Almost everyone loves a good adventure story and nearly as many of us enjoy a great biography. For the past decade, Candice Millard has made it her mission to combine the two in the form of compelling narratives about important historical figures.
Her 2005 book about Theodore Roosevelt – “The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey” – was a New York Times bestseller focused on TR’s nearly 1000-mile journey along a largely unexplored river flowing through Brazil’s Amazon basin (My review: 4½ stars)
Her 2011 “Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President” shined a fascinating light on the life, and death, of one of our least known presidents. If you’ve never read a biography of Garfield, you should – you might come away fervently wishing he was alive to appear on this year’s presidential ballot. (My review: 4 stars)
I thoroughly enjoyed both of these presidential “narratives” (they are not traditional, comprehensive biographies) so it is with no small amount of glee that I see Millard’s next book is due out on September 20: “Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill.”
This book covers just a single year in the life of Winston Churchill – 1899 – but posits that the year’s events (including his daring escape as a POW) were instrumental in shaping the leader he grew into. As I wrap up my nine-month journey through the best biographies of Franklin D. Roosevelt, I’ve become convinced that one of the first historical figures I must read about after completing the U.S. presidents is…Winston Churchill.
And although this is far from a traditional biography of Churchill, I’ve heard from two regular visitors to my website who received advance copies that this book is utterly spellbinding. I can’t wait to find out myself!
An interesting interview of Millard appeared in Friday’s “Fall Book Preview” section of The Wall Street Journal and can be found online here.
We now return to regular programming…
Charles Scott said:
In a perfect world, you’ll finish the presidents in plenty of time to do the kings and queens of England.
Agreed! And I’ve been told I should read biographies of the Prime Ministers as well (though I suspect a few of them are no more exciting than Zachary Taylor or Benjamin Harrison…)
Benjamin Disraeli! Robert Blake published a great bio in the 60s. Your list of selections for Churchill would be comparable to Lincoln’s list. The late Martin Gilbert’s work is incomparable.
Thank you for recognizing this upcoming book. I have been eagerly awaiting her account for a long time. Churchill wrote an entertaining – and well-designed first edition – account of his experience (London to Ladysmith via Pretoria).
Bill Monaco (@wemonaco) said:
I’ve been looking forward to her next book from the second I finished Destiny of the Republic! I am so excited about this book and can’t wait until September 20th. I’m planning a trip to DC to hear her speak at the National Book Festival, too! Thanks for mentioning her new book.
Dennis Branson said:
In my opinion, Winston Churchill’s six book series about WWII is the best account written about the war. A must read in my opinion. They would be a great complement to the FDR books that you are reading.
A truly excellent idea! Won’t happen imminently, but I will have to carve out some time for that series; sounds fantastic!
Regarding Churchill, I picked up William Manchester’s three book series last year. Anybody have thoughts on these?
From Ms. Millard’s Acknowledgements – about Manchester’s Churchill trilogy (completed by Paul Reid): “I have rarely encountered a writer with the ability to describe a scene with as much dazzling detail or conjure a moment from the murky depths of history as confidently and magisterially as Manchester. His writing is absolutely irresistible.”
The book is excellent indeed as it reads like a novel. Although I knew the ending, I still found my turning pages wondering what was happening next. A great follow-up to her first two books.
One waits for months for the book to be published, takes a few days to read the book, and then goes ‘How long until her next book?’ It’s much like finishing one of Caro’s or McCullough’s books.
Based on the Millard books I have read I couldn’t imagine this would be anything other than totally engrossing. I still don’t know exactly when I’m going to get to it, but I really can’t wait…!
It certainly would be nice if McCullough, Caro, Chernow, etc. would write a little faster 🙂
Terry Hutchinson said:
Manchester is excellent, although the last two thirds of the third volume (written after Manchester sadly passed away) aren’t quite as good as the others. Frankly, Manchester’s books are as good as Caro’s in my opinion.
Another Churchill book, is In Command of History, which is the history of Churchill’s History of World War II. Its by David Reynolds and its every bit as compelling.
As a historical figure, the life of Churchill is a bit like the life of T. Roosevelt. They lived life to the fullest.
TR has been the biggest surprise (in a good way, that is) president for me so far. His zest for life is unmatched and that obviously creates the raw material for a fantastic biography! So I can’t wait to read about Churchill & I’m going to have to look into Reynolds.
Alex Leach said:
One interesting Churchill book is ‘No More Champagne’, concerning his complex finances, written I think by a forensic accountant. It sounds as dry as dust but is actually fascinating, as it deals with two parallel stories: his political career and alongside it his appalling financial mismanagement which brought him close to ruin on several occasions.