Books That Inspire 2003

Mr. Wilson’s War
John R. dos Passos

Once lead this people into war and they will forget there ever was such a thing as tolerance.” Attributed to President Woodrow Wilson by Dos Passos in this book.

In the mid-60s, this book showed me that narrative history could also be great literature. Over the years, I have read this book at least five times, obtaining with each reading new insights about politics, diplomacy, personalities, and the dawn of the modern world. In his sometimes bitter treatment of Wilson, Dos Passos shows that idealism must be tempered with pragmatism, and tending to matters on the home front is essential to obtaining lasting success far afield. A recent reading confirmed that the Great War – or more exactly, the failed peace that followed – remains the determining geopolitical event of the 20th century.
John T Snow
Professor of Meteorology
Dean, College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences