William P. Warford

I still enjoy getting and giving books at Christmas.

Whether in hardcover, paperback, on Kindle or Audible, books make great gifts, especially if you are in frequent conversations with people on your shopping list about the reading of books, which I hope you are.

You should know what they like and what sort of book they would most like to get as a gift.

Here is my annual list of suggestions for 2019:

“Great Society: A New History” by Amity Shlaes — In themes that sound very much like the issues discussed in the 2020 presidential race, this book covers the issues and debates — poverty, socialism, the proper role of government — that raged half a century ago during the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations.

Shlaes tells the story of LBJ’s (and to an extent Richard Nixon’s) Great Society from the standpoint of participants who believed they could

cure poverty.

“The Pioneers” by David McCullough — When it comes to popular historians, there is none better than McCullough. Here, he tells the story of the settling of the Northwest Territory (what we would now call

the Midwest).

McCullough features people in his histories; you get to know them, identify with them, root for them, as they take on daunting tasks.

It’s that personal touch that makes him the best.

“The Assault on American Excellence” by Anthony Kronman — The former dean of the Yale Law School leans to the left politically but abhors the politicization of our nation’s colleges and their drive for “equality.”

Striving for equality is fine in an overall society, but in a college classroom the goal should be — and used to be — striving

for excellence.

“God’s Hand on America” by Michael Medved — The talk show host and historian is back with a second volume of amazing stories of how someone seems to be looking out for America.

An Orthodox Jew, Medved has no problem stating he believes God is behind the remarkable twists of history that time and again saved

the USA.

One quick example: William Seward, Lincoln’s Secretary of State, was in a terrible carriage accident on April 5, 1865. Doctors wrapped him up in metal and canvas neck brace, and he was at home, recovering nine days later when a would-be assassin burst into his bedroom in the dark

of night.

The man, part of a conspiracy to bring down the government, stabbed Seward in the neck — but the brace stopped the blow and he survived the attack. Lincoln was not so fortunate; he was shot and killed by John Wilkes Booth, another conspirator.

Seward survived and single-handedly pushed through “Seward’s Folly” — the purchase of Alaska from the Russians.

Had he not survived and had Russia kept Alaska, the Cold War a century later could have been very different.

“Grace Will Lead Us Home” by Jennifer Berry Hawes — The subtitle of this book is “The Charleston Church Massacre and the Hard, Inspiring Journey to Forgiveness.”

Hawes examines the aftermath of the horrible hate crime at a black church in South Carolina in 2015, telling the remarkable story of the survivors and the families of the dead.

“The Heavens” by Sandra Newman — OK, I promised a “novel approach” to shopping, but this is the only work of fiction on this year’s list.

I enjoy time travel stories once in a while, and this one is about a young woman who lives in New York in the 21st Century but believes she is simultaneously living in Elizabethan England.

William P. Warford’s column appears every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.

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