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Bryan: Reading Leaves

One of the great joys of life any time of year is the indulgence (there is no better word for it) of reading a good book. But I find it especially suited to a sunny autumn afternoon, and three remarkable books have been my recent leisure companions.

The first is Geoff Manaugh’s delightfully naughty: A Burglar’s Guide to the City. It’s about crime and about cities, but it’s also (perhaps mostly) about architecture – that is, where we live and what we live in. And it can be very, very funny. I mean, haven’t we all fantasied about relieving some fabulously rich oil tycoon of a million or so in small bills from the safe in his mansion in the Hamptons? In its serious moments it offers tips for protecting your own home from a burglar, as the author reminds us how important it is to be safe and secure in the place where we sleep at night.

King of the World by Pulitzer winner David Remnick is about Muhammad Ali - as brash and beautiful as a man could be, with courage right down to his socks. It’s a book as much about economic and intellectual inequality (you will weep for Liston) as it is about boxing, race, gender and 1960s politics. It’s deadly honest and features the straight scoop on one of the most distinctive personalities of the 20th Century. It’s about a man and manhood properly defined.

Then there’s Louis L’Amour’s autobiographical The Education of a Wandering Man. It’s a book by a lover of books who is one of America’s most prolific artisans of the short story. It's etched in the context of literally walking around the globe. L’Amour’s in large part a romantic but he doesn’t write about sex, and his priceless explanation is that only the French have the sense of humor required of such an enterprise.

The book ends with a description of walking through Tibet where snow-slides, rock-slides and cave-ins so often make roads nearly impassable. There, strangers greet each other not as we might, with something like “how’s it going?” but rather with a phrase reflecting an odd mix of fatalism and hope.

“May there be a road.”

Would we all could be so well prepared to walk the roads of our own lives…

Frank Bryan is a writer and Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Vermont.
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