Books by Jr. Reston

Released: May 18, 2009

"A competent account of a spectacularly eventful historical period."
The history of an "epic clash of civilizations." Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 21, 2006

Pulitzer Prize-winner Reston (Dogs of God, 2005, etc.) tells a harrowing, personal story about parenting a sick daughter. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 11, 2005

"Rarely has medieval history seemed so urgent. "
A riveting portrait of 15th-century Spain, by Pulitzer Prize-winner Reston, the concluding volume in a quartet of books that "have peered into dark corners of Christian Church history" (Warriors of God, 2001, etc). Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2001

"A remarkably intimate and engagingly detailed account of pre-modern violence and obsession—with the principal figures robustly portrayed."
An exacting, compulsively readable narrative of the Third Crusade's (1187-92) protracted battle of wills between Richard I and Saladin. Read full book review >
Released: March 2, 1998

In this lively, absorbing "saga" of Europe (which, the author makes clear, is as much imaginative re-creation as history) at the end of the last millennium, Reston (Galileo, 1994, etc.) depicts a turbulent Europe as expectant of an imminent apocalypse as are today's doomsayers. In his 11th book, Reston paints end-of-millennium Europe as a benighted, besieged place—in 950 a.d. it seemed to many as if pagan and Muslim enemies of Christendom were on the brink of conquering the Christian kingdoms, while the Church was undermined by pervasive corruption and internecine conflict. Yet by the year 1000 the Church was ascendant everywhere, having converted the savage Norse and Magyar chiefs and helped to check the Muslim advance into the Iberian peninsula. Reston explains how this transformation occurred, bringing vibrantly alive the dominant personalities of the period, among them King Olaf Trygvesson of Norway, whose conversion to Christianity marked the beginning of the end of the ravages of the Norsemen; Gerbert of Aurillac, the brilliant intellectual man of action who helped Hugh Capet assume the throne of France and who, as Pope Sylvester II, led a revitalizing reform of Western Christianity; and the Magyar Vajk, ruler of the terrible horsemen who had terrorized Central Europe, who converted and became King Stephen of Hungary. Reston vividly evokes significant battles, including the heroic stand of the English against the Vikings at Maldon and the destruction of the Viking fleet by the Greeks on the Black Sea. He also convincingly argues that it was the conversion of pagan rulers to Christianity that truly made possible the transformation of the embattled kingdoms of 10th-century Europe into the familiar "Christendom" of history. Ultimately, Reston shows, the period was in fact a kind of apocalypse: As a result of all this turbulent activity, the old world died and a new one arose in its place. A thoughtful, briskly told narrative that makes the period come alive. (32 pages b&w photos, not seen) Read full book review >
GALILEO by Jr. Reston
Released: May 18, 1994

This readable biography of the 17th-century scientist and mathematician is long on politics and personality and short on science and math. Reston (Collision at Home plate, 1991) divides Galileo's life in three. Since there is no wealth of information on the developmental years and early career, they are handled quickly. Galileo's rise is given in greater detail, especially his search for patronage, his intense defense of his work in the face of religious and intellectual resistance, and his ridiculing counterattacks on plagiarists and intellectual thieves. Reston assumes we know Galileo's achievements in the sciences and so spends little time on them. Instead, he builds the biography around two aspects of Galileo's character. The first is his political instincts, which on the one hand led to a fawning attitude to secular and ecclesiastical patrons, and on the other to a powerful use of his pen in attacking intellectual opponents without regard to political implications. The second trait Reston focuses on is Galileo's intellectual self-assurance, which kept him from understanding the anti-intellectual resistance to his work. These political implications come back to haunt Galileo, as the third part of the book shows in chronicling the scientist's fall. Reston devotes the major portion of his book to Galileo's trials. He creates a well-rounded portrait, convincing the reader to appreciate Galileo's mood swings, his intellectual arrogance, and his final capitulation as behavior to be expected from the man portrayed. He is as good exploring the politics of Counter- Reformation Italy and the anti-intellectualism of the conservative elements of the Church, and weaker on why and how Galileo's work was potentially heretical. He successfully portrays Galileo's world, with its colorful group of Renaissance Italians. Readily accessible, the book is an interesting character study and political biography of the great scientist. Read full book review >
DEADLINE by Jr. Reston
Released: Oct. 8, 1991

Two-time Pulitzer-winner Reston (Reston's Washington, 1986, etc.) recalls with verve and good humor his life and times, including 50 years as reporter, Washington bureau chief, executive editor, and columnist for The New York Times. Now a retired octogenarian, Reston offers an almost classic immigrant's success story. After coming to the US from Scotland with his devoutly Calvinist parents, the young ``Scotty'' caught the eye of Ohio Governor James Cox while caddying and was helped through college by this former Democratic presidential nominee. Thereafter, his rise was steady but sure: Cincinnati Reds publicist, AP sportswriter, then his legendary tenure at the Times, where his politically mainstream column became required Washington reading for several decades. Save for final chapters when he mounts the pulpit to expound on how the world has changed in his lifetime, the worst quality of the column—its omniscient tone—is refreshingly absent from the bright, informal prose here (Ronald Reagan ``announced when he arrived that it was morning in America, but he didn't like to get out of bed''). The longtime Washington press-corps dean sheds little light on the convulsive internal struggles at the Times (including his year as executive editor) recounted in Harrison Salisbury's Without Fear or Favor and Gay Talese's The Kingdom and the Power, but provides affectionate, often compassionate, portraits of journalist colleagues Arthur Krock and Walter Lippmann, heavyweight politicians and statesmen (Dean Acheson, Arthur Vandenberg, and ``favorite loser'' Adlai Stevenson), and Presidents (the account of a 40-minute telephone harangue from LBJ is a comic classic). Remembering a life and tumultuous century in tranquillity, Reston resists gossip, the occupational hazard of journalists. Instead, he offers an engaging ``love story about America and other impossible dreams.'' (Eight pages of b&w photographs—not seen.) Read full book review >
Released: June 5, 1991

A collision indeed—an atomic explosion of sorts—as intelligence, grace, and arrogance (Giamatti) meet stupidity, sweat, and arrogance (Rose), with fallout that will affect the world of baseball for decades to come. Reston (The Lone Star: The Life of John Connally, 1989, etc.) has tried before to weave two different stories into a seamless whole, in his Sherman's March and Vietnam (1984), with bumpy results. Here, he succeeds brilliantly. Let's credit his two protagonists, perfect examples of America's social and moral stratification. In this corner: Rose the ruffian, a lout from the Cincinnati riverbanks, a poor student, ``loud and vulgar,'' increasingly drawn to the world of vice (gambling, adultery, smuggling, the company of coke dealers) as he grew older. In the other corner: Giamatti the scholar, Yale valedictorian, Renaissance expert, a lover of dignified poses, ``inordinately interested in punishing transgressors'' both as Yale President and as Commissioner of Baseball. Yet an obsessive, childish love for baseball united these two men: Giamatti treasured the game as the epitome of human elegance, while Rose declared that ``I'd walk through hell in a gasoline suit to keep playing baseball.'' Reston paints the life of each, two upward curves reaching their apex as Rose sets a new baseball-hit record, and Giamatti then defends the national honor by banning the gambling-crazy Rose from baseball forever. Best of all, Reston canonizes neither figure: Rose comes off as Fred Flintstone with an attitude; Giamatti as Mr. Clean-Jeans, a dignified man whose flaw was to care more about image than fairness. Now Giamatti is dead, Rose a convicted felon just released from the pen—and the public wonders when the tarnish will wear off the national pastime. A sorry story, told with guts and verve. Read full book review >