Opinion Columns & Blogs

WALKER: Ten big reads

Last week was my 2014 books report -- an evaluation of books read last year, and my selection as to the best 10 of the 34. It was my intention to come back this week with my all-time Top 10. However, given the large number I read and the long period of time involved in the reading, this has become an increasingly difficult task.

So, this week, it’s just 10 big books -- in most cases, in length, but in all instances in quality.

1. “All The King’s Men” (464 pages). This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Robert Penn Warren was read by me when I worked at a Texas Steel Co. in Fort Worth, Texas, in the summer of 1963. Let me quote Mr. Warren: “Some time in the winter of 1937-1938, when I was teaching at the Louisiana State University, in Baton Rouge, I get the notion of doing a verse play about a Southern politician who achieved the power of a dictator...” Of course, the Southern politician was based on Huey Long and, of course, the reading just stoked my budding interests in politics.

2., 3., 4. and 5. “The Path To Power” (768 pages); “Means Of Ascent” (425 pages); “Master Of The Senate” (1,049 pages); and “The Passage Of Power” (605 pages).

All of these excellent and engrossing books by Robert A. Caro are worthy of your reading. Taken together, they tell a majestic story about as complex and complicated a man, Lyndon Johnson, as our American political system has ever produced. Read all 2,847 pages, and you’ll be glad you did.

6. “To Kill A Mockingbird” (465 pages). Heather Potts gave me this book on Sept. 1, 2011, and I finished it, my first reading of it, on Sept. 18, 2011.

This is part of what I wrote in the book: “... it will make my all-time top 10 list. No wonder Harper Lee has sold 40 million copies ... I can really relate to this book ... the good, bad and ugly ... If the world was full of Atticus Finches, it would be a much better place.”

7. “The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Defender Of The Realm, 1940-1965” (1,053 pages of very fine print). This book was started by William Manchester, who died before it was finished. Paul Reid completed the book. Newsweek called the book “bedazzling.” I wrote in the front of the book when I finished it on Aug. 26, 2013: “Somewhere in the book, Churchill is called ‘the first citizen of the world,’ and rightfully so ...” Without Churchill, Hitler would have certainly captured all of Europe. On Churchill’s cemetery green marble slab are three words: “Remember Winston Churchill,” and the free world should. This books enhances this memory.

8. “Lone Star” (725 pages). This book by T.R. Fehrenbach was recommended to me by Bill Venema, brother of Diana Venema Wilson, of Perry. I finished reading this history of Texas on June 15, 2009. If you think this does not sound like an interesting read, you’re wrong. Roland Berry is just now reading this book and, among other things, was glad to learn why the Spanish could never occupy Texas.

Answer: The Comanche horsemen were too much for the Spaniards. Read this awesome book and find out why Texas was one of the Confederate states in the Civil War (their reliance on King Cotton was a big part of it) and how many of the Texas Rangers were great Confederate officers.

9. “Rising Tide” (422 pages) by John N. Barry. Thanks to Rob Tuggle for recommending this book to me. I wrote on Jan. 19, 2006, “one of the very best I’ve ever read. If you love the South and long to better understand it and its people, this is a must read for you.” The New York Times said: “An American epic of science, politics, race, honor, high society and the Mississippi River ...”

10. “American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964” (709 pages of fine print).

This book by William Manchester was read by me sometime in 1978. I used to say that this was my “all-time number one book,” but have since read so many great books it is now hard to pick an all-time number one. Still, I know that this is a fantastic read about a complex man that Manchester rightfully calls “...a great paradox of a man, noble and ignoble, inspiring and outrageous, arrogant and shy, the best of men and the worst of men ...”

So, here you have it: 10 big reads!

Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry. He served 32 years

in the Georgia General Assembly and presently serves on the University System

of Georgia Board of Regents. Email: lwalker@whgmlaw.com