A sampler of recommendations from contributors to this year’s annual American Spectator feature, starring Karl Rove among many other generous Holiday friends.
Recommendations excerpted from the December 2003 - January 2004 issue of The American Spectator:
Where to begin? There have been some great reads the last year. OK, first Franklin & Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship by Jon Meacham, managing editor of Newsweek. Meacham and I have both married Mississippi women (establish personal link to writer in question), but that’s where the similarities stop (tell truth). This is a fast-paced and impeccably researched story of the rise and decline of the critical relationship. FDR comes off none-too-well. As he should. Great man, great flaws.
The Conquerors, Michael Beschloss. Well, FDR comes across a little better in this one, though there are some surprisingly short-sighted figures in this drama.
You knew it was coming: William McKinley, Kevin Phillips. Art Schlesinger says to himself, who will savage McKinley for me and get the dog-bites-man headline for our series on American Presidents? Of course, Kevin Phillips. Sad for Art, but good for us, Phillips gets McKinley right (or mostly so). Best short biography of a near-great President and even better political leader.
The man who introduced me to the McKinley Phillips captures was a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who took me on for a seminar in historical source writing (I was 45 and trying to satisfy the upper division writing requirement for my B.A. — long story).
Now that prof, Lewis L. Gould, has written The Modern American Presidency. The foreword by Richard Norton Smith is worth the price of admission, but what follows should dramatically twist your thoughts on the World’s Most Powerful Office. Who is the first modern President, according to Gould? See above.
I admit it. When I finished Karl Zinsmeister’s Boots on the Ground: A Month With the 82nd Airborne in the Battle for Iraq, in one gigantic burst on a cross-country flight this fall, I wept. My apologies to the guy next to me whose cocktail napkin I filched to dab my eyes.
Ah, Venice. Never been there, wanna go there. Originally the desire arose after reading John Julius Norwich’s two volume history of the place. Now the desire has been rekindled by his Paradise of Cities: Venice in the 19th Century, a delicious view of Venice as it slid into decadence and decline as Europe’s pleasure spot.
In sharp moral contrast is God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicholson. King James didn’t write this Bible: an able, eclectic army of high and low churchmen, organized in six companies of “translators,” did. Marvelous!
Richard Brookhiser carries off the black turtleneck, NY conservative intellectual thing better than anyone I’ve seen. The latest proof of his amazing abilities is Gouverneur Morris: The Rake Who Wrote the Constitution, about that constitution-writing, ladies’ man with a peg leg. When’s the mini-series?
Marty Anderson emerged from his cabin at the top of the gully at the Bohemian Grove last summer bearing a wide grin and a sheft of letters. I knew then that Reagan: A Life in Letters had to be on my Amazon.com wish list. Dip into the deep pool of RR’s thoughts in this big volume. There’s plenty to enjoy.
If you’re like me and don’t know good art unless you see it, Paul Johnson’s Art: A New History will help you understand what it is.
Finally, if you’re the kind of person who buys books for friends based on the size, jacket cover, or color of the volume, I offer this simple rule. Buy any book by one of these authors which is pleasing to the eye and the contents will be so, too: David McCullough (must you fall in love with all your subjects, and hey, what about Adams and the Alien and Sedition Acts?), Sir Martin Gilbert (anything by him, anything), Paul Johnson (see above), Gabor Boritt (Hungarian refugee arrives in U.S., goes to Yankton College, the only college in South Dakota that will accept him, becomes leading scholar on Lincoln and Civil War — is this a great country or what?), and Gary Gallagher (what can you say about a Civil War scholar who knows where they buried Stonewall Jackson’s arm? Go figure).
Karl Rove is an adviser to President Bush.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?