Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Garry Wills  

Pen Name: None

Genre:

Born: 1934 in Atlanta, Ga.

Sites:

E-Mail:


Illinois Connection

Wills lives in Evanston, Illinois and is a professor emeritus of history at Northwestern University.

Biographical and Professional Information

Garry Wills, one of our most distinguished historians and critics, is the author of numerous books. He was born in Atlanta, Georgia and grew up in Michigan and Wisconsin. He earned a B.A. from Saint Louis University in 1957. William F. Buckley, Jr. hired him as a drama critic for National Review magazine at the age of 23. He received his PhD in classics from Yale University in 1961. Wills is a distinguished historian and the author of numerous books including the Pulitzer Prize winning Lincoln at Gettysburg. He was awarded the National Medal for the Humanities in 1998. He has twice won the National Book Critics Circle Award, including as a co-winner for nonfiction in 1978 for Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, a book that also won the Merle Curti Award. Wills joined the faculty of the history department at Northwestern University in 1980, where he is currently an emeritus professor. He is also a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books.


Published Works Expand for more information


Titles At Your Library

Certain Trumpets: The Call of Leaders
ISBN: 067165702X

Simon & Schuster. 1994

Certain Trumpets: The Call of Leaders

Witches and Jesuits: Shakespeare's Macbeth
ISBN: 0195088794

Oxford University Press. 1995

In his Pulitzer prize-winning 1993 book Lincoln at Gettysburg, Garry Wills showed how the Gettysburg Address revolutionized the conception of modern America. In Witches and Jesuits, Wills again focuses on a single document to open up a window on an entire society. He begins with a simple question: If Macbeth is such a great tragedy, why do performances of it so often fail? After all, the stage history of Macbeth is so riddled with disasters that it has created a legendary curse on the drama. Superstitious actors try to evade the curse by referring to Macbeth only as "the Scottish play," but production after production continues to soar in its opening scenes, only to sputter towards anticlimax in the later acts. By critical consensus there seems to have been only one entirely successful modern performance of the play, Laurence Olivier's in 1955, and even Olivier twisted his ankle on opening night. But Olivier's ankle notwithstanding, Wills maintains that the fault lies not in Shakespeare's play, but in our selves.

Drawing on his intimate knowledge of the vivid intrigue and drama of Jacobean England, Wills restores Macbeth's suspenseful tension by returning it to the context of its own time, recreating the burning theological and political crises of Shakespeare's era. He reveals how deeply Macbeth's original 1606 audiences would have been affected by the notorious Gunpowder Plot of 1605, when a small cell of Jesuits came within a hairbreadth of successfully blowing up not only the King, but the Prince his heir, and all members of the court and Parliament. Wills likens their shock to that endured by Americans following Pearl Harbor or the Kennedy assassination. Furthermore, Wills documents, the Jesuits were widely believed to be acting in the service of the Devil, and so pervasive was the fear of witches that just two years before Macbeth's first performance, King James I added to the witchcraft laws a decree of death for those who procured "the skin, bone, or any other part of any dead person--to be employed or used in any manner of witchcraft, sorcery, charm, or enchantment." We see that the treason and necromancy in Macbeth were more than the imaginings of a gifted playwright--they were dramatizations of very real and potent threats to the realm.

In this new light, Macbeth is transformed. Wills presents a drama that is more than a well-scripted story of a murderer getting his just penalty, it is the struggle for the soul of a nation. The death of a King becomes a truly apocalyptic event, and Malcolm, the slain King's son, attains the status of a man defying cosmic evil. The guilt of Lady Macbeth takes on the Faustian aspect of one who has singed her hands in hell. The witches on the heath, shrugged off as mere symbols of Macbeth's inner guilt and ambition by twentieth century interpreters, emerge as independent agents of the occult with their own (or their Master's) terrifying agendas. Restoring the theological politics and supernatural elements that modern directors have shied away from, Wills points the way towards a Macbeth that will finally escape the theatrical curse on "the Scottish play."

Rich in insight and a joy to read, Witches and Jesuits is a tour de force of scholarship and imagination by one of our foremost writers, essential reading for anyone who loves the language.

