Got something to read this summer?
The Georgia Center for the Book has released its 2005 Top 25 Reading list of books by Southern authors.
Most of the authors are unfamiliar -- at least to me, anyway. I recognize among them James Kilgo, the late University of Georgia professor with whom I studied Southern literature; Celestine Sibley, the late Atlanta Constitution columnist; and Michael Thurmond, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Labor.
But even among the authors who I recognize, I haven't read a single one of the books listed. So I guess I have my reading cut out for me.
With just 25 books to work with, naturally there are plenty of writers who didn't make the list. This Memorial Day weekend, however, is a good time to check out some local writers whose efforts focus on military experiences -- in most cases, their own.
The prototype book for these local writers is Lloyd Pate's Reactionary!, detailing his experience as a prisoner of war in Korea. A Harlem resident, Pate has written a incredible book that should have long ago been picked up by a major publisher. Someone ought to drop a hint to our local company, Harbor House.
I dare anyone to read the first line of Reactionary! and not want to learn more. It says ominously, "Just before I was born, my father killed a man."
Pate's book has been around for several years, most recently reprinted in 2000. Some other military-experience books by local authors are a bit newer:
Shiny Bayonet, by Vietnam veteran Michael O. Gregory of Evans. Gregory recounts the story of a combat operation in Vietnam with the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (Air Mobile). (Today's edition of The News-Times includes a story about retired SFC Gregory's self-published book.)
The Point of the Arrow! A Soldier's Memories of World War II, by Willis Irvin Sr. of Augusta. Where Gregory's book is a small paperback, Irvin's softbound tome is coffee-table size and filled with stories and photos not just of his World War II experiences, but of his childhood in Augusta. Irvin's father, we also learn, was an architect who designed many of the homes in Summerville, and his grandfather was chief of police in Washington, Ga.
Our Connection With Savannah: A History of the 1st Battalion Sharpshooters, by Russell K. Brown, Ph.D., of Grovetown. A retired U.S. Army major, Brown is a well-versed local historian, especially on the War Between the States. This is his third book on that war; Mercer University Press also published To the Manner Born, Brown's biography of Gen. William H.T. Walker.
Brown's books are available in most bookstores. The others may be a little tougher to get; I bought Irvin's from him at a table he'd set up in Publix one afternoon; to get a copy, send a note to Irvin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Gregory's book will be available soon from Trafford Publishing, at (888) 232-4444.
Best of all, Pate's book is still available, too: For just $15, postage included, he'll send you a copy. Call him at (706) 556-9413, or send a note to 5720 Broadoak Drive, Grovetown, Ga., 30813. He'll even autograph a book for you, which makes it a great gift.
All these books are by local soldiers who served their country and put their thoughts and their research on paper. They may not be listed by the Georgia Center for the Book, but they ought to make Columbia County's summer reading list.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.)
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