Here, then, is the rest of the list:
Associate Professor of Politics, University of Virginia, and author, The Sources of Democratic Consolidation
- Why Orwell Matters, by Christopher Hitchens. Perhaps better titled "Why Orwell Was Right," this is an inspiring defense of a left-wing intellectual who was more than willing to point out the left's moral blind spots, written by a powerful writer who best "channels" Orwell in our day.
- American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley, His Battle for Chicago and the Nation, by Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor. Published in 2001, Cohen and Taylor tell the dramatic story not of Daley the man so much as Chicago's notorious political "machine," how he made it work to his advantage, and how together they transformed America's "second city" for better and for worse.
- Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington, by Richard Brookhiser. Again, not a new book, but this elegant, brief "moral biography" reminds us why these were once a common genre. Brookhiser shows how Washington deliberately chose to live and dedicate his life, and invites readers to reflect on their own choices and commitments.
- Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million, by Martin Amis. This necessarily grim discussion of Stalin's crimes is suitable reading for people who either need to be reminded how easy their life is or require an education about how ugly communism was and is.
- In Defense of Freedom and Related Essays, by Frank S. Meyer. First published in 1962, this classic postwar essay proposing a new way of understanding the ideas of the modern conservative movement in the U.S. is both remarkably accessible and still relevant in an age when many still believe that conservative ideas and classical liberalism are at odds, instead of mutually indispensable.
Sartorial consultant and author, The Dandy
It is not often that four substantive books on men's clothes are published in one season. Perhaps the reason is that business casual has suffered a grievous (though alas not mortal) wound, and there is a market for books that remind men how to tie their neckties. Or perhaps it is the fact that business casual is still around, and men feel the need to learn how to live with it on better terms. These four books assume that both explanations are true, as they probably are. They are not all good books, but they are all pretty books, in the sense that they are well designed and filled with delightful color illustrations.
Dressing the Man, by Alan Flusser is best of the lot, although it is not Flusser's best. His fourth book, it adds much to the subject that he has not said before. There is a wealth of detail on how to mix colors, fabrics and patterns effectively, as well as how to select clothing that complements one's skin tone. This practice has always struck me as limiting (what about all those nice colors the theory says you shouldn't wear?), not to say irrational. But at least the pictures he uses all show very nice clothes in very good ensembles. Indeed, the pictures are the real strength of this book. There are skads of them, mostly photos of famous men in dashing clothes and illustrations from the Golden Age of Esquire. Flusser's Clothes and the Man (1985, but sadly out of print) is better on the rules; Style and the Man (1996) is better on how to judge quality, but Dressing offers a fount of ideas for the shirt and tie set.
Dressing the Man will ultimately appeal mostly to men who are already interested in clothes. Dressing in the Dark by Marion Maneker, is aimed more at those who aren't, and attempts to hook them by showing them how well their favorite movie stars dressed. So as not to frighten his audience, he emphasizes the more…masculine stars. Steve McQueen turns up on almost every page. Maneker's recommendations are bit more cutting-edge than Flusser's, but far from outlandish. I can't say that about all of pictures, though.
Nor can I say it about the advice tendered in Make Over Your Man, by Tommy Hilfiger lieutenant Lloyd Boston. The fatal flaw of this book is that it is intended not to teach men to dress better, but to help women nag their men into dressing more trendily. No man can be well dressed unless he dresses himself, and certainly no man can be well dressed who dresses in the clothes depicted in this book.
Dress Smart for Men is not the worst book in the ubiquitous Chic Simple series. But it has considerable problems, e.g., no appreciation for the basic rules of classic dress, and obliviousness to the importance of proportion. Its authors seem to intend it to be an updating of John T. Molloy's mega-bestseller Dress for Success, the hands-down king of the lowest-common-denominator, go-along-to-get-along approach to dress. Most galling, however, is the attempt to rationalize business causal. They opine that there are now four distinct dress codes in corporate America. Without going into the whole mess, I say only that their categories strike me as forced, rather that discovered or observed. And they miss the most basic distinction of all (tie or no tie) in favor of shades of casual beige. But the tie is the dividing line between those who dress well, and those who merely dress. Purely ornamental, the tie is a beautiful and useless relic. Its absence is at the heart of business casual, and for that reason alone, it deserves to be cherished and preserved.
