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Book Report: Last minute book suggestions for that special someone

You've still got time to rush out and buy a book for someone on your gift list.

If that someone likes history, especially American history, this is the right season because publishers have done an especially good job coming up with popular histories on several American topics.

Leading the list is a mammoth paperback based on the TV series of a few years back. "The War: An Intimate History, 1941-1945" by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns (Knopf, $30) originally came out in hardcover, but somehow the publisher forgot to send me a copy.

Not to worry, for the paperback version is just fine. It's chock full of reminiscences of men and women who fought in the war as well as wonderful stuff about the home front.

Two especially interesting figures hail from Minnesota: Quentin Anenson of Luverne and Samuel Hynes of Minneapolis. They are liberally quoted in the new printing as is the editor of the book, as they were in the TV series.

What makes Ward and Burns such good historians is their willingness to dig a little bit deeper than most. Liberally sprinkled throughout the book are the editorial columns by Luverne's newspaper editor Al McIntosh who regularly writes about the home front and news he's getting from the folks over there.

Here's a sample of McIntosh's down to earth style:

"Walking back from the coffee shop, we met Ben Padilla walking home from his night's work. The roly-poly baker was minus his customary infectious grin.

"'What's the matter, Ben? Lost your best friend?' we asked.

"'My brother was at Bataan,' he answered quietly.

"What can you say at a time like that?

"Then, after we walked a few moments, Ben said in a grim voice, 'It's a hard thing to say, but I hope Jake died fighting bravely rather than be captured by the Japs.'"

If you've been watching TV in the past few months, you very well might have seen a fellow named Jay Weiner being interviewed about the senatorial recount in Minnesota. That's because Weiner, a former sports reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and currently a reporter for MinnPost.Com, has written a book entitled, "This is NOT Florida" (University of Minnesota Press, $24.95).

Weiner followed the recount for MinnPost.Com and tells the story of the tactics of Coleman's and Franken's legal teams to come up with a victory.

The book's title comes from a reprimand by Justice Paul Anderson, who told Roger Magnuson, the lawyer representing Coleman, that he had also worked on the Gore/Bush election in Florida.

With another recount coming up in Minnesota, Weiner's elegantly written and researched book will make interesting reading.

"Killer Colt," by Harold Schechter (Ballantine Books, $28), tells the story of John Colt, older brother of Sam, the fellow who invented the revolver. It's a story of gas-lit New York City, a place teeming with schemers, penny dreadful publications.

Seems that John Colt, who came from an aristocratic family, murdered a printer named Samuel Adams. A trial followed, which was covered by the yellow press and even by Brooklyn journalist Walt Whitman and Virginia short story writer Edgar Allan Poe.

It's the stuff of which movies are made and I wouldn't wonder if this book couldn't become one.

Two more books drawn from 19th century history round out this year's selections. They are "The Killing of Crazy Horse," by Thomas Powers (Knopf, $30), the Pulitzer Prize winning historian, and "Manifest Destinies: America's Westward Expansion and the Road to Civil War" (Knopf, $30), by Steven E. Woodward, who explains how the country's annexations inevitably ended in civil war.

Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.