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Book Review: ‘Things That Matter’ by Charles Krauthammer

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Charles Krauthammer's new book, best read of the year

Charles Krauthammer’s new book, best read of the year

If you have seen Charles Krauthammer on any of the shows on the Fox News channel, you’ll notice that in his new Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics he writes the way he talks. That’s one of the best features of it.

A second thing that readers will notice about this book is the Krauthammer is a very smart man who knows how to use words to put his thoughts onto paper. This book, which is a collection of his columns and essays spanning 30 years, is one of the best I’ve read all year.

I like Krauthammer. I like the way he thinks, the way he talks and the way he writes. And, I like the way he overcomes what most people would consider physical challenges. I watch him every chance I get and he always puts what’s happening in politics into perspective for me.  

He begins his book with, “What matters? Lives of the good and the great, the innocence of dogs, the cunning of cats, the elegance of nature, the wonders of space, the perfectly thrown outfield assist, the difference between historical guilt and historical responsibility, homage and sacrilege in monumental architecture, fashions and follies and the finer uses of the F-word.”

He goes on to list more things that matter most to him or “the things that most engage me.” He also writes about his feelings about those things that matter most to him, “They fill my days, some trouble my nights. They give me pause, pleasure, wonder. They make me grateful for the gift of consciousness.”

The book is written in four sections, personal, political, historical and global. Most of the columns are from the Washington Post, with a few from Time magazine and The Weekly Standard. There are a few of his thought provoking essays included in the book as well.

Krauthammer even writes a really good Acknowledgement section included at the end of the book. He thanks his son and his wife in the last paragraph in the book. He says that his wife has helped “co-author” his life.

The columns include topics such as baseball (readers will learn just how much he loves baseball), he writes about his brother, chess, negative ads in politics, polygamy, physician-assisted suicide, the 911 terrorist attack, Halley’s Comet, the mirror-image fantasy and much more.

Krauthammer includes a brief bio in the opening pages. He writes that he was 30 years old before he knew he wanted to be a writer. First choices for careers included physics but he realized at age 16 he didn’t have the genius. So he went into medicine, psychiatry more specifically. It wasn’t the best fit for him either. He writes about his decision to study medicine, “I have no regrets. It was challenging and enlarging. I absorbed more knowledge in those seven years than at any other time in my life.”

He began his life as a journalist on the same day Ronald Reagan was sworn in, January 20, 1981. He thought at one point in his younger years he was a “lifelong Democrat.” Readers will learn that the author believes that the he didn’t leave the Democratic Party, but that with some major changes in the way party began to think, it left him.

This is a great book for any reader who has an interest in politics, in Charles Krauthammer and in a studying the writings of a great thinker and a great writer. I like this book. And, it’s worth repeating, I like Charles Krauthammer.

 

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  • bliffle

    My question about Krauthammer has always been “when has he been right?”.

    But I like Krauthammer. He’s charming, articulate and can construct a syllogism.

  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    The course of the world over the past 33 years has been very unpredictable. Who could have predicted the reconstitution of the Soviet Union or the tearing down of the Berlin Wall? Krauthammer covered this period with serious critique.

  • bliffle

    Krauthammer was always saying something like: if we don’t take this strong action then the heathens will swarm over Israel. Alarmist talk to force precipitate action.

  • nnamelet

    Yes, I agree with all of that. It surprised me most that Krauthammer identifies with the “old Democrats” because of his intermittent escapes into pure conservative ideology. What I would give much to find out is how he maintains his astounding fount of detail at his fingertips. It’s as though we get him just after he passed final exams in government, political science, and history – and he continues to refresh his skills week after week.

  • bliffle

    Indeed, Krauthammers “escapes into pure conservative ideology” are his biggest failure, but he has to bow to his sponsors, I suppose.