(Reviews by Patrick Dorsey, SLFC President)
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Three Musketeers
by Alexandre Dumas
There’s a reason that after 150 years, people are still reading Dumas and his name is synonymous with swashbuckling and rousing adventure—he’s that good. Whether the exploits and camaraderie of his best-known work, The Three Musketeers, or the wretched hardship and coldly wrought revenge of The Count of Monte Cristo, pick up Dumas and you won’t be disappointed.
The Fencing Master
by Arturo Perez-Reverte
Quietly eking out a living and planning his retirement as fewer and fewer show interest in his “outdated” art, aging fencing instructor Don Jaime Astarloa clings to his dignity, honor, and tradition. All that changes when a mysterious young woman comes to him for instruction, leading him into intrigue as Madrid teeters on upheaval as corrupt politicians plot revolution against a corrupt queen.
A solid thriller with a memorable main character, the story never loses focus on Don Jaime’s vocation and the way it shapes his perspective and his life. And the fencing scenes (with that title, you knew there were some!) put the reader in the middle of the fights, accurate but never bogging down in detail, an especially original one taking place in a pitch-dark room as Don Jaime faces unknown assassins.
by Aldo Nadi
Aldo Nadi was to fencing what Tiger Woods or Babe Ruth or Muhammed Ali were to their sports—an athlete who dominated his field, owning it at the highest levels until he chose to step away. Want to know what insights a man like that has about fencing technique and training? Pick up the book he wrote and find out.
Secrets of the Sword
by Baron Cesar de Bazancourt
Written as a series of after-dinner discussions, de Bazancourt shares wisdom and insight on fencing and duelling in an easy-to-read text that progresses from technique to philosophy and ultimately offers the reader lessons that can be taken from the raw interaction of the sword fight and applied to life. The first book I read outside of a class where I felt compelled to make notes in the margins as its concepts and ideas swirled at me from the page.
The Art of War
A classic. More a treatise on warfare than a book on swordfighting per se, the principles Sun-Tzu elucidates can be applied to any conflict, including one-on-one fencing matches. Yes, it was embraced by MBAs back in the 80s as a way to somehow make what they did more significant, but just because something great is embraced by the really lame doesn’t make it any less great (and, to be honest, Sun-Tzu’s principles did apply). Indispensable if you want to understand the principles of conflict and how to overcome opposition, in whatever arena.
Book of Five Rings
by Miyamoto Musashi
Undefeated in the course of over sixty duels, Musashi was a master swordsman who prevailed in fights that often cost his opponents their lives. Much like Sun-Tzu’s work, Book of Five Rings distills Musashi’s experiences and insights in fighting into principles and ideas that can be applied in any competition or conflict. And given the fact he survived as many encounters with sword-wielding opponents as he did, his advice comes backed with more than a little credibility.