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3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  1,478 ratings  ·  223 reviews
An acclaimed historian presents a revelatory look at the greatest statesman of the twentieth century

For eminent historian Paul Johnson, Winston Churchill remains an enigma in need of unraveling. Soldier, parliamentarian, Prime Minister, orator, painter, writer, husband, and leader-all of these facets combine to make Churchill one of the most complex and fascinating person...more
Published December 29th 2009 by Recorded Books, LLC (first published January 1st 2009)
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Jesse Broussard
Jan 22, 2013 Jesse Broussard rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Insomniacs.
Shelves: mediocre, non-fiction
All in all, rather badly done. Well researched, but his focus couldn't have been more limp-wristed and pathetic.

He wrote this book to answer the question, "Did Churchill save England?" The answer, if you were wondering, is yes. He saved not only England, but the world. If it weren't for Churchill, you wouldn't even exist. And neither would puppies or kittens or butterflies or ice cream. I was hoping to hear about the man, or at least some funny quotes from the legend. I got very little of either...more
My biggest problem with Churchill biographies (yes, I've read them all in detail) is the length. How do you do justice to arguably the most important leader of the 20th century and perhaps the most important leader of Great Britain ever while keeping it to a manageable size? Churchill himself does not help you. He lived for 90 years, 55 of those years he was a member of parliament, and of those years 31 he spent as a minister, and 8 of those years he was prime minister. Additionally biographers...more
William Blair
The outpouring of books that reveal new facts about the life of Winston Churchill continues. This short, 181-page volume received (what I think is) only a so-so review at, and not much better elsewhere. I think that is unfortunate. After reading the book, I now understand the reviewers' real objection: it's too short (as if they were trying to say "too short on facts" as opposed to errors of fact). I agree: the book is way too short. On nearly every page there was an event or assertion...more
Glancing through my reviews, you can see I love good biographies. I also enjoy Paul Johnson's histories. He is highly opinionated, but perceptive and original. Even if you disagree with him, you can respect his conclusions. So, having read some of his histories, knowing less than I should about Churchill, and loving biographies, I jumped into this book enthusiastically.

If you're looking for a Churchill biography replete with nasty secrets of his sex life or anything else, this is not for you. In...more
Liam O'Shiel
I have read a great deal about Churchill and at least a small portion of the huge amount he wrote. While I did not learn much in this book that was new to me, what I found refreshing was the author's straightforward willingness to tell you what he thinks. Perhaps my positive reaction to this work is influenced by my own conviction that Churchill was one of the very few pivotal figures of history, without whom (I am convinced) world affairs would have taken a very different direction. Johnson wri...more
Karl Rove
Rollicking, fast-paced, brilliant. Best short bio I’ve every read of one of the 20th century’s greatest figures by a man who knew the great man. Like anything Paul Johnson writes, well worth reading. And if you haven’t read Paul Johnson, begin with this slim volume. Then dip into anything else he’s written, perhaps going with Modern Times or History of the American People, both favorites of mine.
He did not see himself as a reactionary longing for a past that was gone, but as the prophet of a dangerous future. The world, he said, was “entering a period when the struggle for self-preservation is going to present itself with great intenseness to thickly populated industrial countries.”

Five years ago, eminent historian Paul Johnson published this concise history of Winston Churchill, in order to answer the question “Did Churchill save England?” Obviously Winston Churchill has a rich histor...more
I love historian Paul Johnson and I love biographies on Winston Churchill so when I found this combination of favorites I knew it had to be a good read. Johnson wrote this book when he was 81 years old which may explain why it's so short, only 168 pages. But Johnson has a magical way of capturing the salient features of even a complex life like Churchill's. The stories behind several of Churchill's famous quotes and experiences are captured as are personal insights into his habits, relationships...more
From the ridiculous to the sublime, I finish first Cheever, then Churchill. I enjoyed Cheever more but certainly admired Churchill much more.

He was the only British Prime Minister to have received the Nobel Prize in Literature and the first person to be recognizes as an honorary citizen of the United States. He singularly impacted the twentieth century as no one else could. He is quoted to this day. He was Prime Minister of England twice, he was listened...more
12/30/2012: How does one write a biography of such an important historical figure in 175 pages? Very carefully! Johnson is a brilliant writer, almost a poet in his ability to compress so much information into so few words. His prose is clear, concise, easy to follow, yet packed with names, dates, opinions. Not having read the next longest biography of Churchill (I think many of them run to almost a thousand pages), I can only imagine how hard Johnson must have worked to sort through what to incl...more
Jake Kilroy
Churchill was a goddamn lunatic. There's no other way to put it. He just was. I mean, anyone who says, "Gandhi-ism and everything it stands for will have to be grappled with and crushed" is obviously a man of intensity. He's not one of those historical figures where some people find him boring and some find fascinating. No. Even if he was alive and well and in power now, we would watch him with great, serious interest. It doesn't matter what you think of him. The man was involved in the creation...more
Wow, for a short book (158 pages) Johnson provides an interesting overview of Churchill, a soldier, adventurer, journalist, pilot, politician, statesman, author and artist. OK, as a history buff I am well aware of Churchill though I admit I never knew his depth. In his 90 years of life he served 55 years as a member of parliament, 31 years as a minister and nearly 9 years as prime minister, he published nearly 10 million words, painted over 500 canvases and drank nearly 20,000 bottles of champa...more
“If you want to learn, write.”

