Art: A New History (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

Art: A New History, by Paul Johnson (2003).  This 750-page tome is about the size and shape of your old college art-history textbook.  But, because it is by Paul Johnson (Churchill), it is probably much more enjoyable to read.  Johnson sets out to survey the whole history of art, starting with the surviving fragments of prehistoric art, spending lots of time with the Greeks and Romans, and then gradually working his way up to the present day.  Well, maybe not the WHOLE history.  The focus is overwhelmingly on Western art; there is very little on Asia, Africa, Australia, or any part of the Americas other than the good old US of A.  Subject to that limitation, he covers an amazing number of artists—although “cover” is probably too strong a word since only the really big names like Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and Picasso get more than a paragraph or two.  But rest assured that you will meet, however briefly, a vast array of interesting artists.  There are plenty of color pictures in the book, but Johnson mentions so many more artworks that you’ll probably want to have a tablet handy as you read so you can look up some of the paintings he describes that aren’t reproduced in the book.  He also covers architecture in fair detail, which I found interesting.  An enjoyable read if you have an interest but no real background in art.


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….

Heroes (book review)

Book review by The Movie Snob

Heroes: From Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar to Churchill and de Gaulle, by Paul Johnson (Harper 2007). I picked this book up from Half-Price Books for $8, figuring correctly that it would be a pleasant and breezy read. Paul Johnson is a British journalist-turned-historian who has written some really long books on historical subjects. His Modern Times, which is a world history of the 20th century, is a really enjoyable book. But this is one of his shorter works (280 pages), and it is just a series of vignettes about people that he (and, in most cases, many others as well) regard as heroes. Many are military figures and rulers, as the subtitle suggests, but a few of the people he includes are odd choices (Emily Dickinson?) and a couple were people I had never heard of. But his writing is always engaging, and it’s nice to hear a Brit wax on about the heroic stature of George Washington.