Feature

Best books…chosen by Jon Meacham

Former Newsweek editor Jon Meacham is an executive at Random House and the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of a biography of Andrew Jackson.

Former Newsweek editor Jon Meacham is an executive at Random House and the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of American Lion, a biography of Andrew Jackson. His 2012 best-seller Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, is now in paperback.

The Last Lion, Vol. I by William Manchester (Bantam, $20). This book opens with a wonderfully evocative portrait of Winston Churchill at the hour of his greatest crisis—May 1940—then takes us back to the imperial “land of hope and glory” that shaped him. Manchester’s books on JFK, MacArthur, and war in the Pacific are terrific, but the first volume of Churchill stands out for me as this biographer’s finest hour.

The Wise Men by Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas (Simon & Schuster, $20). I read this book when it was first published in the middle of the Reagan years. I loved it then and love it now. With a passionate attention to human detail and a keen understanding of power, Isaacson and Thomas created an enduring portrait of a handful of World War II–era leaders who shaped the way we live now.

Parting the Waters by Taylor Branch (Simon & Schuster, $24). This first volume of Branch’s three-part history of Martin Luther King Jr.’s impact opens unconventionally, with a portrait of Vernon Johns, King’s forgotten predecessor. By the time the book closes, in the wake of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombings in Birmingham, Ala., and the assassination of President Kennedy, we’ve gotten as close to King and the people around him as readers possibly can.

Some Sort of Epic Grandeur by Matthew J. Bruccoli (Univ. of South Carolina, $30). An engrossing, elegant biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald that—forgive the cliché—reads as compellingly as the best of Fitzgerald’s own fiction. This is the finest literary life that I have ever encountered.

Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie (Random House, $20). The human drama behind the fall of the Romanovs. An absorbing, sensitive account of the events that led to the rise of Soviet totalitarianism.

The Crisis Years by Michael R. Beschloss (out of print). The story of John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, the men who held the power to plunge the world into Armageddon. No subject could be more important, and Beschloss paints it vividly and memorably.

Recommended

Russia asks India to send supplies as sanctions derail Moscow's economy
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Asking for Help

Russia asks India to send supplies as sanctions derail Moscow's economy

10 things you need to know today: November 29, 2022
Police in China
Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: November 29, 2022

Chinese universities send students home amid 'zero COVID' protest crackdown
Chinese police arrest protester in Shanghai
China's COVID protests

Chinese universities send students home amid 'zero COVID' protest crackdown

The international problem of modern slavery
A ball and chain.
Briefing

The international problem of modern slavery

Most Popular

5 toons about Elon Musk's Twitter disaster
Editorial Cartoon.
Feature

5 toons about Elon Musk's Twitter disaster

Sanctions apparently hurting Russia's economy, Ukraine war effort
Vladimir Putin
New Pain no gain

Sanctions apparently hurting Russia's economy, Ukraine war effort

China's Xi has few good options amid protests of 'zero COVID' policy
Anti-zero COVID protest in Beijing
China's COVID protests

China's Xi has few good options amid protests of 'zero COVID' policy