Books for Christmas

By Aitken, Jonathan; Barone, Michael et al. | The American Spectator, December/January 2008 | Go to article overview

Books for Christmas

Aitken, Jonathan, Barone, Michael, Black, Conrad, London, Herbert, May, Clifford D., Regnery, Alfred S., Stoll, Ira, Tyrrell, R. Emmett JR., Williams, Walter E., The American Spectator

Our annual list of holiday gift suggestions from distinguished readers and writers.


MY CHRISTMAS READING CHOICES fall into three categories: power, money, and contemplative spirituality.

The best book on power that I have read for a long time is Masters and Commanders: How Roosevelt, Churchill, Marshall and Alanbrooke Won the War in the West (Allen Lane) by the British historian Andrew Roberts. The Masters are Churchill and Roosevelt. The Commanders are Eisenhower, MacArthur, Montgomery, George Marshall, and Alan Brooke. All come alive in Roberts's elegant prose as fascinating human beings on top of their military and political roles as giants of history. The interaction between them was packed with disagreements, yet unlike their opposite numbers they harnessed their strong wills to a common cause in collective teamwork. By contrast, concludes Roberts, "the lack of a collegiate Chiefs of Staff system was one of the major reasons why Germany lost the Second World War." A riveting and beautifully written overview of how and why the Allies won it.

Collegiality was not one of Richard Nixon's virtues, but his complexity is well explained and favorably (perhaps too favorably!) interpreted by Conrad Black in his magisterial biography Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full (PublicAffairs). The strength of this book is Black's perceptive understanding of the good and bad sides of Nixon's inner character together with a strong historical grasp of the outer political pressures with which he had to wrestle.

Turning to money, two new books I have enjoyed this year are The Oil and the Glory: The Pursuit of Empire and Fortune on the Caspian Sea by Steve LeVine (Random House) and The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder (Bantam).

LeVine's merry romp through the new oil Klondike of the 21st century is a page turner chronicling the exotic activities of oligarchs, oil majors, explorers, crooks, wheeler dealers, pipeline builders, and Caspian politicians. We will hear more about this colorful cast if Russia continues to flex its muscles on energy supplies in the region.

The Sage of Omaha has become almost everyone's favorite guru in the new era of financial adversity. Buffett comes across in this poorly written official biography as a genuine man of principle who throughout his life has been critical of corporate greed, frugal in his lifestyle, generous in his philanthropy, and steadfast in his support for civil and human rights. But his public ethics are not matched by his "almost pathological lack of empathy" which drove his devoted wife away while he lived with a younger woman in Omaha.

It will be a relief at Christmas-time to turn away from war, politics, and greed to practice a little contemplative spirituality. Two gifted 20th-century guides to this search for peace and faith are Thomas Merton and Evelyn Underhill. This is the 50th anniversary of Merton's untimely death and the 70th anniversary of the first publication of his classic The Seven Storey Mountain (Harvest), one of the greatest monastic autobiographies of all time. It was memorably described by Bishop Fulton Sheen as "a 20thcentury form of the Confessions of St. Augustine."

Evelyn Underbill's The Ways of the Spirit (Crossroad) is another classic for contemplatives. It consists of her hitherto unpublished retreats which focus on such issues as God's call, Inner Grace, and the Perfection of Love. Both Merton and Underhill drew much inspiration from The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis which in its many editions remains the world's best-selling Christian book of all time after the Bible. I shall try to reread all three masterpieces this Advent.

Jonathan Aitken is The American Spectator's High Spirits columnist, is most recently author of John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace (Crossway Books). His biographies include Charles W. Colson: A Life Redeemed (Doubleday) and Nixon: A Life, now available in a new paperback edition (Regnery). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Books for Christmas


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.