Larry P. Arnn
President, Hillsdale College and Vice-Chairman, Board of Directors, the Claremont Institute
- The Discarded Image, by C.S. Lewis. This is one of Lewis's academic books, and the last book he wrote before his death in 1963. It encapsulates and makes more explicit the thinking that went into many of his popular books, including the science fiction novels. Its purpose is to recreate the general understanding that lies behind literature of the medieval and renaissance periods. In accomplishing this, it goes back to the classical view of nature and shows how that conception inspires both literature and philosophy until the modern day. Often the book has the tone of scholarly notes. Other times it is beautiful and moving. Always it is profound.
- The Emperor's Handbook, by Marcus Aurelius, edited and translated by David and Scot Hicks. Most commonly called The Meditations, these personal notes by Marcus Aurelius are among the most powerful documents in stoicism. David and Scot Hicks have provided a most readable and enjoyable translation. Their introduction is lovely, inspiring, and penetrating. They explain most clearly the nature of these notes, which a great man of action used to guide his daily work. The new edition is the best I have seen. One ought to carry it around with him, just as the emperor did.
- Marlborough: His Life and Times, by Winston S. Churchill. The reappearance of this, Churchill's greatest work, by the University of Chicago Press is a welcome event. John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough, was the greatest English general and Winston Churchill's ancestor. I remember being told in class by Harry Jaffa that Leo Strauss had called this the "greatest book of political history in the twentieth century." Written in the early 1930s, after Churchill had entered his long period in the wilderness, the book is an account of the prudence of the "King-Warrior" or "Statesman-General." Marlborough commanded in several of the greatest battles in history. He won them all. In explaining how, Winston Churchill explains how the virtue of the general and that of the statesman connect. "At the summit, true politics and strategy are one."
If you wish to open yourself for the first time to the charms of Sir Winston, read My Early Life. If you are charmed already and wish to understand the greatest things he has to say, read Marlborough.
- J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth, by Bradley J. Birzer. We have entered a virtuous cycle in which the Christmas movies are dominated by the contest between Harry Potter and the much greater Lord of the Rings. Brad Birzer, assistant professor of history and a fine teacher here at Hillsdale, has published just this month a timely book about the meaning of the Rings. He finds the book to be a Christian allegory, a denunciation of modern tyranny, and its author opposed to the "soft despotism" of modern bureaucracy. He sees in the book "a sacramental and liturgical understanding of creation." In the Introduction, Birzer quotes many of Tolkien's academic colleagues condemning the book. His distance from these academics without imagination or chests is very great.
- As I mention Hillsdale people, three others have published fine books earlier this year. Tracy Simmons, Director of the Dow Journalism Center, has published the widely celebrated Climbing Parnassus, A New Apologia for Greek and Latin. It is an eloquent appeal for studying the classics in the classic languages. Robert Eden, professor of political science, has published a splendid new translation of Charles de Gaulle's classic book on the First World War, The Enemy's House Divided. And of course Sir Martin Gilbert, Distinguished Fellow, has published a book this year. It is one of his most charming, Letters to Auntie Fori: The 5,000 Year History of the Jewish People and Their Faith. Churchill was accused of writing a personal diary, disguised as a history of the world. This is a history of the world, disguised as a series of personal letters.
Managing Editor, Claremont Review of Books
For the Iconoclast: The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken, by Terry Teachout. Some may think it strange to recommend as a Christmas gift the biography of a man who wrote (among many, many other things) a laudatory introduction to the first American edition of Nietzsche's The Antichrist. But anyone who sees the humor in the contradiction will appreciate this book. Mencken was many things: "witty and abrasive, self-confident and self-contradictory, sometimes maddening, often engaging, always inimitable"and, not incidentally, the greatest American newspaperman of the 20th century. "He was," Teachout concludes, "something more than a memorable stylist, if something less than a truly wise man." A formidable critic in his own right, Teachout spent more than a decade writing this book. Although he obviously shares much of Mencken's outlook on politics, this is miles from hagiography. It is, rather, first-rate intellectual biography, probably the best treatment of Mencken written so far, and certainly one of the finest volumes of non-fiction published in the last year.