John Wayne's America: The Politics of Celebrity
ISBN: 0684808234

Simon & Schuster. 1997

The best-selling author of Lincoln at Gettysburg explores the life and times of John Wayne and his legend, explaining how the man, Marion Morrison, became a myth and how that myth shaped Americans' political attitudes and ideas. 75,000 first printing. $60,000 ad/promo. Tour.

Saint Augustine: A Penguin Life (Penguin Lives)
ISBN: 0670886106

Viking Adult. 1999

Wills, Garry, Saint Augustine

A Necessary Evil: A History of American Distrust of Government
ISBN: 0684844893

Simon & Schuster. 1999

In his first major work since Lincoln at Gettysburg, the author blames American's long-standing mistrust of government on a misreading of history, and a fundamental misunderstanding of the Founding Fathers. Tour.

Reagan's America: Innocents at Home
ISBN: 0140296077

Penguin Books. 2000

Look out for a new book from Garry Wills, What The Qur'an Meant, coming fall 2017.

Ronald Reagan
achieved magical accord with the American people, attuning them to his moral vision of a nation made up of optimistic individualists, tough yet God-fearing, blessed with a special destiny. In Reagan's America, Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian Garry Wills seeks to understand Reagan's appeal through understanding his audience, the Americans who found in him everything they wanted to believe about themselves. An authoritative biography and a fascinating cultural history, Reagan's America reveals how this savvy, charismatic leader restored a nation's fading sense of innocence and faith in itself.

Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit
ISBN: 0385494106

Doubleday. 2000

"The truth, we are told, will make us free.

It is time to free Catholics, lay as well as clerical, from the structures of deceit that are our subtle modern form of papal sin.

Paler, subtler, less dramatic than the sins castigated by Orcagna or Dante, these are the quiet sins of intellectual betrayal."
--from the Introduction

From Pulitzer Prize-winning author Garry Wills comes an assured, acutely insightful--and occasionally stinging--critique of the Catholic Church and its hierarchy from the nineteenth century to the present.

Papal Sin in the past was blatant, as Catholics themselves realized when they painted popes roasting in hell on their own church walls.

Surely, the great abuses of the past--the nepotism, murders, and wars of conquest--no longer prevail

yet, the sin of the modern papacy, as revealed by Garry Wills in his penetrating new book, is every bit as real, though less obvious than the old sins.

Wills describes a papacy that seems steadfastly unwilling to face the truth about itself, its past, and its relations with others.

The refusal of the authorities of the Church to be honest about its teachings has needlessly exacerbated original mistakes.

Even when the Vatican has tried to tell the truth--e.g., about Catholics and the Holocaust--it has ended up resorting to historical distortions and evasions.

The same is true when the papacy has attempted to deal with its record of discrimination against women, or with its unbelievable assertion that "natural law" dictates its sexual code.

Though the blithe disregard of some Catholics for papal directives has occasionally been attributed to mere hedonism or willfulness, it actually reflects a failure, after long trying on their part, to find a credible level of honesty in the official positions adopted by modern popes.

On many issues outside the realm of revealed doctrine, the papacy has made itself unbelievable even to the well-disposed laity.

The resulting distrust is in fact a neglected reason for the shortage of priests.

Entirely aside from the public uproar over celibacy, potential clergy have proven unwilling to put themselves in a position that supports dishonest teachings.

Wills traces the rise of the papacy's stubborn resistance to the truth, beginning with the challenges posed in the nineteenth century by science, democracy, scriptural scholarship, and rigorous history.

The legacy of that resistance, despite the brief flare of John XXIII's papacy and some good initiatives in the 1960s by the Second Vatican Council (later baffled), is still strong in the Vatican.

Finally Wills reminds the reader of the positive potential of the Church by turning to some great truth tellers of the Catholic tradition--St. Augustine, John Henry Newman, John Acton, and John XXIII.

In them, Wills shows that the righteous path can still be taken, if only the Vatican will muster the courage to speak even embarrassing truths in the name of Truth itself.

