I have a love-hate relationship with books.
I can go months without reading anything. All it takes is a couple of bad books in a row, and I’m off the long format sauce. But since the summer started, I’ve been on a roll. I wrote recently about my summer reading list… which started – ironically enough – with some books about Genghis Khan, then a series about Julius Caesar by the same author (Conn Iggulden). I kind of got into the Roman theme and continued with some stuff from Simon Scarrow (not exactly literature, but entertaining), William Napier (whose “Atilla: the Gathering of the Storm” is phenomenal) and Ben Kane (also solid stuff in “The Forgotten Legion.”)
I discovered Steven Pressfield pretty much by accident.
Here’s what happened: First, I bought myself a Nook. (An e-reader, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it. Kind of like the Amazon Kindle, but prettier and cooler.) As soon as I did that, I kind of gave up “real” books, favoring instead their electronic versions. Next on my reading list was Ben Kane’s follow-up to “The forgotten Legion,” but it wasn’t available electronically yet. It seemed that I had read every book about Ancient Rome there was. Except one. I found it by accident in Cannes, while visiting my parents this June. I was looking for a book for the French Father’s Day, and walking through the FNAC’s translated books section (I looked for Iggulden, Kane or Napier but came up empty-handed) came upon “Tides of War,” which seemed pretty cool. I made a mental note. The author was Steven Pressfield, the guy who wrote The Legend of Bagger Vance.
The second thing that happened, as I mentioned above, is that I ran out of books to read on my Nook. Kane’s latest wasn’t available yet. I had read all of Scarrow’s. Napier’s third Atilla isn’t due until the fall. I looked up Pressfield, aiming to buy Tides of War, but settled on Gates of Fire instead. I had seen it in a book store and was intrigued by his take on the Spartans’ stand at Thermopylae. Good choice. I was hooked from page one. I had no idea what the book really was. I expected an adventure novel… It was a hell of a lot more. Boys should read this book in high school. It should replace at least one Shakespeare title in college. It should also be required reading in business management schools and officer training programs, along with “The Virtues of War.”
Anyway. Needless to say, I was an instant fan. I devoured “Gates” and “Virtues.” I savored “The Afghan Campaign.” I am currently sucking the marrow out of “Last of The Amazons.” I still have several of his books to go: Tides of War, Killing Rommel, The Legend of Bagger Vance… but Mr. Steven Pressfield didn’t quite give me a chance to get to his non-fiction book on my own: “The War of Art.” I received it this morning, with a card and couple of friendly notes to boot.
I have absolutely no idea how Steven Pressfield knew that I was a fan. I mean, yes, I’ve mentioned him a few times this summer and recommended “Gates” and “Virtues.” I did. But who doesn’t? You can’t read these books and not be moved by them. You naturally want to share them with people. More importantly, I have no idea how Steven Pressfield knew that I even exist, or that it would matter to me a whole lot that he sent me this gift.
By the way, there is no business lesson hidden in this post. For once, I have no agenda. I just wanted to share this with you. You read my stuff. I read his. We’re all connected by passion, words and ideas. More than anything, I thought it was just cool as hell.
And perfect timing, as I am well into writing my first book, working on the skeletons of two more, and planning a half dozen after those. This, “The War of Art,” could make a difference in these endeavors. It’s almost uncanny that it arrived now and in this manner.
I sense the hand of the gods in this. Zeus himself may be behind it.
All this to say that Steven Pressfield pretty much rocks. Not only is he a brilliant writer, he’s a class act as well. If you haven’t read any of his stuff yet, do. You won’t regret it.