The Penguin Lives Series

Speaking of concise but elegant works on interesting subjects. The Penguin Lives Series is another good example. I have mentioned this series before (here is my review of Paul Johnson’s volume on Napoleon).

Recently I picked up new volumes on Winston Churchill (by John Keegan); Mao Zedong (by Jonathan D. Spence); and Pope John XXII (by Thomas Cahill). What a great way to learn about some crucial figures in history without having to read a thousand pages in a multi-volume biography. The subjects range from Dante and Budha to Marcel Proust and Rosa Parks. As they say on TV, they make great gifts too!

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).


  1. Sorry, but when I first read “Penguin Lives”, I heard it with the short “i” sound (as in “gives”). Thus, I was wondering if it had something to do with Batman’s tuxedo-wearing, umbrella-toting enemy…

  2. The Garry Wills book on St. Augustine is very good. I took it with me on a plane trip from DC to Dallas and read it cover to cover before the plane reached cruising altitude. :/ Yes, it’s short, like the rest in the series, but part of that was from sitting on the runway.

    I’m looking forward to the Paul Johnson book you reviewed.

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