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Serious summer slackin'-off stuff like reading.


For most of the country April is a muddy, muddled mess of a month. Winter and Spring don't know if they're comin' or going, and lots of outdoor shooting-sports folks don't know either. You can only clean your guns so much before it constitutes "firearm abuse," and reload so many rounds before the ammo cabinet creaks and threatens to collapse. But here are two things you can do during April's doldrums:

First, get into the garage rafters and pull down your hammock or loungin' chair. Check all the lines, webbing and hardware for need of repair or replacement. You don't want to wait until the first warm, sunny Sunday afternoon to discover the hard way that time, strain and solar effect have conspired to unceremoniously dump you right onto the deck like a box a' rocks.

Next, you'll need props; essentially, excuses to be reclining in regal splendor soakin' up sun instead of rooting out dandelions or painting the porch. I highly recommend books. If you doze off, you don't have to hit "replay" or press a "mute" button to shut 'era up; and if suspicious familial forces interrogate you, you can always plead the need to better inform yourself, expand your interests and broaden your mind. That sounds noble enough, doesn't it? Here are some suggestions for you:

Great Thoughts, Deep Thoughts

The Great Thoughts, compiled by George Seldes. As the subtitle reads, "From Abelard to Zola, from ancient Greece to contemporary America," it's filled with bite-sized morsels--the ideas that have shaped the history of the world. Break off a chunk of Cato, team a slice of Socrates with a slab of steamin' Spinoza and you've got a philosophy sandwich supreme. The best part is, it's arranged so you can browse and nibble, from half a minute to hours at a time, changing century, civilization and course from moment to moment.

I've purchased and given away more copies of The Great Thoughts than any other book, often following up on those gifts. In every case I've found them well-used, dog-eared and margin-noted. I keep two copies on board; one for myself, and one for "loans"--which tend to become permanent.

Hey, here's a sorta-modern selection: "Written laws are like spiders' webs and will, like them, only entangle and hold the poor and weak, while the rich and powerful easily break them." Anarcharsis the Scythian said that around 600 B.C. Wow, times have sure changed, haven't they? Hmmm ....

Deep Survival--Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales. The author came by his life-long interest in human survival naturally. Before Laurence was born, his father, Federico Gonzales, was a B-17 pilot assigned to the 8th Air Force, flying bombing missions over Germany. His 25th B-17 mission took him 27,000' over the rail yards at Dusseldorf, where a German flak battalion 88mm round blew his right wing off. The aircraft rolled over in an inverted flat spin and then broke in half amidships. Lt. Gonzales passed out from hypoxia. A witness described "... boys falling out of the sky." Gonzales fell more than 20,000' to the ground without a parachute. He survived.

In Deep Survival, Gonzales' research of avalanches, floods, sinking ships, aircraft crashes and peoples' reactions, survivable and not, is distilled in highly readable form. Going far beyond the tools and techniques survivors used to save themselves and others, he probes the assets in their brains which made the critical difference--and comes up with some compelling theories, including one called "memories of the future." No novel can compare with the true stories recounted--and none could prepare you better to survive your own emergency.

The World, Then And Now

Genghis" Khan and the Making of the Modern World, by Jack Weatherford. At its zenith, the Mongol Empire stretched from Siberia to India, from China and Vietnam to Hungary and from Korea to the Balkans, covering over 12 million contiguous square miles. In 25 years, Genghis Khan conquered more people and territory than the Roman Empire did in 400 years. He did this with the resources of a poor, arid country with a population of perhaps one million people, and his army--which defeated literally millions of Asian, Persian, Arab, Slavic, Turkic and European knights and soldiers--never numbered over 100,000 Mongols.

Genghis established and enforced freedom of religion, smashed the feudal inheritance of aristocratic privilege, replacing it with merit-based systems; abolished torture, established the first international postal service and much, much more.

If you've ever wondered how Temujin, a hungry kid from a dirt poor Mongol clan became history's greatest conqueror--and perhaps history's most beneficent rule--or, why Genghis Khan and the Mongols have gotten such a bad rap and been painted as monsters in Western history, Professor Weatherford can answer your questions and tell the story in smashing style.

Imperial Grunts by Robert D. Kaplan. The public eye has become fixed on our military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan and the televised pronouncements of high-ranking dignitaries in soft suits. But, as Kaplan explains in a narrative filled with "spit and grit," the interests of freedom are served worldwide by mostly very small units of quiet professionals, serving without the thanks or even the knowledge of the society they represent.

From Yemen to Colombia and Sierra Leone to the Philippines, corporals make "handshake treaties" with khans, lieutenants teach tribesmen to fight terrorists and majors make diplomacy with sheiks, all the while hoping their own government won't sell their successes down the river. Kaplan, who is a consummately factual reporter and a sorta modern Marco Polo, won't disappoint you.

The Last, Perhaps The Best

1776 by David McCullough. Maybe I saved the best for last; you can be the judge of that. But this one comes with a warning: Once you start reading 1776, you will need and demand undisturbed time, and you'll chafe at distractions. McCullough's research into the darkest, most perilous period in our fledgling nation's history, and his delving into the personal and many times previously unpublished letters and papers of our patriot forefathers is incredible and richly rewarding.

For me, the best thing about 1776 is that it does not define George Washington, Nathanael Greene, Henry Knox and others by their own words so much as it does by the personal observations of our common kin who left their farms and forges to follow them into battle; folks like 10-year-old Israel Trask, who describes how General Washington broke up a brawl on Harvard Yard. Buy two copies--you'll need 'em! Connor OUT
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Title Annotation:ODD ANGRY SHOT
Author:Connor, John
Publication:Guns Magazine
Date:Apr 1, 2011
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