark Stolle owns Manchester By The Book, a used bookstore in downtown Manchester and he offers biweekly recommendations for our readers on what to read right now. Or, sometimes, he just writes creatively about things that interest him.