Please don’t think that I am in a snarky mood this Christmas because I am recommending E. R. Chamberlin’s scrumptious The Bad Popes as a stocking stuffer for Prots and papists alike. I love the bluntness of the title. Racy, well-written, and won’t destroy your faith (what other institution can withstand a run of such rapacious, randy rascals?). Only a saint could fail to enjoy the delicious reminiscences of John Burchard, papal master of ceremonies during colorful Borgia Pope Alexander VI’s reign. Talk about party time! Plus, there is a wonderfully amusing debunking of the Pope Joan myth (the fabrication actually seems to me a warning against vixen ordination rather than an argument for it, as the feminists do say).
Can I recommend a book I haven’t read yet (with a hint to any friends out there that finding it my stocking wouldn’t ruin Christmas Day for me)? It’s Lisa Hilton’s new The Horror of Love: Nancy Mitford and Gaston Palewski in Paris and London. If you thought nothing could be added to the Mitford canon, you don’t know gluttons like me. Like the popes, Gaston was quite a scamp. Molly Guinness’s fine review in the Spectator says the book defends Nancy Mitford, one of my favorite novelists (her popular histories are great, too) from the accusation of being cold; the time that, shortly after learning her brother Tom had been killed, she appeared for dinner immaculately dressed and never mentioned his death is cited as an example of said callousness. But since when does proper behavior need defending? You may have to order it from the U.K.
— Charlotte Hays is a senior fellow at Independent Women’s Forum.
[For more gift suggestions for those who still have a list, click here.]