U.S. Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) is a decorated ex-Marine, an award-winning journalist and novelist, and a former secretary of the U.S. Navy. His latest book is the nonfiction best-seller "A Time to Fight."
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (Scribner, $15). Hemingway reinvented the narrative style of the novel. He also claimed in his memoir A Moveable Feast that he learned to write by studying the paintings of Cézanne. To a literary eye, this masterfully written, wonderfully evocative story is evidence of both.
The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman (Presidio, $8). Tuchman’s day-by-day, hour-by-hour description of how the major governments of Europe bluffed, miscalculated, and preened until their armies marched cataclysmically into the brutal trench warfare of World War I. This examination of the opening days of that war from diplomacy to military tactics is multilayered history at its finest.
Hawaii by James A. Michener (Fawcett, $9). Michener’s best book. Other than the first 100 pages of lava formations, bugs, and wayward birds, this is a moving, timeless, and fascinating cultural history of the peoples who migrated to Hawaii over a span of many centuries from Polynesia, East Asia, and America, creating its rich, multicultural society.
The True Believer by Eric Hoffer (Harper, $13). Eric Hoffer, lacking formal schooling but keenly incisive about the forces that move society, wrote this pithy examination of the makeup of mass movements at night while working as a longshoreman by day. Who joins mass movements? Who leads them? How do they succeed and fail? Hoffer lays it out, all in a book that can be read within a few hours.
Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer (HarperTorch, $9). Quite simply the best book ever written about the American military in war and peace, from the years before World War I to the beginning of Vietnam.
Main Currents in American Thought by Vernon Louis Parrington (Univ. of Oklahoma, $30). Parrington won a double Pulitzer Prize in 1928 for this collection of essays that brilliantly interweave the major philosophical trends and personalities responsible for the shaping of our nation. Still fascinating after 80 years, and relevant to our understanding of America due to the author’s propinquity to events and people now long past.