WOODY BASSETT: On the books

Suggestions for learning, escaping

There's a lot ailing America right now. Our country is deeply and dangerously divided. We remain mired in a pandemic that threatens public health and has severely damaged our economy. Social, cultural and racial issues abound. We are swimming in a toxic political stew exacerbated by an approaching consequential election.

All of this angst and domestic conflict comes right at us non-stop, weighing on our minds and leaving each of us to run the gamut of our own thoughts and emotions. But we take it on because that's what people are required to do and because this is the hand we've been dealt in 2020.

Given the present circumstances, it's essential to find healthy ways to take a break from all that swirls around us, if only for a few hours here and there. Reading a good book is one refreshing way to do it. Here are some books read recently which I recommend to book-readers:

• Levon: From Down in the Delta to the Birth of The Band and Beyond by Sandra Tooze. The skillfully told story of the unique and fascinating life of Levon Helm, the remarkably talented music legend from Turkey Scratch, Arkansas. It's also the story of rock and roll, which Helm believed originated in the Delta.

• The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson. A compelling and intimate portrait of Winston Churchill and his family and what it was like to be in London during the German blitz in 1940-41. This book tells the powerful story of how Churchill's leadership, eloquence, courage and perseverance made all the difference during these dark times.

• Ardennes 1944: The Battle of the Bulge by Antony Beevor. This deeply researched book provides the truest and most comprehensive account yet of the Ardennes offensive by the German Army, which was to become the greatest battle of the western front in World War II. It offers detailed insights into the major players and the common soldiers on both sides.

• The Great Influenza by John M. Barry. This is the tragic story of the 1918 pandemic, the deadliest ever. Extremely well written and relevant to our current struggles with covid-19, there's plenty of absorbing history in this book about numerous topics and it provides explicit accounts of the enormous toll this pandemic took on the American people.

• Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11 by Mitchell Zuckoff. Based on rigorous research, the book weaves together the interrelated events of 9/11 and offers an extraordinary minute-by-minute account of that horrendous day.

• John Adams Under Fire by Dan Abrams and David Fisher. The story of America on the edge of revolution in the early 1770s and the role of John Adams in the trial of the Boston Massacre.

• His Truth is Marching On by Jon Meacham. This is an intimate and revealing portrait of the late John Lewis, a civil rights icon and longtime U. S. congressman.

• Hoax by Brian Stelter. A detailed, fact-based book about the recent history of Fox News with a focus on the relationship between Fox and Donald Trump that many, including some at Fox, consider to be unhealthy for the country.

• The Rise of the G.I. Army: 1940-1941 by Paul Dickson. The mostly forgotten story of how America forged a powerful army during the two years before Pearl Harbor and how the army was mobilized into a well-led, disciplined fighting force that provided the margin for Allied victory in World War II.

• Normandy '44: D-Day and the Epic 77-Day Battle for France by James Holland. Impeccably researched and superbly written, this book is a good one for those interested in military history.

• Good Times: A History of Nightspots and Live Music in Fayetteville, Arkansas by Denele Campbell. An interesting look at Fayetteville's rich musical history.

• Lincoln at Gettysburg by Garry Wills. A mere 272 words, the Gettysburg Address is considered by many to be the best speech in the nation's history. This book brilliantly examines both the address and Lincoln in their historical moment and cultural frame.

• The Second Life of Tiger Woods by Michael Bamberger. A book about an iconic athlete who hit rock bottom and then clawed his way back to win the 2019 Masters.

Turn off cable news and stay off social media for a couple of hours, and instead seek refuge in a book. Seize the opportunity to learn and gain understanding through reading a book. Enjoy a temporary escape from the present reality by letting an author tell a story that transports your mind to another place and time. You'll be glad you did.

Like a good and loyal dog, a book is always there for you. And it won't care who you are, what you do, what you believe or who you are going to vote for.

Woody Bassett is a lifelong Fayetteville resident and a local attorney. Email him at [email protected].

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