That's one off the list

Sometimes I'm embarrassed at how long it takes me to finish a book. I lose interest or get distracted. It took me over a year to finish a mystery set in 19th century New York, for instance, that was all of 300 paperback pages long. The fact that I only seemed to remember I was reading this book was when I was going to get my hair "done" and needed something to read didn't help matters. Once a month for 35 minutes isn't a recipe for reading success.

Great Tales from English History was one of the first books I bought for my Kindle. A year ago the selection of history books on Kindle that I hadn't already read was a bit thin so this seemed like just the ticket. Over a year later, I've finally finished it. It wasn't what I was expecting but it is entertaining on its own terms. This is not a continuous narrative but, as the title suggests, individual tales. Each one is relatively short - most clock it at around 5 pages - making it perfect for bite-size reading. The tales themselves draw heavily on original chronicles and sources and Lacey does an admirable job of providing context for the prejudices of the sources. Most of the stories do involve the great and mighty but Lacey also includes tales of "Cheddar Man", an early English physician and the Venerable Bede. Lacey's tales were the perfect company for the subway portion of my commute, easily digestible in 10 minutes each. They've also proven to be good bedtime stories for my 12 year old niece.

If I had to sum this book up in one word it would be this: charming. That's not faint praise. This is not a substantial work of history but it does provide an entertaining respite for history buff and history novice alike. I particularly enjoyed the way Lacey uses the original source material while still providing a commentary on the likeliness of events happening as written. He also delves into the deeper meaning of the tales whether it's Piers Ploughman and the bell on the cat or Alfred and the Cakes. Doing all of this in five page spurts while still entertaining is an accomplishment.

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