For the Civilized Tippler: Esquire Drinks: An Opinionated & Irreverent Guide to Drinking, by David Wondrich, and The Craft of the Cocktail: Everything You Need to Know to be a Master Bartender, by Dale DeGroff. There is no shortage of books on how to make drinks. The difference here is the emphasis on quality over quantity, patriotism over pap. The cocktail is, after all, an American invention. You will not find page after page of syrupy drinks with naughty names that one finds in disreputable nightclubs. DeGroff includes 500 recipes; Wondrich has just 250. Nor will you encounter a single positive reference to the Jello shot. No, these are books for grown ups.
Both books are chock full of history and more or less sound advice. Wondrich's peppers his text with great anecdotes and randomly numbered rules (e.g., rule #832, "shun novelty, suspect innovation"; #944, "don't order a cocktail for the fruit"; and #1, "when all else fails, have a Martini"). Although reasonable people will disagree with some of his conclusions (given a choice between having a drink with Bernard DeVoto or Snoop Dogg, he opts for the latter), Wondrich's lively book is too much fun to pass up. DeGroff, who earned well-deserved fame and fortune as the head bartender of New York's Rainbow Room, embodies style, refinement, good taste, and first-class everything. Craft of the Cocktail is gorgeous to look at, but if nothing else, his instructions on the correct way to cut a twist are worth the price of the book.
For the Kids: Cautionary Tales for Children,by Hilaire Belloc, with illustrations by Edward Gorey. "Is it true?" Belloc writes in the introduction, "It is not true…Because if things were really so/you would have perished long ago…." If molly-coddling, self-esteem bolstering fables are what you're looking for, keep looking. But you can bet that children (and many adults) will delight in these sharp, funny little verses about boys and girls who've gone astray. Belloc, a French-born, British-bred conservative Catholic politician and writer, first published Cautionary Tales in 1907. They hold up marvelously. Among his charming cast of unfortunates are Jim, "who ran away from his nurse, and was eaten by a lion"; Matilda, "who told lies, and was burned to death"; and Hildebrand, "who was frightened by a passing motor, and was brought to reason." This new edition from Harcourt features never before published illustrations by Edward Gorey, discovered after his death in 2000.
And for the Discriminating Reader: A subscription to the Claremont Review of Books, of course.
Andrew E. Busch
Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Denver, and author, Ronald Reagan and the Politics of Freedom
- Darkness at Noon, by Arthur Koestler. This was a novel written by a disillusioned communist in the 1940s. The main character, Rubashev, is an aging revolutionary who finds himself inexplicably accused of betraying the Party. A good reminder of what was at stake in the Cold War, and of how little difference there truly was between communism and national socialism.
- Vindicating the Founders, by Thomas G. West. This is a well-documented, well-written review of the American Founders' true views on race, class, and gender. A great antidote to the politically correct claptrap that passes for history today.
- The New Dealers' War, by Thomas Fleming. This presents a fascinating glimpse inside the war within World War II, the battle among FDR's advisers over what the post-war world and post-war America would look like. Raises provocative questions, provides interesting tidbits, and shows that antiseptic recollections of undinted national unity do not capture the full picture of America at war.
- Reagan's War, by Peter Schweizer. This book, which just came out, complements Schweizer's 1994 book Victory, about how the United States won the Cold War. It traces Ronald Reagan's 40-year war against communism and credits his matchless and enduring resolution for the collapse of the Soviet empire. So far, I have only read the jacket at Costco, but I am making my wife read this list, too.
Steven F. Hayward
F.K. Weyerhaeuser Fellow, American Enterprise Institute and author, The Age of Reagan and Churchill on Leadership
Three recent books on Churchill that did not get widely reviewed top my Christmas book list: John Lukacs's Churchill: Visionary. Statesman. Historian, Klaus Larres's Churchill's Cold War: The Politics of Personal Diplomacy, and Algis Valiunas's Churchill's Military Histories: A Historical Study.
