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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Tyler

Read to Keep Sane !

If, like many of us, you are fed up with the present, then why not escape into the past with a good history book.

Here are some ideas from relatively recently published books:

Ancient Rome : Pertinax by Simon Elliott. The story of the son of a slave who became Emperor of Rome, and whose life should be better known. This book also provides much background information, not least about Roman Britain where Pertinax twice served. His reign was very short as he was assassinated by his own Praetorian Guard. In 1778, in The United States, his case was cited as a reason for not keeping a Standing Army - just one of many facts previously unknown to me.

Saxon England: Badon and The Early Wars for Wessex (c 500 to 710) by David Cooper.

A fascinating insight into this very dark corner of our history, written by a retired Colonel who brings his military knowledge into play. The story as told includes references to many historical characters from Ambrosius Aurelianus to King Alfred as well as a look at the mystical figure of King Arthur. Lots of battles with Badon taking centre stage, but one of my own favourites the Battle of Dyrham, near Chipping Sodbury, a battle which had dire consequences for the British in my homeland of Bath and Bristol, although Cooper throws some doubt over the timescale of these events.

Freedom: The Book of Trespass by Nick Hayes. A most unusual book which looks at the history of trespass with chapters devoted to individual animals, from badger to stag. It also covers many types of humans across history, and across the animal chapter headings, from poachers to vagabonds, from witches to ramblers. Additionally Hayes includes many of his own quite brilliant illustrations. There is so much to enjoy in this rich feast of a book.

Work: Work by James Suzman. A history of work. This is another slightly offbeat book written in an easily accessible language, yet covering complex ideas and thoughts. Perhaps it is that the author is an anthropologist by trade that gives the book such a vibrancy.

Biography: Hitler and Stalin by Laurence Rees. Rees has written widely on The Second World War, including his best seller on The Holocaust. This book is again so well written that once begun you are reluctant to put it down even though the outlines of the story are well known. A great many insights, and new, at least to me, facts.

AND, now for something entirely different:-

Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake. The sub title tells you everything you need to know before launching into reading this very recently published book that has received rave reviews - 'How Fungi make our worlds, change our minds and shape our futures'. Having recently undertaken a Fungi Trail with The RSPB I have to say I am looking forward to reading it slowly and in full. A nice break from history, although there are historical references contained in it; such as a reference in The Talmud to a mould cure, made from mouldy corn soaked in date wine, and known as 'chamka'. Is this a case of the cure being worse than the injury?!

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