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Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill: A Brief Account of a Long Life Paperback


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Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill: A Brief Account of a Long Life + The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun + Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (May 11, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812971442
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812971446
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 4.7 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Eschewing the linear, chronological approach of most biographies, Yale Law School professor and Churchill devotee Rubin (Power Money Fame Sex: A User's Guide) has written 40 brief chapters looking at the British prime minister from multiple angles: Churchill as son, father, husband, orator, painter, historian, enemy of Hitler and many other roles. Rubin's unique approach works surprisingly well, bringing fresh insight to an exhaustively covered subject. Writing on Churchill as son, for instance, Rubin hammers home the point that he spent his life trying to measure up to an imagined, idealized father. Churchill's real father, Rubin makes clear, thought his son was destined for mediocrity and told him so. When she discusses Churchill's famous gifts as an orator, Rubin contends that his speeches were sometimes overblown, overly heroic and often ignored. She agrees with David Cannadine (In Churchill's Shadow) that Churchill's oratory was most effective when matched by times that required heroic action, such as the spring and summer of 1940. In a chapter devoted to Churchill's legendary drinking, Rubin provocatively presents arguments from both sides: that the drinking was harmless and that it was a major problem. In the end, Rubin sees "her" Churchill as a tragic hero. His life's goal was to preserve the British Empire, yet his greatest achievement, the defeat of Hitler, hastened the empire's end. While Rubin's account clearly isn't comprehensive and belabors a rather obvious point-that different, even opposing, perspectives on one life are possible-it is an excellent introduction to one of the most written about men in history. Photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-In this fast-paced, fragmented account, each of the 40 short chapters examines one topic: Churchill as leader, father, in tears, etc. Some are no more than lists, one is a simple chronology, and another a compilation of quotes. But taken together, they capture some truths about him, chiefly the many contradictions and complexities of his life and career. Moreover, there are valuable lessons here concerning the difficulties of examining the great lives of history. Rubin has almost as much to say about biography as a subject as she has about Churchill-a good thing for readers relatively new to the genre. And a further lesson lies in her extensive notes and bibliography. It is instructive to witness how much research is necessary to support even a brief account of a long life. Average-quality, black-and-white photos have been thoughtfully chosen. Rubin has much to offer teens, especially those with only vague notions of the great man.
Robert Saunderson, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

I'm the author of "Happier at Home" and "The Happiness Project," about my experiences as I test-drove the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happy, to see what really worked. Happily, both books became New York Times bestsellers.

On my blog, www.happiness-project.com, I write about my daily adventures in happiness.

My previous books include a bestselling biography of Winston Churchill, "Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill," and one of John Kennedy, "Forty Ways to Look at JFK." My first book, "Power Money Fame S..: A User's Guide," is social criticism in the guise of a user's manual. "Profane Waste" was a collaboration with artist Dana Hoey. I've also written three dreadful novels that are safely locked away in a drawer.

Before turning to writing, I had a career in law. A graduate of Yale and Yale Law School, I clerked for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and was editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal. I live in New York City with my husband and two daughters.

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Customer Reviews

I highly recommend this book for all who are interested in world history.
BP Smyth
What makes this Churchill tome fun to read is the way Rubin has organized, She presents the reader with 40 brief chapters on some aspect of the subject's long life.
C. M Mills
I'm sure Ms. Rubin could have written many more aspects but its brevity adds clarity to an extraordinarily well written book.
William R. Parkes

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Andrew S. Rogers VINE VOICE on December 12, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I don't have anything against attorneys as a group of people, but as I read this book, the phrase that kept returning to me was "clever lawyer's trick." Though Gretchen Rubin continually describes this as "a personal look" at "*my* Churchill," it seems as much a demonstration of the talented lawyer's ability to passionately argue both sides of a question while never making more than an intellectual commitment to either. On the whole, this is a book that's as much about the author as it is the subject.

Many of the reviews on this page describe this book as a good shorter biography of Churchill, but for people looking for a brief introductory volume, I would much sooner point them to one of the excellent short bios that came out in 2002, Lukacs' Churchill: Visionary. Statesman. Historian. or Keegan's Winston Churchill: A Penguin Life (Penguin Lives). Both of them are "conventional" narrative biographies, but each does a fine job laying out the motivations, facts, and consequences of Churchill's massive life. I think it's better to master the themes before exploring the variations, as Rubin does. And while not everyone wants to read thick tomes like Jenkins or Rose or Manchester (or still yet the official biography by Randolph Churchill and Martin Gilbert), I'm afraid anyone who relies on "Forty Ways..." as their sole source of information on, and interpretation of, the life of the Man of the (Twentieth) Century will be selling herself short.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Peter Simonson on December 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Tucked into the Select Bibliography on p. 284 is a telling detail, a confession by the author that "Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill rests on the work of more comprehensive biographers." A more honest book would have included this key piece of information up front. The author is neither a biographer nor a Churchill scholar, but someone who combines her reading of other people's work with the not-very-earth-shattering (and by the end of the book tiresome) idea that a life can be seen from a variety of perspectives, and Churchill was a complex and sometimes contradictory figure. Rubin comes across as a dilettante (complete with a self-promoting website, duly noted on the dust jacket). All in all, an irritating book.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By R Walter Bachman on November 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This already short book should be about 50 pages shorter yet. It is laced with repeated quotes, phrases, and facts. The first time you read that Churchill carried a lance in one of history's last cavalry charges, it's fascinating. The second time, it's a surprise to see the statement repeated almost verbatim. The third time, it's an insult.
Again and again (and again), this pattern is repeated. On one page, the same clause from a Churchill quote appears three times. Enough already. It's bad enough that the writer made this mistake, but it's unforgivable for the editor to let it pass for publication in this shape. By paring 50 pages off the manuscript, it would be just what it claims to be -- not a bad short rehash of the existing Churchill biographies.
Save your money. Get another Churchill biography.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas E. Sarantakes on May 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book while I was writing a book of my own in which Churchill is a central figure. I wanted new insights on the man, and listening to the author on a radio talk show, I thought she might be able to provide those for me. I was sadly disappointed when I started reading the book.

The title comes from the fact that Rubin offers 40 exceptionally brief chapters (3 to 5 pages in length) that offer a different "perspective" on Churchill. The idea probably sound very good and innovative as a book proposal, but it is such a shallow account that the reader can be excused for feeling deceived. Chapter three is nothing more than a listing of people Churchill met during his life. Chapter fourteen is nothing other than a listing of facts about the man in bullet format. Each chapter as three complete sentences. Another chapter is a collection of quotes from him and another about him.

I spent good hard earned money on this book, if you choose to read this book I suggest you borrow it from the library instead.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By David Luken on March 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I was recently asked which year in the 20th Century I would choose to live and why. I said "1940" with the rationale that this was the great turning point in history when the values of western civilization might've been lost. They weren't lost because a single indominable man stood firm. Had the newly installed PM, in May-June of that year, sided with Halifax and the other peace seekers, Hitler would have won. What followed would have been just mopping up.
Gretchen Rubin succinctly illuminates this great man in a new and fresh format. She writes extremely well. This is the perfect first or second book for a reader just catching the Churchill bug. (Following Manchester and Gilbert) It belongs on any short list of Churchill books. One hopes Ms. Rubin won't stop here.
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