The Avid Reader
Photograph Luisa Porter
If it were up to LAWRENCE FRYE’s wife, Annie, this feature would be called “Addicted Reader.”
Lawrence readily admits he keeps the staff at West Point’s Bryan Public Library on their toes, frequently taking advantage of the library’s interlibrary loan system to keep himself in fresh reads. Lawrence stops by several times a week, after making a circuit of Kellogg Hardware and The Smoke Stack tobacco shop “to talk football,” to pick up the books reserved for him.
A retired professional poker player, Lawrence met Annie when she was working as a professional card dealer in Scottsdale, Ariz. The couple moved to West Point 10 years ago, allowing Annie to return to her hometown. When the discussion turns to one of Lawrence’s favorite books, Watership Down, Annie interjects with a smile, “When I’m good, he reads it aloud to me.”
A fan of military history, historical fiction, mysteries and thrillers, the New Jersey native relies on the book sections of the New York Times and LA Times to keep his literary dance card full. When he’s in search of a good mystery, he turns to Marilyn Stasio’s reviews in the New York Times.
1. The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War by David Halberstam — Very illuminating; not just a book of dry facts about a war. It takes an insightful look at the character of the war’s major figures — Eisenhower, McArthur, Kim, Mao — and the consequences of their decisions and miscalculations as seen through the eyes of individual soldiers on the front lines.
Of note is Halberstam’s connection to West Point, where he began his journalism career as a reporter for The Daily Times Leader. Later he wrote The Noblest Roman, a roman à clef about bootlegging and political skulduggery set in Clay County.
2. World War II, As I Remember by Mark Gordon Hazard — Dec. 7, 1941, West Point’s Mark Gordon Hazard had just finished feeding hogs at the experimental station at Mississippi State and was sitting on the bullring across from the campus YMCA talking football when he heard the news from Pearl Harbor. This self-published book is Hazard’s firsthand account of life as a lieutenant with E Company, 313th Infantry Regiment, Seventy-ninth Division over a period of four campaigns across France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.
3. Watership Down by Richard Adams — When I have nothing to read, and I want to feel a bit melancoly, I return to my two favorites, Watership Down and I Heard the Owl Call My Name. I was assigned Watership Down in college but I couldn’t get into it at first. Then, about 90 pages into it, it just caught fire for me.
4. I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven — It’s the story of a young vicar, unaware that he is dying from an unnamed terminal illness, who is sent to serve in a native village in British Columbia. There he makes a home for himself among the natives, learning as much as he teaches and comes to grip with the meaning of his life. The title of the book comes from a Kwakwaka’wakw belief that when one hears the owl call one’s name, death is imminent.
5. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson — This is the best book I have ever read; I didn’t like the ending, though. It’s a letter written by 76-year-old preacher, John Ames, to his 7-year-old son. Motivated by his failing health, Ames writes the letter as an account of his life for a son who will never really know him. Robinson’s prose is beautiful. Readers of a religious or philosophical bent will really enjoy it.