Our annual list of holiday gift suggestions from distinguished readers and writers.
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And call it crass self-promotion if you wish (allowed of me in these pages as publisher of this magazine), anybody concerned about the future of the conservative cause must read Upstream: The Ascendance of American Conservatism, written by your faithful servant (Threshold/Simon & Schuster). The conservative movement didn’t just happen, but was built by countless selfless men and women who adhered to a set of principles that slowly took hold in the culture and the body politic and became, over a period of more than 60 years, one of the dominant political and philosophical forces in the country. Upstream tells that story.
Alfred S. Regnery is publisher of The American Spectator.
Is it an ethical violation to recommend my own book? How about if I disclose that I am the author of Samuel Adams: A Life (Free Press). One highly negative early review called it a “Neocon view of the least-known Founding Father” and wrote that by the time the book ends, “it’s evident—to the author, at least—that Samuel Adams (1722-1803) would gleefully have supported firearms in every living room, prayer in the public schools, and the invasion of Iraq.”
Ira Stoll is the former managing editor of the New York Sun.
R. EMMETT TYRRELL, JR.
In the 20th century, Winston Churchill was so widely noted for his wit and turn of phrase that if a clever line were in the air it was often attributed to him whether he said it or not. Doubtless the great man rarely complained, though occasionally he did, as readers will note in this definitive compilation of his solemnities, witticisms, and other famous lines. For instance, though he never characterized the British naval tradition as embracing “Rum, buggery, and the lash,” he told his secretary that he wished he had. And he never joked that if married to Nancy Astor and given the opportunity to drink her poisoned coffee he would willingly drink it.
In Churchill by Himself: The Definitive Collection of Quotations (PublicAffairs) editor Richard Langworth has, with utmost scholarliness, gathered 627 pages of Churchill’s most memorable lines from his 15 million published words. Langworth’s scholarship is fascinating. In the case of some of Churchill’s most famous lines, Langworth traces their origins in earlier oratory (Cicero) or poetry (John Donne). He files the lines under interesting headings, for instance: “Maxims,” “Nuclear Age and Cold War,” and “Ripostes.” Yet his most memorable chapter, at least for me, is titled “Red Herrings: False Attributions.” There on page 572 the indefatigable editor casts doubt on The American Spectator’s authority for claiming without attribution that Churchill once said, “Smoking cigars is like falling in love; first you are attracted to the shape; you stay for its flavor; and you must always remember, never, never let the flame go out.” Okay, at ease my fellow Spectatorians! I ferreted out the source and have sent it on to Langworth. Our honor is preserved. On October 15, 1963, at a Conservative Party Conference at Blackpool, Randolph, while smoking a cigar, related his father’s line to my source, who must remain anonymous, for he explained: “Admittedly, he [Randolph] was drunk at the time.”
After expatiating at somewhat greater length than I had intended about this magisterial work of scholarship that should be in the library of every Churchill aficionado, let me suggest also Al Regnery’s elegant and authoritative history of our own conservative movement, Upstream: The Ascendance of American Conservatism (Threshold/Simon & Schuster). Given the botches of so many conservative pols over the last fifteen years, we who believe that conservative values and principles won most of the political battles since 1980 are going to be spending the next several years in the wilderness, assessing the relevance of those values and principles and looking for pols who are up to the challenges of preserving liberty. Regnery’s history of conservatism’s growth will be indispensable to us, as will the L.L. Bean catalog. One can survive quite comfortably in the wilderness nowadays, as the Bean catalog makes clear.
For a timely book that demonstrates how a great political figure, Abraham Lincoln, developed ideas for his time that spread the American promise of freedom, I recommend Lincoln at Peoria: The Turning Point (Stackpole), by a Lincoln scholar who has also been a successful businessman and movement conservative, Lewis Lehrman. Lincoln’s ideas revolved around personal liberty and the institution of slavery in the 1850s. Lehrman’s elucidation of Lincoln’s intellectual tussle with the bad ideas of his era and the challenge of freeing the slaves and saving the Union is at once dramatic and informative about politics and America itself. The book is also well timed, as 2009 is the 200th anniversary of the Great Emancipator’s birth.
Finally, let me suggest Claire Tomalin’s Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self (Knopf). Pepys is probably the greatest diarist in the English language. He wrote his diary entries in the middle of 17th century London when great events were taking place that in time would shape the founding of our own country. He gives us a feel for his time from the powerful office he held in government that served as his crow’s nest over emerging British society. Tomalin tells us the whole story and this enthralling subject, part bureaucrat, part Puritan, part rogue.
Merry Christmas to all, especially to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. His most recent book is The Clinton Crack-Up: The Boy President’s Life After the White House (Thomas Nelson).
WALTER E. WILLIAMS
Basic Economics, by Thomas Sowell (Basic Books).
The Law, by Frederic Bastiat (Foundation for Economic Education).
Locke, Jefferson and the Justices: Foundations and Failures of the U.S. Government, by George M. Stephens (Algora Publishing).
Prof. Walter E. Williams is the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University. His most recent book is More Liberty Means Less Government: Our Founders Knew This Well (Hoover).
(These recommendations appear in the December 2008/January 2009 issue of The American Spectator.)
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.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?