Monday, January 9, 2006

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bite-sized books: anglophilia

I've made my way through a few more bite-sized books on my work commute. I have English family and a streak of Anglophilia a mile wide, so at any given time, odds are likely that I'm ploughing through some book on English history or culture. Here are a few of the recent bite-sized ones:

Great Tales of English History
English history is full of great stories and characters - the Battle of Hastings, Lady Godiva, the Venerable Bede. This book by Robert Lacey is a great primer on these tales, and it's extremely bite-sized to boot (each chapter is just a few pages long). The stories are exciting and have a touch of humor, rather than the usual "X went to Y and killed Z in 1143". Lacey also offers up plenty of interesting background information, explaining names and word origins as he goes along. This volume begins with Cheddar Man in about 7150 BC and finishes up with the Peasants' Revolt in 1381 AD. I have volume 2 on my bookshelf and am looking forward to the release of volume 3. Highly recommended!

Little Dick the Smuggler and other East Anglian Eccentrics
As the title says, this was a fun little book of short tales about some very strange peeps from East Anglia. Unlike Great Tales of English History, these people were ordinary folks rather than royalty and famous names: a botanist, a miserly squire, a compulsive poet, and more. Odd stuff and very amusing.

Ghosts of East Anglia
This volume was a nice collection of regional ghost stories, spooky and quaint. I swear, though, there must be a law somewhere saying that every collection of ghost stories must contain some version of the "dead hitchhiker" story and the one about the guy who accidentally nails his coat to the haunted door/grave and scares himself to death. They're inescapable! Like many "local" ghost stories (rather than tales deliberately written to terrify), these are fun but sometimes lack, well, punchlines. A typical ending might be "And they never found out what the ghost was pointing to, The End." Again, spooky and quaint. The last tale, "An Unforgettable Night", scared the poo right out of me, though, and left me wide awake at night, looking over my shoulder for the ghoulies and thinking, Aw man, I didn't expect it to creep me out this much. Stupid stories. Also: I'm a huge wuss.

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