Venice: Lion City - The Religion of Empire
ISBN: 0684871904

Simon & Schuster. 2001

Garry Wills's Venice: Lion City is a tour de force -- a rich, colorful, and provocative history of the world's most fascinating city in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when it was at the peak of its glory. This was not the city of decadence, carnival, and nostalgia familiar to us from later centuries. It was a ruthless imperial city, with a shrewd commercial base, like ancient Athens, which it resembles in its combination of art and sea empire. The structure of Venetian society was based on its distinctive practice of religion: Venice elected its priests, defied the authority of papal Rome, and organized its liturgy around a lay leader (the doge). Venice: Lion City presents a new way of relating the history of the city through its art and, in turn, illuminates the art through the city's history. In their culture, their governing structures, and their social life, the Venetians themselves speak to us with extraordinary immediacy, whether at work, warfare, prayer, or acting out their victories, celebrations, and petitions in the colorful festivals that punctuated the year. Venice: Lion City is illustrated with more than 130 works of art, 30 in full color. Garry Wills gives us a unique view of Venice's rulers, merchants, clerics, and laborers, its Jews, and its women as they created a city that is the greatest art museum in the world, a city that continues to lure an endless stream of visitors. Like Simon Schama's The Embarrassment of Riches, on the Dutch culture in the Golden Age, Venice: Lion City will take its place as a classic work of history and criticism.

Explaining America: The Federalist
ISBN: 0140298398

Penguin Books. 2001

Look out for a new book from Garry Wills, What The Qur'an Meant, coming fall 2017.

Now with a new introduction--award-winning historian Garry Wills's definitive analysis of the Federalist Papers

In 1787 and 1788, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison published what remains perhaps the greatest example of political journalism in the English language--the Federalist Papers. Written to urge ratification of the Constitution, the eighty-five essays--trenchant in thought and graceful in expression--defended the Constitution not merely as a theoretical statement but as a practical instrument of rule. Now updated with a new introduction, Garry Wills's classic study subjects these essays to rigorous analysis, illuminating, as only he can, their significance in the development of the philosophy on which our government is based.

James Madison (The American Presidents Series)
ISBN: 0805069054

Times Books. 2002

A bestselling historian examines the life of a Founding Father.

Renowned historian and social commentator Garry Wills takes a fresh look at the life of James Madison, from his rise to prominence in the colonies through his role in the creation of the Articles of Confederation and the first Constitutional Congress.

Madison oversaw the first foreign war under the constitution, and was forced to adjust some expectations he had formed while drafting that document. Not temperamentally suited to be a wartime President, Madison nonetheless confronted issues such as public morale, internal security, relations with Congress, and the independence of the military. Wills traces Madison's later life during which, like many recent Presidents, he enjoyed greater popularity than while in office.

Why I Am a Catholic
ISBN: 0618134298

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2002

PAPAL SIN and its exposé of a fundamental dishonesty at the heart of the papacy provoked both praise and heated debate. Accused by some of harboring deep resentments against the church, Wills counters with a powerful statement of his Catholic faith.
Wills begins with a reflection on his early experience of that faith as a child, and later as a Jesuit seminarian, revealing the importance of Catholicism in his own life. He goes on to challenge, in clear and forceful terms, the dogmatic claim that criticism or reform of the papacy is an assault on the faith itself. In a sweeping narrative covering two thousand years of church history, he reveals that the papacy, far from being an unchanging institution, has been transformed dramatically over the millennia and can be reimagined in the future. Wills ends with a moving meditation on the significance of the creed, the timeless core of the Catholic faith, which endures even as the institution of the church changes.
Posing urgent questions for Catholic and non-Catholic readers alike, Wills argues for the continuing relevance of a papacy newly understood. He has already stirred up controversy about the failures of the church. Now, at a time when the selection of a new pope is imminent, he is sure to spark an equally heated conversation about its future.

Mr. Jefferson's University (National Geographic Directions)
ISBN: 0792265319

National Geographic. 2002

In the paperback edition of the critically acclaimed hardcover, bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize-winner Garry Wills explores Thomas Jefferson's final and favorite achievement, the University of Virginia.

The University of Virginia is one of America's greatest architectural treasures and one of Thomas Jefferson's proudest achievements. At his request his headstone says nothing of his service as America's first Secretary of State or its third President. It says simply: "Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia." For this political genius was a supremely gifted artist as well, and of all Jefferson's stunning accomplishments, the school he built in Charlottesville is perhaps the most perfect expression of the man himself: as leader, as architect, and as philosopher.

