Heroes: From Alexander the Great & Julius Caesar to Churchill & de Gaulle
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Heroes: From Alexander the Great & Julius Caesar to Churchill & de Gaulle

3.41 of 5 stars 3.41  ·  rating details  ·  229 ratings  ·  34 reviews
A galaxy of legendary figures from the annals of Western history comes to life in this stirring sequel to Intellectuals and Creators.

In this enlightening, entertaining work, Paul Johnson continues his engaging history series, approaching the subject of heroism with stirring examples of men and women from every age, walk of life and corner of the world who have inspired and...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 27th 2007 by Harper (first published 2007)
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This book started as a mediocrity and ended as ideological hack work. I had never heard of Paul Johnson, so I didn't realize when I picked up this book that he's a far right hack, but here were a few (retrospective) hints that this was nothing more than a vanity project for someone who should probably stop writing forever:

1. If your Thesis of Heroism is unable to discriminate between Heroes and Serial Killers, you probably need to rethink your thesis. Seriously. Read through his final argument o...more
We listened to this book on a road trip to LA. Overall, it was an interesting read and I enjoyed the full gamete of mini biographies covered. I especially enjoyed the prominent modern conservative figures and the personal note the author was able to add having met many of the figures in the latter half of the book.

There were only a couple of things that bothered me about the book. First, the book was lacking a clear thesis. Although I understand the book was written about the author's broad, per...more
Listened to this a 2nd time and enjoyed it again. (paraphrased) "Heroes are rarely heroes while they live, but become heroes based on the impressions and legacy they leave." Very good!

Audiobook. This is very, very interesting. I'm liking how he compares different people in the same era, but goes into great detail of each individual. Not a rehash of history 101, but opinions and clarifications of misleading legends. Very good so far!

Finished this and liked almost all of it through to...more
Gene Helsel
I picked up this book because I am such a big fan of Paul Johnson's "Intellectuals." "Heroes" falls way short of "Intellectuals" but it did have it's moments and charms.

First the positives: Johnson's prose is absolutely amazing. The chapter on Thomas Carlyle is worth reading just for the prose alone. Although a bit uneven, Johnson is at the top of his game when choosing the words and crafting the paragraphs intended to bring his "heroes" to life. For the "heroes" that I hadn't previously read mu...more
Though certainly not uber-Anglophile historian Johnson's best work (my vote goes to his exhaustive "Modern Times"), still this slender volume is interesting for two reasons: (1) It gives a heads-up to the reader about people Johnson considers heroic, encouraging further study. Indeed, Johnson includes a good "further reading" list in the appendix for those interested. (2) His choice of those who he considers heroic is interesting and sometimes frankly laughable (hostesses?), but this only adds t...more
As a casual read that takes slides of notable people, some great and others just famous, Johnson hits some and misses others.

My admiration for men like Henry V and women like Queen Elizabeth has increased. Lincoln and Washington were two of the most spotless to emerge with heroic traits like civility, morality, strength of will, humility, and incredible discernment.

Sure, some people like Joan of Arc and Mary Queen of Scots have been maligned unfairly, or not, though Johnson seems to treat them...more
As with the other two in his series, Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky and Creators: From Chaucer and Durer to Picasso and Disney, Heroes is quite full of biases and a lot of ego, which is somehow both strength and weakness I think.

