Choosing a Book to Read

Los Angeles

The first time that I decided to read a book specific to a city that I was visiting was while I was in Florence three or four years ago. I found it was a brilliant and much more engaging experience to be in the midst of reading a volume about Michelangelo’s creation of the statue of David Il Gigante by Anton Gill while being in Florence and visiting the Academia to view his magnificent work. Through the course of my stay, I would walk to a particular square or landmark, as it was being discussed, and would sit on the steps or in a café nearby and thoroughly enjoy being present in the precise spot where the story was unfolding.

I decided that this was a practice I was going to continue on every trip that I would take from that moment on.

I’ve read a number of books about Sir Winston Churchill, but never a complete biography. So, for this trip, I decided on one of the two definitive biographies of Churchill. The one I decided upon was by Roy Jenkins. It’s about a thousand pages long and I decided I would start preparing by reading a month before leaving on this trip. I determined that I’d like to be just about midway through the book, completely immersed in the life of Sir Winston, as I depart for my journey to England. I just finished page 365 yesterday, so I’ve got about 100 pages or so to go prior to leaving on May 18.

The other definitive biography of Sir Winston was written by Sir Martin Gilbert. I didn’t realize that Sir Martin would be along on this trip and that I would get a chance to meet him; otherwise, I probably would’ve decided on his biography, instead of the one currently reading. Gilbert’s biography is considered the ‘Offical Biography.’

I went to Barns and Noble a couple of months ago and I looked both of these biographies over and decided that I liked the first paragraph of Roy Jenkins book so much, I decided to purchase it.

The first chapter begins with:

“Churchill’s provenance was aristocratic, indeed ducal, and some have seen this as the most important key to his whole career. That is unconvincing. Churchill was far too many faceted, idiosyncratic and unpredictable a character to allow himself to be imprisoned by the circumstances of his birth.”

Well, that was enough for me; I had to continue reading to find out how his life unfolded. I am thoroughly enjoying the book, though it is taking a little extra research on the side in order to understand more about the parliamentary system, with which I am somewhat unfamiliar. So, a good learning experience all around.

I’m also finding that cross-referencing some of the events that are taking place in this biography with another book that I purchased a recently, ‘Speaking for Themselves, The Personal Letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill,‘ is a wonderful way to get multiple perspectives. ‘Speaking for Themselves’ was compiled by one of their daughters, Lady Mary Soames [whom I am also looking forward to meeting on this trip]. It’s a wonderfully intimate portrait of a 57-year love affair… and political partnership.