Churchill (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

Churchill, by Paul Johnson (2009).  This is a biography of Winston Churchill, and it is only 168 pages long.  If you think that sounds like an impossible feat of compression, you are correct.  It is just too short to give any sort of real flavor of perhaps the greatest man of the twentieth century.  I have enjoyed some of Paul Johnson’s other books, especially Modern Times, but this one just didn’t do it for me.  On the plus side, though, it is a very quick read….

Caesar: Life of a Colossus

Book review from The Movie Snob

Caesar: Life of a Colossus, by Adrian Goldsworthy (2006). This is biography at its finest. Goldsworthy truly brings Julius Caesar and all of ancient Rome to life in this roughly 500-page treatment of the great general’s life and career. It is exceptionally well-written, contains a sprinkling of helpful maps and diagrams illustrating some of the most important battles, and has some nice black-and-white photos in the middle of Roman artwork depicting Caesar and the other main players in the saga—Crassus, Pompey, Cicero, Marc Antony, Cleopatra, and of course Caesar himself. If you have any interest at all in ancient Rome, you will love this book.

The Life of Samuel Johnson (book review)

Book review from The Movie Snob

The Life of Samuel Johnson, by James Boswell. Okay, so I’m only a third of the way through this behemoth, but after all the thing is 1243 pages long. Johnson was a towering figure in British letters during the 18th century. He published hundreds of essyas, more than fifty biographies, a complete annotated edition of Shakespeare’s works, and almost singlehandedly wrote the best and most complete English dictionary of its time. He also hobnobbed with Edmund Burke and Adam Smith, and he crossed (literary) swords with David Hume. And his friend James Boswell wrote this tremendous biography of his life, including numerous reports of the great man’s conversations. He comes across as a bit of a contrarian, more interested in getting off a good one-liner than in making a consistent argument. Just a third of the way in I have already come across these gems:

“Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

After an unknown gentleman left Johnson’s company, he remarked that “he did not care to speak ill of any man behind his back, but he believed the gentleman was an attorney.”

He was not an admirer of Americans. Once he remarked that failing to work for the spread of Christianity “is a crime of which I know not that the world has yet had an example, except in the practice of the planters of America, a race of mortals whom, I suppose, no other man wishes to resemble.”

And his famous response when a woman asked him how he had come to make a certain mistake in his Dictionary: “Ignorance, Madam, pure ignorance.”