What to Read This Christmas

Monday, 23 Dec 2013 10:37 AM

By George J. Marlin

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For the political junkies on your Christmas list, here are my picks of the best nonfiction works published in the past year.
 
"Coolidge" by Amity Shlaes (Harper, $35). Ms. Shlaes, who penned the monumental work "The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression," has turned out a fine work on our 30th president. She proves that old Calvin was not a passive leader. As governor of Massachusetts and as president he fearlessly governed, reined in public-sector unions, cut wasteful spending, and fended off special interests groups.
 
Coolidge, who was known as “Silent Cal” because he rarely spoke, proved that actions speak louder than words. Reading this book, I learned why Coolidge was Ronald Reagan’s favorite president.
 
"Double Down: Game Change 2012" by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann (The Penguin Press, $29.95). The two authors have picked up Theodore White’s “Making of the President” mantle and have turned out an excellent chronicle of the 2012 election.
 
Their extensive interviews and research take one into the backrooms and closed-door meetings. They describe how Obama won, despite the weak economy and how Romney snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. While Obama was the first president re-elected to a second term to receive fewer votes than in his first election, he won because of an extraordinary national ground game that brought out his base and kept the disenchanted home on Election Day.
 
"Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House" by Peter Baker (Doubleday, $35). The chief White House correspondent for The New York Times has turned out a fair and balanced book on the eight tumultuous years George W. Bush occupied the White House.
 
While Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney had an extraordinary relationship, Baker shows that Bush was no pushover and was not the VP’s stooge. His narrative of the post 9/11 White House is riveting reading.
 
"Margaret Thatcher: Power and Personality" by Jonathan Aitken (Bloomsbury Press $37). A slew of books have come out this year on the “Iron Lady," but Aitken’s is the best one-volume biography to date. The author, who served with Thatcher in Parliament and was a member of her cabinet, had a ringside seat throughout her career. Aitken skillfully chronicles one of the greatest public officials of the 20th Century who proved that political principles matter.
 
"The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-1957" by Frank Dikötter (Bloomsberg Press, $30). In this work, Professor Dikötter traces the post-World War II Chinese Civil War (1946-1949) and the first years of “liberation” under Mao.
 
He documents that the first “decade of Maoism was one of the worst tyrannies in the history of the 20th century, sending to an early grave 5 million civilians and bringing misery to countless more.” Dikötter’s description of China’s descent into hell is harrowing.
 
"Moynihan’s Moment: America’s Flight Against Zionism as Racism" by Gil Troy (Oxford, $29.95). This book describes how Pat Moynihan took on the forces of darkness at the U.N. in 1975. New York’s former U.S. senator will always be remembered for these words when he voted against Resolution 3379, which declared Zionism a form of racism: “The United States rises to declare, before the General Assembly of the United Nations, and before the world, that it does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act.”
 
"The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine and the Birth of Right and Left" (Basic Books, $31). This book describes the 19th century clash between Edmund Burke, the father of Modern Conservatism and the liberal ideologue Thomas Paine over the implications of the 1789 French Revolution and how they haunt us to this day. “Precisely because Burke and Paine were both political thinkers and political actors, their dispute opens a window into the origins of our own political order.”
 
Merry Christmas.
 
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J., is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact." He also is a columnist for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. Read more reports from George J. Marlin — Click Here Now.
 
 
 

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