The Vanishing: Faith, Loss, and the Twilight of Christianity in the Land of the Prophets by Janine di Giovanni

To be a Christian in the Middle East today is to be a member of an evaporating minority, and the author casts a much-needed spotlight on the travails that face the Christian communities there. A war journalist of high repute, Janine di Giovanni is refreshingly open about her own Catholic faith and how it has sustained her during her career and especially during the pandemic. She is particularly good at getting readers to appreciate just how diverse Christianity is, a skill she acquired during the civil war in Bosnia, when she explored the roots of Croatian Catholics, Serbian Orthodox, Assyrians, Melchites, and others.

The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family by Ron Howard and Clint Howard

What a brilliant idea for a screenplay: two brothers who start out as child actors, a notoriously punishing experience, and one does very well and the other less well. But thanks to loving parents and a preternatural ability to stay focused and grounded, both boys succeed in those things that are most important in life.

The Boys, of course, is no piece of fiction but a joint memoir by Ron Howard, who beguiled TV audiences as Opie in The Andy Griffith Show before becoming Richie Cunningham on Happy Days and then a highly regarded director, and his younger brother, Clint Howard, who, despite his early success on the TV show Gentle Ben, did not turn into the star his brother did. Drugs became a problem for Clint, but in the end he won that battle and became a much-in-demand character actor who, as it happens, has also appeared in most of his brother’s films.

In one sense, The Boys could just as easily have been called The Parents, since both authors give such loving credit to Rance and Jean Howard, actors themselves who never got the lucky breaks but, in the roles of Dad and Mom, were superstars.

An Especially Good View: Watching History Happen by Peter L. W. Osnos

We have a soft spot for memoirs by journalists, partly because journalists like to settle scores and partly because they tell great war stories, whether the blood is shed in battle or in the newsroom. Peter Osnos is too much of a gentleman to settle many scores, but, boy, does he tell terrific stories—as befits a man who worked for famed windmill tilter I. F. Stone before covering the war in Vietnam and the Soviet Union during the Cold War for The Washington Post. An even more illustrious career in publishing followed, first at Random House and then, more rewardingly, as the founder of PublicAffairs in 1997.

All of this is recounted in entertaining detail by a man who always seemed poised and in control, so it is startling to read at the very end about Osnos’s efforts to deal with depression. The passages are bracing and beautifully written and contain not a smidgen of self-pity. Did we say we have a soft spot for memoirs by journalists? For An Especially Good View, we reserve an especially tender spot.