What books have I most enjoyed reading or have most influenced my views on life? Here is a list that answers these questions.
In first place is a biography I read in the Middle East last year and it helped to divert attention away from what was a stressful period work wise. Nelson is revealed by the author as man of the people not so much for what he said but for what he did. What did he do? He gave his life for his men and his country. Few of Nelson’s crew died on board ship even when centre stage in battle. Nelson took a keen interest in his men by observing their welfare, diet, morale and discipline. All these things were necessary to run a ship free from disease and possible mutiny. The author takes an Englishman back to a time when his country ruled the waves confronting tyranny in the shape of Napoleon and enforced the end of the British slave trade when few other countries could or did.
My second choice is both a factual account and an autobiography written by Solzhenitsyn. He outlines and details the depth of suffering experienced by the Russian people at the hands of tyrannical communist regime. This particular brand of communism was known as Stalinism after the cruel, paranoid and despotic leader, Joseph Stalin, who must rank as the equal of Adolf Hitler in infamy.
This was also a time of intense religious persecution and murder. Millions went to the Gulags and this story is told with great courage and detachment by the author. At first people were sent to prison for something they might have said or done but the reasons for incarceration were usually trivial and without firm evidence. And interrogation in prison led to many being shot before they even reached the Gulags. Thereafter millions died in the harsh Siberian camps where sentences ranged from five to twenty-five years for the most petty crimes imaginable. Theft was tolerated but only if this was the theft of property rather than food. All political dissent was crushed. Innocent or guilty the Gulag system did not discriminate.
My third choice is written by Eamon Duffy. He reveals a deeply happy Catholic Medieval England of ‘kindly enclyning’. People lived in harmony with one another and from all backgrounds came together to worship God. Numerous Holy days and festivals meant that the community often celebrated their Christian faith together. ‘The Stripping of the Altars’ informs of an English world at peace with itself until Luther inspired Protestantism changed everything in the mid 16th century.
1. Nelson: The Sword of Albion: John Sugden
2. Gulag Archipelago 1918-56: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
3. The Stripping of the Altars: Eamon Duffy
4. The Divine Comedy: Dante
5. Paradise Lost: John Milton
6. Great Expectations: Charles Dickens
7. Beowulf: Seamus Heaney
8. Edmund Campion: Evelyn Waugh
9. The Iliad: Homer
10. The Aeneid: Virgil.