Summer is a special time for most people — vacations, trips, postponed chores, family visits and other special activities. One of the very important things in my past summers has been reading.
My grade and high school teachers encouraged us to read over the summer. That didn’t change in college studies. I usually acquired a substantial reading list to cover over the summer months. I can still remember many of the books that I read during those past summers. I read books on philosophy, theology, Biblical studies, novels, short stories, historical studies and many other subjects. I recall many of the authors from those summer reading lists — Paul Tillich, John Calvin, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, F. F. Bruce, Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Soren Kierkegaard, Louis L’Amour, Helmut Thielicke and Sigmund Freud. Of course, there have been many, many others, and often more than one book from these authors.
I would like to encourage others to begin a reading list and then work on completing that list. Why not read a good novel? For several months I have been re-reading some of Louis L’Amour. There is a professional reason for doing so. I’m working on an article on using L’Amour’s novels and short stories to teach history. I have focused most of my reading on L’Amour’s Sackett novels. These 16 or 17 novels tell the stories of the development of the American frontier through the experiences of one family, the Sacketts. From the 17th century up through the 19th century, various members of this family explored, conquered, traveled and settled the frontier from the wild, untamed forests of the East Coast to the dusty cattle trails of the Great Plains, the Southwest and the mountains of the Far West. The Sacketts — Barnabas, William Tell, Jubal, Kin and Yance — give the drama and real life experiences of the early pioneers and those who followed them.
You may want to read all of the Sackett novels. Each of them can stand alone, but there is a rough chronology extending from the early beginnings in frontier America with stories in Sackett’s Land and To The Far Blue Mountains dealing with the first experiences of this pioneer family in the new lands of America. L’Amour weaves into his narrative important descriptions of both early English life and native North American experiences. An important part of L’Amour’s novels is the historical and geographical research that he undertook in preparing these stories. These are fiction, but they are based on real life, real places, real history. L’Amour’s novels are classical historical fiction that presents life as it was in those early years — life among the Indians, life in the wilderness, life as a pioneer.
An important companion volume to the Sackett novels is a non-fiction volume titled, The Sackett Companion: A Personal Guide to the Sackett Novels. In this companion volume, L’Amour summarizes each of the novels, presenting the facts and ideas behind his stories in encyclopedic detail; novel by novel, character by character, locale by locale and era by era. There is a chapter discussing each of the novels in the series. He doesn’t deal with every character or every location in the stories, but he gives enough for you to get an idea of his narrative and historical setting. He has carefully and beautifully drawn maps to give location and place for the story he is presenting. He intended to produce over 40 novels in this series, but unfortunately he was only able to complete 16 or 17 of his projected stories.
These novels can be read fast. I’ve read most of them in a matter of a day or two. If you re-read them, you can cover them much faster, and they are worth re-reading. Using these novels with students can inspire and encourage young people to value and learn from real life history. The most important things about L’Amour’s fiction is the real historical and geographical setting in which the stories are presented. The author takes great care in presenting his stories in real history, not just a time that he has created himself, but a time that is defined by genuine history, real experiences, actual historical events and geographical locations. Such novels help students learn about how life was in pioneer America and in the real experience of the people who lived back then.
These novels are from the pen of a famous and very popular novelist who was honored nationally and internationally for his literary work. A good novel to read from the pen of a local author is that written by Clay Carlile titled Five Days in Fellshort. While Clay’s novel isn’t for children or younger teens, it is a good story with a mixed morals and a mixed ending. The novel is drawn from real Texas history and locations. It is fiction, but, as with the work of L’Amour, it is situated “in the last days of the Texas frontier” and deals with real, violent and brutal times and experiences. It is a hard story, not always easy or pleasing to read, but with valuable insights and lessons, if you determine to finish it. I recommend this for summer reading with qualifications regarding age and emotional sensitivity.
There are many other books that I’ve read in summer’s past. Some of them may find their way into these columns as we move through future weeks and months. I would like to wish you a great “rest of the summer.” I hope this has been a summer of enjoyable and inspirational reading. In closing, I would recommend Dinesh D’Souza’s new books The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left explaining how many politicians and media persons have embraced “lying rights” as they attack President Donald Trump and continue defending Hillary Clinton. The second book is Death of a Nation: Plantation Politics and the Making of the Democrat Party exposing how the Democrat Party has misled the African-Americans politically and maintaining control of major population centers across the country while advancing social salary, plantation servitude, genocide (abortion?), racism and fascism/socialism.
Share with me what you are reading and why you are reading it at email@example.com or by snail mail at P. O. Box 1363, Marshall, Texas 75671. Dr. Jerry Hopkins is a retired university professor