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Heroes: From Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar to Churchill and de Gaulle (P.S.) Paperback – Bargain Price, December 2, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


"Anyone is a hero who has been widely, persistently over long periods, and enthusiastically regarded as heroic by a reasonable person, or even an unreasonable one." --Paul Johnson --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

About the Author

Paul Johnson is a historian whose work ranges across the millennia and the whole gamut of human activities. He contributes a weekly essay to The Spectator and a monthly column to Forbes, and lectures around the world. He lives in London.


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Product Details

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (December 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061143170
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,333,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Beginning with Modern Times (1985), Paul Johnson's books are acknowledged masterpieces of historical analysis. He is a regular columnist for Forbes and The Spectator, and his work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 13, 2008
Format: Audio CD
We all love heroes, brave ones, achievers we can admire, try to emulate, and set forth as examples. To a greater or lesser degree, the lives of many of these men and women are known to us yet there is always something to learn as we revisit their accomplishments and the challenges they faced.

Noted British historian Paul M. Johnson is a prolific author having written some 40 books ranging from Modern Times to The Quest for God. He has lectured throughout the world and often contributes to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal among numerous other magazines and periodicals. His choice of subjects for Heroes is eclectic and, to some, may be surprising. Lord Nelson is almost to be expected but Marilyn Monroe? She is noted along with another blonde bombshell in Chapter 12, Heroes Behind the Greasepaint.

You see, Johnson's heroes, whether they be Samson, Caesar or Margaret Thatcher, are very human thus flawed. They are not presented to us on pedestals, not as stone figures but as flesh and blood beings, subject to all the temptations and constraints that mortality entails.

The author begins his stories of heroes with God's Heroes - Deborah, Judith, Samson, and David, noting that "No people were more in need of heroes than the Hebrews." Next we meet The Earthshakers - Alexander the Great and Caesar, and from there his subjects are presented in chronological order, closing with the present day. Thus, we are privy not only to entertaining and enlightening visits with those who made a difference but to mini history lessons as well.

Radio host, author, and managing editor of London's Sunday Times, James Adams, has narrated a number of books for Blackstone Audio. He's the perfect voice for the work of British historian Johnson as the slightest bit of a British accent can be detected in Adams's clear, crisp diction. Enjoyable listening!

- Gail Cooke
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Prairie Pal on December 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I have worshipped at the shrine of Paul Johnson for 20 years, ever since "Modern Times", his revisionist history of the twentieth century. His histories of the American people, Judaism and Christianity have been readable and provocative. His masterpiece "Intellectuals" was a devastating attack on progressive thinkers whose effect on the world has been as nasty as their sordid personal lives. I wish, therefore, that I could say something positive about this effort. Alas, it is poorly-conceived and put together with very little effort. The moral sense which is usually at the heart of Johnson's work is missing here -- there is no clear notion of what a hero might be and, as a result, this book is less about heroes than it is a collection of anecdotes about historical celebrities. It is amusing in spots -- when Charles de Gaulle glares at Johnson for daring to ask a cheeky question, when we learn that Adolf Hitler was an accomplished whistler or when it is revealed that Nancy Mitford once told him that she could never successfully masturbate unless she was thinking about Lady Jane Grey. We must hope that Paul Johnson has more and better books left to write.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Saperstein HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
There is no doubt that Paul Johnson is one of the great historians of our time and one of our leading public intellectuals.

In this volume, Johnson attempts to explain heroes and heroism within the context of historical setting. The effort is a mixed success. Consider, for example, his use of Mae West and Marilyn Monroe as examplars of female heroism in the 20th Century.

Both portraits make their point and make it well. Both West and Monroe were more accomplished than most might give them credit for. West was a dynamic self-promoter for all of her life and an accomplished writer, actress, comedian and business person. But Monroe was a different story. She never fully actualized the person she wanted to become, though Johnson leaves no doubt that she did want to be viewed as a different kind of person. Does Monroe's failed effort make her a hero? Not to me, though Johnson draws a sympathetic portrait.

Overall, Johnson's portraits do indeed make the case that heroism comes in many guises and that men and women can be heroes. As well, the qualities of heroism remain constant, a steady moral compass regardless of what the crowds are doing.

While interesting, though, "Heroes" is never totally engaging. It is a pleasant and informative read, but not a particularly challenging one. Johnson is telling us his views here set in historical context.

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on September 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I have read every book by Paul Johnson (including the "Art" one) and this continues a long line of quality history and commentary. One rarely notices the research, the behind-the-scenes study and education required for such a work. Unlike most of his other works, however, HEROES reverses the usual order. By that, I mean that he usually presents history augmented by biography and commentary. This time it is biography augmented with history, a slight but important difference.

Most would disagree with his choices but then the idea of hero is quite subjective. Some will (and have) criticized the book for its European viewpoint (quote unquote) but if that is the culture within which one was raised, educated and lived, what can one expect. Johnson continues his love affair with America, the home of six heroes. (Britain has the highest number with 15; The others are scattered.) His selection reminds me of GUNS & GOLD, the great story of the Anglo-American alliance that essentially built the modern liberal world.

I would have never included Wittgenstein, Lady Pamela Berry or Marilyn Monroe in this list but somehow it "works". The author discusses the commmon perception of heroes, the fact that we instantly associate military valor and personnel with the modern version of heroism. Missing were folks like Mother Theresa, politicians (besides those great for what they accomplished. Johnson continues to celebrate the individual, stressing repeatedly that it is not mass movements, academic theories or ideology that drives the world - indeed, they are three of the biggest deterrents to progress - but individuals and what they do with their lives. My Grade: A-
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