The Spectacle Blog

Friday Bookshelf: Reagan, Christmas, and Helen

By on 10.7.05 | 4:06PM

Do you remember that Fox News Channel had short station identification spots last December wishing viewers, "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Hanukah"? I was surprised to see it. Pleasantly surprised, but surprised all the same. John Gibson, the FNC anchor, noticed the "collective gasp" and was disturbed that chairman Roger Ailes received a letter saying "You must be a very brave man." Additionally, Gibson say more and more stories reporting Christians' troubles in celebrating Christmas to the point that not even the secular seasonal symbols are acceptable. There's a "war on Christmas," and that's the title of Gibson's new book (just in time for the holiday, er, Christmas season), The War on Christmas: How The Liberal Plot to Ban The Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought.

Two sometimes lonesome and always courageous men who defeated great enemies through patience and resolve. Two men only recognized as bright political leaders quite late in life. Of the twentieth century, who first comes to mind from these descriptions? For most, it's Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan. Steven F. Hayward, who has penned separate books on the two, noticed similarities beyond their Cold War connection over the years. Comparing their "parallel lives," political education, and conservatism, Hayward offers a double-shot short bio in Greatness: Reagan, Churchill & The Making of Extraordinary Leaders.

Really. How beautiful can one woman be? Can she launch a thousand ships? How about a thousand books, even thousands of years after her death? Knopf is betting on Helen's staying power with Bettany Hughes' very accessible biography of the lady who launched the Trojan War (heck, it even comes complete with a family tree and dramatis personae, timelines, and maps), Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore. An Oxford educated ancient and medieval historian, Hughes presents a very scholarly account by following Homer's tale, augmented by other "literary sources" and archaeology. 

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