THE holidays over, a new year beginning, a long winte ahead, television going into reruns. What more incentive for a good book and burrowing into a special pocket of escape?
Here, starting with nonfiction, are some of the best books one reader came across last year. Some are old, some are new. All should be in bookstores or libraries.
Boldness Be My Friend, by Richard Pape (1984 edition). Amazing is the only word to describe soldier Pape's experiences after he was captured during World War II. Much of his time after that was spent out of prison camps doing intelligence work. He then had to break back in. This wouldn't be believed as fiction. The 1984 edition is much more complete than the original.
Cold Warrior, by Tom Mangold. James Angleton was one of the forces in the growth of the CIA and then he single-handedly almost brought it to its knees with his unquenchable search for Soviet moles. This is a look at the man, the accomplishments, the damage.
Heimskringla, by Snorri Sturluson. Translated by Lee M. Hollander. At last this 13th century classic is available in English. The grand Icelandic saga details in colorful skaldic fashion the history of the kings of Norway, including the constant intrigues and their deaths in battle and, in one case, a vat of mead. They don't write history like this anymore.
Machines That Built America, by Roger Burlingame. One of the creative geniuses of America is the mixture of ingenuity and industry that produced, developed and made available to everyone the machines that meant progress and a better life. Author Burlingame, in a case studies and personalized approach, looks at 200 years of American invention and its consequences.
M.I.A., by H. Bruce Franklin. Gets behind all the emotion and rhetoric of the Vietnam MIA issue to show the dirty truth: There's no "M" here -- and never was. The missing were known to be dead but were kept alive for bureaucratic reasons that backfired. Hearings late last year tended to support the conclusion.
Pearl Harbor, The Final Judgement, by Henry C. Clausen. The man who made the official army investigation into what went wrong that December morning tries to write "no more" to persistent theories that Admiral Kimmel and General Short were victims rather than villains. He has the facts to support his case that if they didn't know what was going on, they went out of their way not to.
Red Odyssey, by Marat Akchurin. A trip to offbeat areas of the then-Soviet Union in its last days, as it turned out offers a rare view of places outside Moscow and sets up the reader for today's problems in what are now several different countries. Getting around the Soviet Union was a trip, in more ways than one, and Akchurin is an observant traveler.
The Road to Extrema, by Bob Reiss. Reiss tries to get to one of the hearts of the environmental problem by going down to a threatened Brazilian rain forest and talking to all sides. Then he shows how having a rain forest affects people living up here in North America.
Drums Along the Mohawk, by Walter D. Edmonds. A classic tale of frontier life during the American revolution.
Isvik, by Hammond Innes. The newest work by the master of adventure writing. The story links Britain, the terror in Argentina and a mysterious ship a dead man thought he saw locked in the Antarctic ice. There is Innes' usual battle of humans against the elements, as well as humans against humans.
Kiss Me Once and Kiss Me Twice, by Thomas Maxwell. These sequential mysteries reek of the 1940s, not superficially but inherently. A banged-up football player finds himself involved in wartime intrigue. The pace is nonstop all the way to the infuriating endings. What a way to treat your hero! And why no "Kiss Me Once Again"?
The Moccasin Telegraph and Other Tales, by W.P. Kinsella. A collection of 15 short stories. The action takes place on a reservation in western Canada and is narrated by Silas Ermineskin, a young Indian hovering somewhere between sagacity and mischief.
Myron Beckenstein is assistant foreign editor of The Sun.