Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Last Lion

Kevin DeYoung highly recommends Paul Johnson's new, short biography of Winston Churchill and lists some lessons Johnson draws from Churchill's life:
  1. “The first lesson is: always aim high. As a child Churchill received no positive encouragement from his father and little from his mother. He was aware of his failure at school. But he still aimed high.”
  2. “Lesson number two is: there is no substitute for hard work…Mistakes he constantly made, but there was never anything shoddy or idle about his work.”
  3. “Third, and in its way most important, Churchill never allowed mistakes, disaster – personal or national – accidents, illnesses, unpopularity, and criticism to get him down.” ....
  4. “Fourth, Churchill wasted an extraordinarily small amount of his time and emotional energy on the meannesses of life: recrimination, shifting the blame onto others, malice, revenge seeking, dirty tricks, spreading rumors, harboring grudges, waging vendettas…There is nothing more draining and exhausting than hatred. And malice is bad for the judgment.”
  5. “Finally, the absence of hatred left plenty of room for joy in Churchill’s life…He liked to share his joy, and give joy. It must never forgotten that Churchill was happy with people.” .... [more]
DeYoung writes "This is a terrific book. If you’re not interested in Churchill (and how could you not be?) at least read the Epilogue. There’s more wisdom in the last six pages than you’ll find in 600 pages from most other books."

I've read several Churchill biographies — including the Manchester volumes referenced by the title of this post — and, having ordered this one very much look forward to reading it. [Update, 3/22: I have now read Johnson's book and I very much liked it. He has a particular ability to choose the precise anecdote or illustration to make a point. It is a short book, but covers all the essentials and may well whet the appetite for one of the more thorough biographies.]

The picture is taken from a collection edited by perhaps the definitive Churchill biographer, Martin Gilbert, Churchill at War: His 'Finest Hour' in Photographs, 1940-1945

Churchill’s Greatness – Kevin DeYoung