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Ryan Holiday (Founder/Brass Check)After the Caro series, I started William Manchester’s equally epic three volume set on Winston Churchill (Visions of Glory, Alone, Defender of the Realm) which Robert Greene gave me as a wedding present last year. Like all truly great long reads, you learn not just about the subject but every intersecting one: the history of British peerage, the Victorian era, the British Empire, Colonialism, modern warfare, international relations, evil, the nature of genius, the effects of absent parents. The book is masterfully written about a masterful man—Churchill was a soldier, a writer, a politician, a statesman, a strategist and a true great man of history. Each book in the series is equally distinct and interesting. The first is Churchill as a young, ambitious man. The second is his time in the political wilderness, when his ego has driven him from power and into writing and thinking. The third is his time back on the world’s stage, in what was perhaps the finest hour of any empire in any era. The last book is probably the best. It features the famous bulldog version of Churchill: rescuing the troops at Dunkirk, persevering through the Blitz, vowing to fight on the landing grounds and the beaches and in the streets, whatever the cost may be. The sheer determination of this man, to take an entire country on your back and defy a horde which had overrun the European continent in a matter of months…it’s almost breathtaking to think about.
Spanning the years 1940 to 1965, The Last Lion: Defender of the Realm begins shortly after Winston Churchill became prime minister—when Great Britain stood alone against the overwhelming might of Nazi Germany. In brilliant prose and informed by decades of research, William Manchester and Paul Reid recount how Churchill organized his nation’s military response and defense, convinced FDR to support the cause, and personified the “never surrender” ethos that helped win the war. We witness Churchill, driven from office, warning the world of the coming Soviet menace. And after his triumphant return to 10 Downing Street, we follow him as he pursues his final policy goal: a summit with President Dwight Eisenhower and Soviet leaders. And in the end, we experience Churchill’s last years, when he faces the end of his life with the same courage he brought to every battle he ever fought.