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Outside Looking in: Adventures of an Observer
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Outside Looking in: Adventures of an Observer

3.56  ·  Rating Details ·  90 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
A captivating memoir from the incomparable Garry Wills, "one of the country's most distinguished intellectuals" ("The New York Times Book Review")
Illuminating and provocative, "Outside Looking In" is a compelling chronicle of an original thinker at work in remarkable times. With his dazzling style and journalist's eye for detail, Garry Wills brings history to life. Whethe
ebook, 208 pages
Published October 1st 2010 by Penguin Books
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(showing 1-30)
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Elliot Ratzman
Garry Wills is superman: classics prof. by day, prolific Pulitzer winning journalist and historian, also by day. He is my favorite conservative to read—conservative by early 60s standards, i.e. liberal Catholic—reading him I’m confident that I’m in the company of a learned, decent and trustworthy intellect. Wills writes with uncanny skill about American history, presidential politics, Catholicism and classics. His annotated translation of Augustine’s Confessions inspired me to (try to) learn Lat ...more
Aug 13, 2016 Holly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, 2014-reads
If you hobnob with celebrities, opera divas, and movie directors, and if presidents ask your advice and try to impress you, and if you get arrested voicing your antiwar position and thereby damage your friendship with William F. Buckley, Jr. -- then you are not an outsider looking in. This passive observer stance may fit Wills's nature and self-conception, and he's certainly a humble-seeming man, but please. The Garry Wills of Lincoln at Gettysburg and Papal Sin interests me, but this memoir-as- ...more
Faith McLellan
Oct 31, 2010 Faith McLellan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For all bibliophiles and those passionate about politics and journalism.
Feb 14, 2011 Edward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gary Wills in an intelligent conservative intellectual who in this book of personal reminiscences talks about his memories and impressions of America, mostly political, over the past 40 years, as a reporter and author. He says of his conservative inclinations, "One of the reasons I am a conservative is that I do not believe that 'cannot' should be removed from the dictionary. A recognition of limits is important to human life, and especially to human politics. On the other hand, a defiance of h ...more
Herb Reeves
Jul 17, 2011 Herb Reeves rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wills has an admirable quality and calmness of reflection (both of which ought to be emulated by more of us) that allows him to evaluate a person without the encumberance of ideological blinders -- All within reason, of course; Hitler's fondness for dogs and children, for example, will never be sufficient to tip the scales in his favor.

"Outside Looking In" is an enjoyable survey of people and events Wills has met and known during his career, and provides some welcome gems of insight.

Until I read
Vivian Valvano
Why would I read a book of essays by Garry Wills? Because anyone who made Nixon's enemies' list is worthy of my attention. Seriously, he is notably conservative, but: 1) he spoke out forcefully and protested actively against the Vietnam War (see Nixon, enemies' list); 2) he went to jail during Civil Rights protests; 3) he is an erudite scholar of classical Greek and an extremely intelligent man, yet he does not come across as egotistical or arrogant; 4) he writes delightfully about his love for ...more
Nanette Bulebosh
Dec 19, 2013 Nanette Bulebosh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've long admired Garry Wills' writing. I've always taken a special interest in him, in part because he's from Chicago and in part because he writes about subjects that strike an emotional chord with me - Catholicism, Lincoln, Jesus - and in part because his essays are always among the most readable and interesting in the New York Review of Books.

This book is probably his most personal yet. He tells about his life, from childhood on, and his experiences as a journalist and as an academic. We get
James Smith
When I grow up I want to be Garry Wills. (Well, when I grow up, I'd also like to be Adam Gopnik, but a guy can dream, right?) Wills, a noted public intellectual, has for a long time been a journalistic academic and an academic journalist. The result, as his title indicates, is that he's always been an "outsider looking in": too much of a popularizer to be a "real" academic; too much of a scholar to be a populist journalist. The fact that the is a practicing Catholic also makes him an outsider to ...more
Evanston Public  Library
Imagine sitting on a porch with your soft-spoken but well-traveled grandfather, listening to stories--stories of flying from Baltimore to a Memphis morgue on the night Dr. King was shot, of late-night hobnobbing with Jesse Jackson and Studs Terkel and the Cusack family and other hobnob-worthy Chicagoans, of yachting and writing with Bill Buckley, of getting arrested at the 1968 Democratic Convention with Dr. Spock and Judy Collins. Now imagine that this grandfather is not an activist or schmooze ...more
Kevin A.
An odd book--Wills describes himself as a perennial outsider, a bookworm whose own story is not interesting enough. So he writes about others--his wife, Bill Buckley, Richard Nixon, Studs Terkel.

