Three Great Leaders: Manchester’s Churchill, Meacham’s Jefferson, Von Drehle’s Lincoln

Manchester, William & Paul Reid. The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill. Vol. 3: Defender of the Realm, 1940‚ 1965. Little, Brown. Nov. 2012. 976p. ISBN 9780316547703. $40. BIOGRAPHY
With the help of notable journalist Reid, Manchester here wraps up his magisterial biography of Winston Churchill, begun with 1983’s Visions of Glory, 1874‚ 1932 and 1988’s Alone, 1932‚ 1940. (After he became ill in late 2003, Manchester asked Reid to complete the work; he died in 2004.) It’s no surprise that this final volume has been over 20 years in the making, given the period it covers‚ starting with the war, which truly showed how Churchill could roar. Something like 440,000 copies of the first two volumes are currently in print (after all these years); expect big numbers (and demand) for this last, crucial piece.

Meacham, Jon. Jefferson: The Art of Power. Random. Nov. 2012. 752p. ISBN 9781400067664. $35; eISBN 9780679645368. CD/downloadable: Random House Audio. BIOGRAPHY
Executive editor of Random House, former editor of Newsweek, and author of the Pulitzer Prize‚ winning American Lion (on Andrew Jackson), Meacham has the wherewithal to write a big biography of our third President, especially with the subtitle The Art of Power. His aim is not critical/revisionist (see, for instance, Henry Wiencek’s forthcoming Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves) but large-scale thoughtful; he’s here to paint a full, birth-to-death portrait of Jefferson’s political and intellectual accomplishments. But if you think this is just a brainy read, remember that American Lion has sold a quarter of a million copies in various formats and that Meacham’s other two books were New York Times best sellers as well.

Von Drehle, David. 1862: Abraham Lincoln and the Making of America. Holt. Nov. 2012. 480p. ISBN 9780805079708. $30; eISBN 9780805096088. HISTORY
If you remember 2003’s Triangle: The Fire That Changed America, a best seller and multi-award winner, you’ll know that Time editor at large Von Drehle is an indelible writer. So this look at what 1862 meant for America should be good reading. At that time, the Union was flagging, with the U.S. Treasury short on cash and the Union army nearly leaderless. Von Drehle highlights the strength of character that allowed Abraham Lincoln to turn it all around. Von Drehle’s April 2011 piece on the legacy of the Civil War (and our need to acknowledge that slavery was the signal cause) should suggest this book’s sensibility and direction.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.