If you are going to write a biography of the journalist Hunter S. Thompson, the one thing you should never be is capital O Objective. To be Objective--a word Thompson loathed-- would be to have missed the point of your subject and Timothy Denevi has certainly not missed the point. By adopting (or imitating) Thompson’s gonzo style in Freak Kingdom (PublicAffairs, $28), Denevi creates a necessarily fast-paced narrative of the most significant decade of Thompson’s life (1964-1974). He also succeeds in drawing a revisionist portrait of Thompson that never quite dispels the drug-addled caricature one finds in Doonesbury’s Uncle Duke, nor should it. Denevi resuscitates an important and unfortunately overlooked aspect of Thompson’s political thought: his true commitment to lowercase r republican virtues and ultimately to the Dream of America, rather than the American Dream. This Thompson, who Denevi strives to portray as an opponent to the Ever Present Specter of Fascism: American Style, appears more as a nuanced and thoughtful figure whose idiosyncrasies are not simply those of a drug-addled freak, but of a different sort of patriot. Denevi’s Thompson is a patriot loyal to America’s highest aspirations, democracy, multiculturalism, and equality, while antagonistic to its Lowest Common Discriminators, namely, Richard Milhous Nixon.
Gifted Brazilian artist Marina Amaral and one of Britain’s leading historians, Dan Jones, have teamed up to give us a new history of the world. Covering events from the 1850s to the Space Race, The Colour of Time (Pegasus, $39.95) tells the story of some of the most important events and people that shaped the world, from Napoleon III and Queen Victoria to Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth II. With vintage black-and-white photographs expertly colorized by Amaral, these distant moments in time come to life before our eyes; this is history as we haven’t quite seen it before. And even though a photo is worth a thousand words, brilliant writing by Dan Jones gives just enough context and a deeper meaning to what we see. A combination of two hundred amazing photographs and perfectly chosen words to accompany them, this book is a must have not only for history buffs but for everyone. If you are looking for a perfect Holiday gift, look no further.
You can be forgiven if, just looking at the title, you think Leadership: In Turbulent Times (Simon & Schuster, $30) is about the United States in 2018. It’s not, but it’s very relevant nonetheless. Looking to the past to better understand the present, acclaimed presidential biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin examines the leadership qualities demonstrated during periods of national crisis by four exceptional presidents—Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson. She describes how true presidential leadership isn’t so much a function of temperament or background, but of a capacity for resilience in the face of one’s own failures and limitations. It requires sacrifice, courage, and a clear moral compass. As a reviewer in the New York Times noted, “Goodwin’s special strength as an historian has always been her ability to present subtle, complex studies of her subjects’ personalities and to show how they interact with their times.”