The most revealing chapter is about his father--a man who never read, gambled, a real operator who abandoned the family, then, implausibly, remarried his mother years later. It doesn't require much analysis to see in Wills's life a conscious rejection of his father. He became an intellectual, a moralist
Nov 22, 2010 Donna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: current events readers
Shelves: biography-memoir
Garry Wills considered himself an outsider...growning up a bibliophile in a non-reading environment. But his intellectual curiosity and literary prowess allowed him to be on the periphery of many events and in the inner circles of many famous people. While he recorded these events in his many books, magazine articles, and columns, this book offers the background of many of those stories. Wills was as comfortable with Bill Buckley as with Studs Terkel and it's nice to know that he and Buckley rec ...more
Jul 26, 2013 Jeanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been familiar with Garry Wills writing through his books on Catholic religion. I wasn't as aware of his extensive political/social writing. From covering the 1968 Democratic convention to the death of MLK, to Jack Ruby to Beverly Sills... the man has seen it all. He's an expert on Nixon, but writes about opera and movies and books just as easily. I"m not sure I'd encourage folks to run out and buy the book but if you stumble on it,it's a fascinating read.
Jul 26, 2013 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Garry Wills' moving and illuminating reflections on his life working with and covering such individuals as Nixon, Martin Luther King, Hillary Clinton,John Waters, Jack Ruby, Studs Terkel, Bill Buckley, as well as his thoughts on Catholicism and some of the major events of the American 20th Century. I sat amazed reading this understated and beautifully written memoir at the self-effacing genius who crafted the words in it.
Margaret Heller
Jul 15, 2011 Margaret Heller rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Garry Wills starts out explaining what a dull, bookish, diffident sort of person he is, and then spends the rest of this memoir telling you about his crazy adventures and how he's met tons of famous people. But in a bookish kind of way. I really like bookish stories about famous people in the 1960s-70s, so I enjoyed this.
Oct 02, 2012 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some very interesting chapters and sections on interactions with famous (and infamous) people. Some historical circumstances Wills found himself in went over my head and I had to brush up on "current events" from the past 50 years. Yes, I'd agree that Wills is incurably Catholic in a way we all ought to be.
Steve Kierstead
Mar 19, 2013 Steve Kierstead rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nice. Not the most penetrating writing I've read from him, but well worth the time.

I think my favorite chapters were the ones about Studs Terkel and about Natalie. I recall reading some of the same Studs Terkel stories in a memorial Wills wrote that appeared in the New York Review just after Studs died. Wonderful!
Dec 07, 2010 Lois rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I heard about this book on NPR (I think) and although I wasn't familiar with this person, I decided to read the book mainly because he is a Christian (as am I). Anyway I found the book interesting, although I didn't not recognize many of the names, especially the opera singers. As a political junkie, I did recognize the politicians he discussed.
John Benson
Jun 23, 2013 John Benson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As an academic and reporter, Garry Wills had a chance to get to the personalities of some of the newsmakers of the past 40 years quite intimately. The book mainly describes key personalities in politics, the arts, and his family. He writes very well and brings out key aspects of people so you feel like you knew what made them tick. A short and enjoyable read.
Dec 27, 2010 Julia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read any of his other books, but I enjoyed these personal essays.

Anyone who routinely reads in the bath tub has good points.

Of course, it helps the book that he has had an interesting life and writes well.
What an interesting read! "Adventures of an observer" was what I felt like as I read this book. Awesome stories.
Jul 09, 2015 Rj rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A collection of essays from Gary Wills that document his career as an academic and journalist. Covering a broad range of subjects, Wills' writing is always engaging and smart.
David Lieberman
David Lieberman rated it liked it
Dec 27, 2014
Geoffrey Rose
Geoffrey Rose rated it it was amazing
Jan 07, 2012
Jeff Kuhlman
Jeff Kuhlman rated it it was ok
Nov 19, 2011
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Mar 08, 2012
Matthew Reingold
Matthew Reingold rated it it was amazing
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Garry Wills is an author and historian, and a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books. In 1993, he won a Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction for his book Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America, which describes the background and effect of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863.

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