Twelve easy pieces

Monday Book Reviews

February 18, 1991|By Myron Beckenstein

A DOZEN good books for spring reading:


Cheyennes and Horse Soldiers, By William Y. Chalfont. Good writing and lots of nicely integrated details turns a routine cavalry patrol in Kansas into a fine account of life in the frontier, both from the army and Indian viewpoints.

Vanished Empire, Stephen Brook. A travel writer who sees both below the surface and beyond it paints a lasting impression of Vienna and of Prague and Budapest on the eve of revolution. It is not a story of sightseeing but of peopleseeing.

A Law Unto Itself, David Burnham. A book the IRS should not survive, one hopes, it tells how the tax agency is used and misused and how it can hound some of us to the death.

Red Land, Black Land and Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs, Barbara Mertz. A twin selection. Updated reprints of the life and history of ancient Egypt, told in a unique fashion and with a nice touch by a trained archaeologist who now writes mystery/adventure stories.

Incidents and Anecdotes of the Civil War, Adm. David D. Porter. A different look at the war, told by an admiral who seemed to know everyone and be everywhere, including steaming his ships through Mississippi forests to aid Generals Sherman and Grant.

The Life of an Ordinary Woman, Anne Ellis. Anne Ellis grew up in the West at the end of the last century and experienced poverty and hardship in many of its forms. Yet she never gave up and produced a candid, frank and moving account of her life, its disappointments and pleasures.

I Write As I Please, Walter Duranty. Duranty was sent by the New York Times to Moscow just after the Russian Revolution. With his contacts with key people and his attention to detail, he paints a picture of the politics and life of that era that is hard to duplicate.

The Army and Vietnam, Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr. To those who say the military was betrayed in Vietnam, this book by a career Army officer is the perfect rebuttal. He details how the military kept shooting itself in the foot by trying to fight a war other than the one it faced.

College Sports, Inc., Murray Sperber. College sports is a total farce, having everything to do with sports and nothing to do with college, except for the use of the name. Neither the colleges nor the athletes benefit from the cross-association, and a very few of the big schools are the only ones that make money off sports; the others are drained of money and other resources. Jammed with examples and myth destruction.


The Romeo Flag, Carolyn Hougan. A thriller by a woman who knows how to thrill and how to pick stories, even if she seems to mess up on minor details every now and then. The story involves a burned-out CIA agent, turned genealogist, who finds a reputed Faberge egg from the Romanovs could be linked to the death of the czar or to a Soviet mole in the U.S. government.

Unto a Good Land, Vilhelm Moberg. One of his series on Scandinavians coming to America, this focuses on their trip from New York to Minnesota and how they tried to get established there. Wonderful characters.

Northwest Passage, Kenneth Roberts. Another oldie, this one joins Rogers Rangers from the French and Indian Wars and follows the main characters on an overland search for the fabled Northwest Passage and into the revolution. The narrative zips along and the story contains a novel twist, a boy who doesn't get the girl and discovers he is thankful he didn't.

Myron Beckenstein is assistant foreign editor of The Sun.

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