Saturday, November 25, 2017

Books that shaped my life

Books that shaped my life
Robert A. Hall

I regularly post book reviews and recommendations of books I have read recently on my blog. It's quite a list; copy on request. But I thought I'd reach back and do something different.

Here is a list of books that shaped me as a person and my world view when I was quite young. I would recommend these to any young person.

Battle Cry by Leon Uris. This is Uris's early novel of the Marines in the Pacific during WWII. Uris was a Marine and writes with first hand-knowledge of those time and his usual gift for story telling. I read this book my sophomore year in high school. It's responsible for me joining the Marines, one of the three best decisions in my life. About the same time, I also read his novel of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, Mila 18, which greatly influenced my positive view of Jews and Israel.

The Complete Politician by Murray B. Levin. By one of those strokes of good fortune that happened often in my life, I came across this book in a used book store when I was in college, age about 24 or 25. I didn't know it existed. It was the story of  Joe Ward's loss to John Volpe in the 1960 Massachusetts governor's race. I clamped on to it and still have it. I was getting ready to run against then-Senator Joe Ward in 1972, a race I won by nine votes out of 60,000. This book gave me insights into Ward's style and personality, which helped me establish strategy and ambush him in our one debate.

Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein. From about eighth grade on, I have read everything by Heinlein I could put my hands on, but this tale of war in the future had the biggest impact. Do not be put off if you saw the terrible movie based on it, produced after Heinlein's death. As a young state senator, I also read Time Enough for Love, including the Notebooks of Lazarus Long, which also helped shape my world view. Also loved Citizen of the Galaxy, Sixth Column, Red Planet, The Green Hills of Earth, and Tunnel in the Sky.

The Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater helped develop my political views. I was a volunteer on the Goldwater campaign in 1964, before reporting to Parris Island.

Death of a Citizen by Donald Hamilton. I read this about eighth grade, and continued to read his Matt Helm series as long as they came out. I read most of them twice. A realistic view of the war in the shadows and dealing with America's enemies. Disregard the silly movies they made from the series. They were more James Bond than Bond, nothing like the books. Very entertaining.

Betty Zane, Spirit of the Border and The Last Trail, Zane Gray's books about the frontier when it was in Ohio. A stirring view of early America. I must have been 12 when I started them.

Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington. Also read about eighth grade or earlier and developed a view of slavery and race relations. My grandmother had it in the Reader's Digest condensed version.

Romance of the Revolution. This book belonged to my great, great grandfather. I had it rebound, it was over a hundred years old. It had tales of the war for independence that fanned my patriotism at an early age. Alas, it was stolen from me and sold to Half Price Books with a couple of boxes of books a few years ago.

Something of Value by Robert Ruark 
I read this novel of Kenya and the Mau-Mau uprising while in high school, and was so influenced by it that I named my pet squirrel "Uhuru."

Eagle in the Sky by, if memory serves, Faye Van Wick Mason (Correction from Tom Kratman: Francis van Wyck Mason.) An adult novel I read at an early age, about a privateer, The Grand Turk II, in the Revolution. When I was in to building model sailing ships, again about eighth grade, I got a brig, named it The Grand Turk II, and tried to make it look like this small warship.

The Oz Books by L. Frank Baum. A friend had the complete set and his mother let me borrow them one by one. I faithfully returned each one. It expanded my imagination--which probably didn't need expanding.

Mad Magazine. Around eighth grade, I devoured every copy that came in. Doubtless why I have a robust and, some would say, weird sense of humor.

The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (c 1960). I was given this coffee table size book when I was about 9th grade, and long poured over it, especially the painting of the battlefield depicting where units were at particular stages of the battles. Alas, it too went with the stolen books, but I have obtained another copy to give to my grandson. When he can read.

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