How many people read A Christmas Carol in January? Well, that’s me: Yesterday, I finished reading St. Patrick of Ireland, by Philip Freeman, a week and a half after the feast day. I mention it here because it’s an excellent book–a short and compelling biography of a historical figure about which very little is known. Because the primary sources are so scarce–just about everything comes from a pair of letters Patrick wrote (both translated in an epilogue)–Freeman spends much of his time discussing context: pagan life in Ireland, the collapse of the Roman empire, the coming of Christianity, the monastic tradition, etc. He also has a knack for colorful anecdotes, such as when he describes “the Burgundian law that anyone caught stealing a dog had to kiss the hound’s rear end in front of the whole village.” If you’ve ever wondered why people wear green on March 17, check it out.