Next on my summer list is a very peculiar history book, "The Pact," by Steven M. Gillon. I say it is peculiar because despite errors of fact, it is an informative history. As I coyly suggested earlier in the month, everything Gillon says about me in his book is wrong. For instance, I -- one of Bill Clinton's most exuberant critics -- did not, as Gillon claims, go to Georgetown University with Clinton. But the book is not about me. It is about the intriguing relationship between former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Clinton. The portrait Gillon paints of Gingrich is particularly vivid and, to my mind, accurate. What he and the president were up to in their meetings -- some of which was secret -- was the transformation of American politics and, most significantly, Social Security. Their failure was a failure in character -- both men's characters.
Two more books that make my list are Martin Gilbert's "Churchill and the Jews: A Lifelong Friendship" and Claire Tomalin's "Samuel Pepys: The Unequaled Self." Gilbert is the author of the definitive eight-volume biography of Churchill, as well as many other superb works of history. In this book, he demonstrates how the great British leader, at the beginning of his long life, developed an admiration for the Jews that lasted through many trials, crowned, of course, by his support for a Jewish state. As often with Churchill, his heart deeply engaged, but it was ruled by his intellect. He believed the ancient Jews were responsible for the ethical foundations of Western morality. As Churchill conceived it, the Jews "grasped and proclaimed an idea of which all the genius of Greece and all the power of Rome were incapable."
Turning to Claire Tomalin's biography of Pepys, let me say that I never would have picked it up if Don Graham, the bookish chairman of The Washington Post, had not sent it to me. Don has high regard for the book, and now I do, too. Pepys is perhaps the greatest diarist in the English language, and he wrote his diary entries in the middle of 17th-century London, when great events were taking place that in time would shape the founding of our own country. Pepys gives us a feel for his time from a powerful office in government and a crow's nest over emerging British society. Tomalin is a superb biographer, and Pepys is an enthralling subject, part bureaucrat, part Puritan, part rogue.
Maybe this book can be your how-to book for summer reading, namely, how to serve in a high government position in Washington in the early 21st century. Some things never change.
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