Books

Shelf Life

American Excess, Chinese Success

By 2.27.14

Unbalanced: The Codependency of America and China
By Stephen Roach
(Yale, 345 pages, $32.50)

China forecasting is a mug’s game. The terrible example before us all is Gordon Chang, who in 2001 published a book titled The Coming Collapse of China, which predicted that within five to ten years the Communist Party would be chased out of power amid social and economic breakdown. (I reviewed the book here.) As Stephen Roach notes drily in Unbalanced: “During the next ten years China averaged 10 percent annual growth in its GDP, with no signs that the Party was losing its grip on power.”

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Flashback

A Thinking Man’s President: Jan. 1998

By From the January 1998 issue

In honor of president's day, the Spectator will be republishing this week essays and reviews on our nation's best — and worst — leaders.


John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life
Paul C. Nagel

Knopf/432 pages/$30

Our sixth President has long been a favorite of quiz shows and Trivial Pursuit junkies: the only son to follow his father to the White House, the last President to be elected by the House of Representatives, the only candidate to win the Presidency while losing both the popular and the electoral vote, and the only President to serve as a member of Congress after leaving office.

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Flashback

George Washington: Prudent Warrior — Apr. 1989

By From the April 1989 issue

In honor of president's day, the Spectator will be republishing this week essays and reviews on our nation's best — and worst — leaders.


George Washington: A Collection
Edited by W.B. Allen/Liberty Fund/561 pp $22.95

Brothers: I am a Warrior, My Words are few and plain; but I will make good what I say.
—George Washington, Speech to the Delaware chiefs, May 12, 1779

How refreshing for the chiefs to hear such straightforward language from the mouth of a white man. In this address the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army told the Delaware that cooperation with the United States would be rewarded as much as confrontation would be punished; they had his word on that. Such was the popular trust reposited in the name George Washington that less than a decade later the establishment of the American nation would rest on much the same foundation: his honor.

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Let Them Eat Candy

By 2.15.14

Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure
By Samira Kawash
Faber, 416 pages, $27

I love candy. Last year I turned 21 and had my fun, but any pleasure gained from legal drink pales in comparison with the thrill I felt at 14; employed at a local butcher’s and deli, I would take my little paychecks and peruse the candy aisles. Charleston Chews, Haribo Gummi Bears, Necco Wafers, Sour Blue Raspberry Bubble Tape: The fruits of the modern world were mine. My tastes in clothes, poets, and people changed as I matured, but I continue to appreciate the sweet stuff.

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What We’re Reading: February Edition

By on 2.14.14 | 12:39PM

Matthew Walther, Assistant Editor and Book Reviewer

Hugh Trevor-Roper, The Wartime Journals.

The Wartime Journals reveal the voice and experiences of Trevor-Roper, a war-time "backroom boy" who spent most of the war engaged in highly confidential intelligence work in England—including breaking the cipher code of the German secret service, the Abwehr. He became an expert in German resistance plots and after the war, interrogated many of Hitler's immediate circle, investigated Hitler's death in the Berlin bunker, and personally retrieved Hitler's will from its secret hiding place.

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Shelf Life

Where Reason Fails

By 2.14.14

The Outer Limits of Reason: What Science, Mathematics, and Logic Cannot Tell Us
By Noson S. Yanofsky
(MIT Press, 424 pages, $29.95)

How rarely Reason guides the stubborn Choice / Rules the bold Hand, or prompts the suppliant Voice.” Dr. Johnson didn’t know the half of it. Not only does reason play a dismayingly small part in human affairs, but reason itself has built-in limitations that prevent our employing it in many cases where we should like to. Thanks to the work of 20th-century logicians, we now know that even mathematics, popularly thought to be the concentrated essence of reason, has zones of impenetrability.

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The Great American Novel

By From the December 2013 issue

Norman Mailer: A Double Life
By J. Michael Lennon

(Simon & Schuster, 948 pages, $40)

This thick block of a book is packed with facts, literary analysis, and well-drawn portraits of the people who played roles in Norman Mailer’s life and career, all written in a carefully modulated and steady prose, with no wasted words.

J. Michael Lennon, professor emeritus of English at Wilkes University, met Norman Mailer in 1972, and since that meeting has been involved in collecting, collating, and editing various Mailer works. As Mailer’s literary executor, he is now editing Mailer’s correspondence for publication.

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Feature

Books for Christmas

From the December 2013 issue

André AcimanRecommendations take time, and the books I read are mostly written by dead people! Not inspirational by any stretch. If I recommend one book it is The Peloponnesian War. Of no consequence whatsoever to people who love books by Jonathans.André Aciman is a distinguished professor at the Graduate Center of City University of New York. His novel Harvard Square was recently published by W.W. Norton.Mark AmoryI am mildly embarrassed to find that my preferred books this year are parochial choices. The obvious one is Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography, Volume One: Not For Turning (Allen Lane) by Charles Moore, once my editor here at the Spectator. Hailed by all as excellent and by many as one of the great political biographies, it has only one drawback: After 859 pages, she is prime minister but only 57. Much lies ahead.
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Feature

Stephen King and That Awful Muttering Voice

By From the December 2013 issue

What do you do when you’re in a Stephen King novel, but you’re not a Stephen King character anymore? Or rather: What do you do when you’re Stephen King, but you’re not a Stephen King character anymore?

King has been knocking out horror stories since 1974’s Carrie; in 40 years he’s turned out 50 novels, three apiece in the bumper-crop years of 1983 (Christine, Pet Sematary, Cycle of the Werewolf) and 1987 (The Eyes of the Dragon, Misery, The Tommyknockers). He’s played around with a pseudonym, written up-all-night doorstoppers and unforgettable slim parables, and become perhaps the most obsessively filmed novelist since Graham Greene. Over the decades he’s returned again and again to certain settings and themes: New England and, later, Florida, overcoming helplessness, adolescence and the loss of childhood innocence, rage.

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Royalties and Royal Ties

By From the December 2013 issue

Mr. Churchill’s Profession: The Statesman as Author and the Book That Defined the “Special Relationship"
By Peter Clarke

(Bloomsbury Press, 347 pages, $30)

Churchill and the King: The Wartime Alliance of Winston Churchill and George VI
By Kenneth Weisbrode

(Viking, 208 pages, $26.95)

The same question has been asked of almost every book on Winston Churchill published over the past three decades (excepting Sir Martin Gilbert’s official biography): Do we really need another book on Churchill? When the book in question is of the caliber of Peter Clarke’s Mr. Churchill’s Profession or Kenneth Weisbrode’s Churchill and the King, the answer is yes indeed.

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