It's a bit less entertaining than the other two, and its stories are much more simpler - very rough sketches and fewer evidence/anecdotes/quotes, and then much less quirkiness... But it's still something I enjoy reading bit by bit whenever I...more
I really liked the first part of this book. I had heard of all of the people but did not necessarily know anything about some of them. This gives a quick overview of their life and what made them, in his opinion, "heroic". As we got into the 20th century, it became much more political. All of his heroes were conservatives. While I agree with his choices, given his definition of hero, the fact all of them agreed with him politically made me wonder if it colored his choices of earlier figures as w...more
Each chapter is a "hero" or two. Started off good with some biblical famous names (John, remember that question I asked about Kael the other day? She's mentioned in this chapter.) Then it zips forward to Roman times, and keeps moving forward in time until present(ish) day with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. I lost interest about 2/3 of the way in at the chapter with the psychologist I'd never heard of...but before then I really enjoyed it. The reading is easy, and does manage to find one o...more
The book includes brief narratives of more than a few of the expected characters (George Washington, Winston Churchill, Robert E. Lee, Abraham Lincoln), a few from ancient or Biblical days you might not expect (Alexander the Great, Julius Ceasar, Samson, Judith) and a that find totally unexpected or not agree with (Mae West, Marilyn Monroe,
Emily Deckinson, and one or two more I hadn't heard of and don't remember). Interesting mix of characters, and you're certain to discover something new about...more
Superb so far! Very Anglo-centric (but then this is Mr Johnson we're talking about), but still exemplary. His histories have the glory/fault of including personal anecdotes and editing. He never stints on the facts to back up everything he says, however, and really, truly does give you the whole story. He makes it all as personal as anyone can, gives you every facet of a figure's personality, and helps you get to know the people who did great and infamous deeds throughout recorded time.
A wonderful and idiosyncratic view of the attributes of heroes conventional and unexpected, this book has the best features one expects in Paul Johnson: excellent writing, deep and unique insights, and a treatment of the subject that leaves the reader with a different slant and whole new appreciation. This book is also remarkable for its thoughtful commentary on a number of women heroes one might not have expected, like Mae West and Marilyn Monroe, and famous hostesses.
A well-written book of vignettes of famous lives which also provides some easy-to-digest history lessons. I can't say I agreed with all of his choices (in what way was Marilyn Monroe heroic?) but I enjoyed every chapter. The book also allowed me to think about the nature of heroism itself. Heroes have to have an iron will in the face of opposition, and only time will tell if their actions will be regarded as heroic to future generations.
I think this book's worth reading because it's informative and inspiring. However, in Chapter 12 it's all right to read about Mae West but the part on Marilyn Monroe has disappointed me. I wonder if she's been regarded as a heroine in terms of 'courage' since "It is the noblest and best of all qualities, and the one indispensable element in heroism in all its different manifestations". (p. 266)
Easy to read book on selected heroes. Author is very clear to read and also deft in constructing concise yet meaningful sentences. The range of personalities selected is thoughtful and broad, for example: Joan of Arc, Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, John Donne and Lady Jane Grey.
The stories were too condensed for me. Some of the hero choices left me wondering and I am at a loss as to how narratives about Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar could have been written in such a way as to leave me totally uninterested. I had to stop less than half-way through and put this one away.
Jason Letman
This was an interesting book. I love heroes and so I enjoyed many of the profiles in this book. I will say that there are a few "heroes" I would categorize as suspect. If you are reading this for "heroes", read selectively. If you are interested in notable historic figured, read it cover to cover.
As always, Johnson's writing is his strongest point. Even if I don't always agree with his political and social views. It is refreshing to see women getting equal billing in a book like this. Should be read, especially by those who think the world has no room for heroes anymore.
Mano Chil
I liked how Paul Johnson has written about his choice of heroes. However, I would have been pleased if there were less British heroes and more highlights on heroes from the East, Africa and the Middle East like Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela and many others.
Frank Kelly
An interesting waltz through history of some of the more fascinating (and to be honest, lesser known) heroes as Paul Johnson sees them. Hard to compare to his magesterial classic "Modern Times" but interesting and inspiring in parts nonetheless.
I found this book interesting and very informative in an entertaining way. If you liked Humanities classes in college as I did, you will enjoy this read. Have a dictionary handy though for Dr. Johnson's vocabulary is impressive and quite large.
Noelle Campbell
Can be a little dry in parts, thus the 3 stars. A little too much delving into the history of the family members of the featured heroes and a lot of side trips. Would make a 5 star textbook but is only a 3 star read for entertainment.
I don’t get it. The book was too ephemeral, too subjective. It was one man’s idea of what a hero is and should be with some discussion of history from this man’s perspective. Totally worthless. I was looking for a historical overview.
Some of the biographical sketches were average, but some were inspiring and deeply enjoyable. Lee, Lincoln, and Wittgenstien were particular fine, I thought. Marlyn Monroe...um...seriously. Hero?
I listened to the audio edition of this. Some unlikely choices for heroes and heroines, but as always Johnson is interesting and informative, a master of the biographette.
Gary Ganong
May 23, 2011 Gary Ganong rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jeffrey Ganong
Recommended to Gary by: Tom Basehart
This is an entertaining and gossipy review of heroes through the ages. It is a quick read and thoroughly enjoyable. It would be a good book to read on a light rail.
Glen Smith
This was as flourishing a narrative as I am accustomed to in a Johnson history book, yet it has a lot of interesting details and interpretation that was illuminating.
slabsia z Johnsonovych knih. zvlastny, niekedy nasilu vyber hrdinov. ale ako vzdy, najdu sa tam aj zaujimave informacie.
Audiobook. Some interesting, some less so, some a LOT less so.
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Paul Johnson works as a historian, journalist and author. He was educated at Stonyhurst School in Clitheroe, Lancashire and Magdalen College, Oxford, and first came to prominence in the 1950s as a journalist writing for, and later editing, the New Statesman magazine. He has also written for leading newspapers and magazines in Britain, the US and Europe.

Paul Johnson has published over 40 books incl...more
More about Paul Johnson...
Churchill A History of the American People Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties, Revised Edition A History of the Jews (Perennial Library) Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky

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