The Magical World of History

Posted by on Feb 17, 2019 in Perry's Blog | 0 comments

A very special event in my life occurred in the fall of 1965 when I was a graduate student at Columbia University in New York City. It changed my life in a profound way, I thought I might share this moment with you. It opened the door to my interest in history. An understanding of history led to more fulfilling life than I ever could have anticipated.

The memorable event took place in the office of my graduate school mentor, Professor WTR Fox. I was in the process of pursuing a graduate degree at Columbia University under the sponsorship of the United States Air Force. My next destination would be on the faculty of the Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs.

I asked Professor Fox his advice on how best to prepare for the upcoming oral and written examinations which would lead, hopefully, to a PhD in International Relations. He said, “Captain Smith, the steps are quite straight forward: complete the required courses, the two foreign language examinations and read one thousand books in your field.”

I was shocked and momentarily depressed as I listened to his last requirement. On the drive back to our rented house in Teaneck, New Jersey, I asked myself—how in the world would I be able to read that many books in the few months remaining before these examinations would take place?

There seemed to be only one choice—learn how to speed read and learn this skill very, very quickly. Fortunately I had completed all of the course work and language requirements so I could spend all my time reading. Very soon, I was reading two or three books a day. I never got to the magic number of one thousand but I felt well prepared when it was time to take the two tough examinations.

Much of my time studying the academic field of international relations was spent reading books on history—especially political, diplomatic and economic history. An important side benefit of acquiring the speed reading skill was my changed attitude toward books. Prior to that time, I did not enjoy plodding through books. Once I had gained the speed reading skill, I fell in love with books.

This love affair with books continues to this day. I especailly love biographies and autobiographies, books on military and political history, on leadership, on the future and on heroism. Towards the end of this article I will share with you the books that are my all time favorites.

In addition to books there are many other ways to enjoy history. Stage plays, movies and televisions series have all enriched my life in so many ways.

The following is a listing of my all time most favorite books. As you will see, many are history books or books on important historical figures. Most are non-fiction but two are fictionalized versions of history. The latter books are highlighted by an asterisk.

Truman by David McCullough
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris
The Soul of America by Jon Meacham
A Genius for War by Carlo D’este
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow.
Why the Allies Won by Richard Overy
Freedom’s Forge by Arthur Herman
Medal of Honor by Peter Collier
Eisenhower by Stephen Ambrose
Killer Angels* by Michael Shaara
War and Remberance* by Herman Wouk

Please note: The book by D’este is on General George Patton, the Shaara book is on the battle of Gettysburg and the Wouk book is on the events leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Comments are closed.