Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Old Haunts

The cold weather has finally broken, replaced by moderate temperatures and lots of gloom. We're supposed to get hail later today. Hooray.

In the meantime:

#13 -- "The Fracture Zone" by Simon Winchester

I normally would prefer to go a bit longer before reading another Winchester book, and I've read so many Balkan books over the years that they sort of run together. But I saw this in a used bookstore, and I'd wanted to read it for a while, so half-applied rules went by the wayside.

Glad they did -- "The Fracture Zone" is excellent. It seems to be one of Winchester's lesser-known books, written before (whoops) after he hit it big with "The Professor and the Madman." It deserves a wider audience.

It's the chronicle of a trip through the region in the late 1990s, from Vienna to Istanbul, during NATO's bombing of Belgrade. That trip itself recreated a trip Winchester took decades before.

Along the way, he goes off on tangents and tells tales of the region's history -- all very interesting and entertaining. He's both fascinated by the history and sympathetic toward the present -- a great observer.

Over the years, people have occasionally asked me to recommend a good "starter" book on the Balkans (and sometimes I've recommended them without being asked). This one goes immediately to the top of that list.

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