My manager from the summer left me with that thought after a chat we had one afternoon over cocktails. We were on a patio overlooking the Chicago River and he was telling me stories about his very odd career trajectory. The only commonality among his various jobs, including stints as a speechwriter in Washington and a guru at several technology companies, was their connection to his two underlying passions: writing and technology. But he wanted to focus on one of t...more
Mike W
Paul Johnson has done an excellent job of encapsulating the life of a great man. Some readers will, no doubt, want to go on to read a longer and more through treatment. Johnson himself recommends Roy Jenkins' biography. But those who want to read a short book that captures the essence of the man would do well to look here.

Johnson clearly admires Churchill but this book, while admiring, never verges into idolatry. For example, it points out the inconsistencies in his political views, criticizes h...more
Erez Davidi
Johnson's account of Churchill is a noble attempt to condense the life of one of the most interesting characters of the twentieth century to a mere two hundred pages.

Johnson's writing style is very lucid, witty, and overall very enjoyable. However, perhaps due to the shortness of the book, he tends to jumps from subject to subject with no apparent connection, thereby making it hard to follow the storyline.

Also, the speculation on the author's part is somewhat troubling and is oftentimes quite mi...more
Andres Eguiguren
Although I plan on reading a number of other works by or about Churchill in the future, this is not a bad place to start to get a broad overview of his interesting nine decades on the planet. It is a rather brief book and can be read in a single day if you are so inclined. It does not contain any footnotes or a bibliography, so if you like your History books to be weighty and full of citations then this one is not for you. Churchill is such a fascinating figure that it would be difficult to writ...more
A great introduction to a great man. More an extended essay than a biography, per se, but a wonderful insights into the man and a very good job of pointing out his historical importance. The chapter/discussion of whether Churchill did save Britain is excellent. At a time when too many of our leaders are shallow, hollow, and short-sighted, it is inspiring to read about someone who was the polar opposite.
Good, short biography. Oh how have grown tired of the minimum-500-page-biographies that have become standard. These have to explore every nook and crany of the subjects life, their sexual propensities, heavily foot-noted and too often dry and dull.

Johnson is crisp and brief and he draws 4 key lessons from Churchill's life in the epilogue..

Nicholas Jordan
A boyhood hero. Being an English kid raised in the States I clung to the heroes of my mother's country. In many ways it was my interest in men such as Sir Winston that finally led me to a degree in History. I was asked once by my teaching mentor, Dr. Robert House if I believed that great leaders made history or did events make great leaders of men. In the case of Sir Winston Churchill I can honestly say yes to both sides of the question. I could spend the rest of my life studying Sir Winston and...more
If you ever wanted to know the number of clasps on each of Churchill's many medals, this is the book for you! Otherwise, skip this sychopantic, hyperbole-filled pamphlet. The one star rating is out of respect for Churchill himself; otherwise it would have been no stars.
D. Ryan
Very good overview of Churchill's life. Very brief: a good prep for further reading. It helped a lot that Johnson was acquainted with Churchill himself.

Rick Wilcox
This book was simply spell binding and I will now read other work by Paul Johnson. What a fantastic writer.
SHort but extremely effective biography of Churchill. Loved the lessons we can learn from him at the end.
Joey Reed
I don't plan to finish this book. I was looking for something that would give me insight into the life of Winston Churchill.

Much of what is in this book was already covered in my history classes from elementary school through graduate school.

That is not to say that it is not well executed. That deserves its own sentence. The style is weak, and leaves the reader wanting more in terms of content, style, and prose. One simply does not "report" about the greatest oratory of the 20th century.

In most...more
Far too short. I appreciate the attempt, but it serves as little more than an apéritif. Especially regarding Churchill's pre-WWI life, it proceeds at a breakneck pace. What results is a whir of events and, more egregiously, names that are given little explanation or context.

Post-WWI, it gets better. Johnson understandably devotes more attention to the years between the 1910s and 1945. However, this concentration on one period at the sake of another leads to a very unbalanced book. This imbalance...more
Juergen John Roscher
I listened to this book on CD.

I consider Winston Churchill one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century, so when I saw this book, “Churchill” by Paul Johnson, on CD about him I decided to listen to it as I drove back and forth to work.

This book details many of the factors and experiences that attributed to the man Winston Churchill. It portrayed his youth time experiences, educational training, and family influences on the young Churchill. It further characterized his many successes and fail...more
I guess it's not fair to fault this for being sketchy when I picked it for its length. Given the number of pages (166), Johnson did a reasonable job of describing Churchill's life and career. So, this is more life an "introduction" to Churchill than anything else. (I considered the Roy Jenkins biography, and that probably would have been more satisfactory, but it also, at over 1000 pages, would have been more of a commitment than I was after.)

This is the first book I've read by Paul Johnson, and...more
Johnson, the conservative historian, has written a brief but entertaining and authoritative biography of the great British politician (and writer, painter, and builder, though only the first of those three sidelines challenged his political prowess). The author also has the advantage of living during Churchill’s finest era—he was 12 when Churchill became prime minister in the spring of 1940—and having met and interviewed him during his elder statesmen period. These latter two facts, coupled with...more
I wish I could add another half star to my rating. I believe my rating is lower because of my own lack of knowledge. I have a fairly solid understanding of what was happening during WWII, and so my background knowledge contributed to the last half of the book --where I really got into it. However, as the book went through the first parts of Churchill's life, I could appreciate what he went through and what he did, but not fully, considering a lot of the British history (knowledge of the empire,...more
Joel Simon
"Churchill", by Paul Johnson< is a fabulous, short biography of Winston Churchill. So much has been written about Winston Churchill that it is always hard to imagine why anyone needs to write another book about him. I have often been hesitant to start one of the lengthy, in depth biographies about him because it seems as if I'd need months to complete it. And I know I would want to complete it, because Churchill is one of my favorite people. I find him truly astonishing in so many ways -- esp...more
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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...
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 The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830

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