Lukacs has written with great perception about Churchill over the years in several fine books (The Duel, Five Days in London, and The Last European War), but this book brings together his work on Churchill in one place. He is sometimes wrong, but his few minor mistakes are outweighed by appreciations of Churchill that most other biographers and analysts have missed. Likewise Larres looks closely at Churchill's post-war efforts at resolving the Cold War, which are usually overlooked for the natural reason that it will always be overshadowed by 1940. Lukacs ends a chapter in his book by saying that an analysis of Churchill as a historian has yet to be written, but Algis Valiunas fills the gap admirably with his fine book on Churchill's military histories.
Director, Center for Local Government, the Claremont Institute, and co-author, Democracy in California
- Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography, by William Lee Miller. A sober look at the habits that gave rise to the creation of the loftiest soul in the American political tradition.
- The Courage To Be Catholic: Crisis, Reform, and the Future of the Church, by George Weigel. Not only a defense of the Churchas opposed to individual religious and laitybut a great introduction to Catholicism for Catholic and non-Catholic alike.
- Perspectives on Political Science. The most thought-provoking academic political science journal around, invigorated by new editor Peter A. Lawler. (Full disclosure: I am on its board of advisers.)
- Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision, by Roberta Wohlstetter. Forty years after publication, still the best single book on why the Japanese sneak attack succeeded. Would that someone would write such a book, and very quickly, about September 11, 2001.
- Alexander Hamilton and the Persistence of Myth, by Stephen F. Knott. Insightful studies of the image of Alexander Hamilton throughout American political history.
- Can Poetry Matter? Essays on Poetry and American Culture, by Dana Gioia. Those interested in the book's theme and federal policy toward the arts should read these elegant contributions on contemporary poetry, published in 1992, by President George W. Bush's nominee to head the National Endowment for the Arts.
- Islam at the Crossroads: Understanding Its Beliefs, History, and Conflicts, by Paul Marshall, Roberta Green, and Lela Gilbert. Brief, to-the-point explication of the intertwining of Islam and western civilization and the often explosive tensions between them.
Chairman, Board of Directors, the Claremont Institute
Anyone can recommend a book. But how about one he hasn't read?all the way through, that is. Give me another night, however, with Night Soldiers, Alan Furst's novel set in the miasma of fascism, communism, and confusion of 1930s Europe as the continent plunged down the road to war. Give me another night, maybe two, with the innocent, idealistic, cynical, and savage caught up in the soaked and sticky spy-nets and politics of Bulgaria, Russia, Spain, and France, and then I'll have finished the book and be ready to pick up another Furst, say, Kingdom of the Shadows, set in Paris, 1938.
Another year in another place I recommended Thomas G. West's Vindicating the Founders. This year I'm keen on Some Thoughts Concerning Education, which West put me onto. I wish I'd read it when my children were young, "for errors in education should be less indulged than any." That's what John Locke said, and he wrote the book, which Ruth Grant and Nathan Tarcov edited. I've just bought Christmas copies for my children; so they might do well by my grandchildren when they arrive in this world. As Locke, the teacher of many of America's Founders, said, "The well educating of their children is so much the duty and concern of parents, and the welfare and prosperity of the nation so much depends on it, that I would have everyone lay it seriously to heart…"
How did the administrative state grow to pancake America and provide an unappetizing but present alternative to the limited, constitutional government based on natural right of America's founding? That's what I wanted to know. So I read Claremont Institute Senior Fellow John Marini's The Politics of Budget Control: Congress, the Presidency, and the Growth of the Administrative State. No joke.
But we're almost on holiday, as our English-speaking friends on the island across the sea say, and when we're on holiday, there's P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit. There's an old notion that comedy puts the world back together; Wodehouse's books certainly do. They live by what Max Beerbohm called "the law of levity." Wodehouse was a good friend of America and Western civilization. You should read him.