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3.80  ·  Rating details ·  4,532 ratings  ·  413 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 perso
Hardcover, 181 pages
Published November 3rd 2009 by Viking Books
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Average rating 3.80  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,532 ratings  ·  413 reviews

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Jesse Broussard
Sep 29, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Kevin Scott Olson
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
At a time of global disarray, perspective can be gained from this biography of a man who helped save the world when it truly was ablaze.

Most Americans only know Winston Churchill as the cigar-chomping Prime Minister whose brilliant leadership of England led to Allied victory in World War II. In Paul Johnson’s"Churchill" we get to know a man who, in addition to preserving “freedom and democracy and the values we hold dear in the West,” accomplished much more in his long life.

Churchill was a true
Carol Bakker
This is my recommendation for one who wants to read a short biography of Churchill instead of 3,000+ pages of Manchester/Reid's The Last Lion, Roy Jenkin's 1,000+ bio, or Martin Gilbert's 1,088 page official biography. At 166 pages, Johnson's book sketches a summary of periods of Churchill's life.

Paul Johnson inserts his opinion and personal memories, both of which I enjoyed.

In Chapter 6, he asks and answers (in ten points) the question, 'Did Churchill personally save Britain?' If you only hav
May 02, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks
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
Mar 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Karl Rove
Aug 03, 2011 added it
Shelves: read-in-2010
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.
Jan 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a brief history rather than an in depth biography but it reads well even if the author has a tendency to gloss over the less desirable aspects of Churchill's career. It gives the reader an introduction to the main achievements and failures of Churchill's career. It doesn't stray too far into his personal sphere except to mention his aptitude for and love of painting and his fondness for bricklaying which he put to good use while renovating Chartwell. On the occassion of the 50th annivers ...more
William Blair
Dec 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Alex Etheridge
Apr 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2020
A pro: this is a mercifully short introduction to a very captivating man, Winston Churchill. A con: Candice Millard has ruined me with her wonderfully flowing, historic prose, so much so that it was hard to read such choppy writing.
Liam O'Shiel
Mar 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
My first book on Churchill and an excellent way to start! Highly readable and interesting narrative which gives the reader a comprehensive view of an amazing life. I especially liked the summary of "lessons from his life at the end, of which there were five:
1) always aim high
2) there is no substitute for hard work
3) never allow mistakes, disaster--personal or national--accidents, illnesses, unpopularity, or criticism to get you down.
4) waste no time or emotional energy on the "meannesses of life
Paul Stout
Dec 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, history
I can't seem to get enough Churchill biographies. And Paul Johnson's is among the best. Well researched, written and filled with anecdotes and pithy quotes. I especially liked Johnson's arguments as to whether Churchill "saved England" during WWII. Also the lesson's learned at the end of the book were something atypical of biographies, but I loved them. Not only that -- I'm going to retain these for for the future. Inspiring!
Jan 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-of-2010
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..

Mar 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, audio, biography, 2016
My first book on the great prime minister. There's no doubt the author is a fan; at times he writes of Churchill in the personality of Churchill--with superlatives. This work is on the short side, so I'm sure a lot of wonderful details were absent, but the pace was good as an introduction. An enjoyable book on an enjoyable subject.
May 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
A shorter, enjoyable read. I felt it focused most on Churchill's political career than anything else but still gave its readers an overview and some insight into his life from birth to death. I find Churchill fascinating much like I find Theodore Roosevelt fascinating. Men like these seem to have commonality - Keen minds, prolific readers and writers, a wide variety of interests (especially in history), ambition, charisma, resilience, hard-work, strong character...and I guess people either love ...more
Valeri Drach
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent short biography of Winston Churchill that includes the high points of his extraordinary life through two world wars. Churchill was not only a great statesman and writer, winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953, he painted more than 500 paintings, he also was a great bricklayer, the activity being a great stress reliever. Churchill is a man known to have had great goals, a great work ethic and for never holding a grudge. He knew when to fight and when to back down. A very enjoyab ...more
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
advanced reader finished the book in two sittings. I have to do same in 10.
but the book is worth the trouble. Churchill is really a colossus. one thing i learn from this book is Churchill wasn't a backer for Berty like the movie The King's Speech. on the contrary, he was a staunch supporter of Edward VIII. and even worse, he did so and cost him his political position at a most critical moment of history. had he been able to hold his office at that time, Hitler wouldn't have been able to annex Cz
Donald Owens II
Apr 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Winston Churchill has been the theme of many books, especially his own. Johnson does an admirable job here of presenting the details of this accomplished Englishman's life, showing us a Churchill of ambition, hard work, optimism, magnanimity, and humor.
Mar 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Thoroughly enjoyed!!
John Majors
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: churchill
I've been asked many times by friends who know I'm a Churchill fan to recommend a 1 volume introductory book on his life. I've never been able to do so until now. This is the book! Perfect for that purpose. So much packed into such a short volume. Definitely worth picking up.
Oct 29, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: mba
“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
Mar 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, bio
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
Mike W
Sep 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
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
Dec 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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
Jun 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Peter Jones
Apr 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
A really great short biography of an amazing man. The epilogue is a wonderful example of Johnson's crisp and clear prose where he collates why Churchill was successful. I am going to have my boys read it. The beginning of the book is harder to get into because Johnson does not explain British political procedure. Thus Americans, like myself, are left trying to put a puzzle together with a blindfold on. Other than the book was excellent. What struck me most was how often Churchill failed or was h ...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

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“war, resolution. In defeat, defiance. In victory, magnanimity. In peace, goodwill.” 1 likes
“Mr. Churchill, sir, to what do you attribute your success in life?” Without pause or hesitation, he replied: “Conservation of energy. Never stand up when you can sit down, and never sit down when you can lie down.” He” 1 likes
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