In this engrossing, perceptive book, Garry Wills once again displays the keen intelligence and eloquent style that have won him great critical praise as he explores the creation of a masterpiece, tracing its evolution from Jefferson's idea of an "academical village" into a classically beautiful campus. Mr. Jefferson's University is at once a wonderful chronicle of the birth of a national institution and a deft portrait of the towering American who brought it to life.

"There is much auspicious history to explore here, and Wills does so with great narrative skills." —Richmond Times-Dispatch

"His command of the subject is formidable." —Los Angeles Times

Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence
ISBN: 0618257764

Mariner Books. 2002

From one of America's foremost historians, Inventing America compares Thomas Jefferson's original draft of the Declaration of Independence with the final, accepted version, thereby challenging many long-cherished assumptions about both the man and the document. Although Jefferson has long been idealized as a champion of individual rights, Wills argues that in fact his vision was one in which interdependence, not self-interest, lay at the foundation of society. "No one has offered so drastic a revision or so close or convincing an analysis as Wills has . . . The results are little short of astonishing" (Edmund S. Morgan New York Review of Books ).

Nixon Agonistes: The Crisis of the Self-Made Man
ISBN: 0618134328

Mariner Books. 2002

From one of America's most distinguished historians comes this classic analysis of Richard Nixon. By considering some of the president's opinions, Wills comes to the controversial conclusion that Nixon was actually a liberal. Both entertaining and essential, Nixon Agonistes captures a troubled leader and a struggling nation mired in a foolish Asian war, forfeiting the loyalty of its youth, puzzled by its own power, and looking to its cautious president for confidence. In the end, Nixon Agonistes reaches far beyond its assessment of the thirty-seventh president to become an incisive and provocative analysis of the American political machine.

The Kennedy Imprisonment: A Meditation on Power
ISBN: 0618134433

Mariner Books. 2002

From one of America's foremost historians, The Kennedy Imprisonment is the definitive historical and psychological analysis of the Kennedy clan. The winner of a Pulitzer Prize, Garry Wills reveals a family that enjoyed public adulation but provided fluctuating leadership, that experienced both unparalleled fame and odd failures, and whose basic values ensnared its men in their own myths of success and masculinity. In the end, Wills reveals that the the Kennedys' crippling conception of power touched every part of their public and private lives, including their relationships with women and world leaders. Sometimes gossipy, sometimes philosophical, The Kennedy Imprisonment is a book that is as true, insightful, and relevant as ever.

"Negro President": Jefferson and the Slave Power
ISBN: 0618485376

Mariner Books. 2005

In “Negro President” the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Garry Wills explores a pivotal moment in American history through the lens of Thomas Jefferson and the now largely forgotten Timothy Pickering, and “prods readers to appreciate essential aspects of our distressed but well-intentioned representative democracy” (Chicago Tribune).

In 1800 Jefferson won the presidential election with Electoral College votes derived from the three-fifths representation of slaves — slaves who could not vote but were still partially counted as citizens. Moving beyond the recent revisionist debate over Jefferson’s own slaves and his relationship with Sally Hemings, Wills instead probes the heart of Jefferson’s presidency and political life, revealing how the might of the slave states remained a concern behind his most important policies and decisions.

In an eye-opening, ingeniously argued exposé, Wills restores Timothy Pickering and the Federalists’ dramatic struggle to our understanding of Jefferson, the creation of the new nation, and the evolution of our representative democracy.

“Garry Wills is a thinker of first rate. He combines the vigor of the social critic with the depth of the historian, and to these he adds the even rarer gifts of the philosopher.” — New Republic

“A thorough political analysis of another founding father’s involvement in slavery.” — San Francisco Chronicle

Garry Wills, a distinguished historian and critic, is the author of numerous books, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning Lincoln at Gettysburg, Saint Augustine, the best-selling Why I Am a Catholic, and Henry Adams and the Making of America.

The Rosary
ISBN: 0143037978

Penguin Books. 2006

Look out for a new book from Garry Wills, What The Qur'an Meant, coming fall 2017.

In an age when self -help methods abound and meditation is a common prescriptive, Garry Wills-one of the most respected writers on religious topics today-offers an extraordinary journey through one of the oldest aids to spiritual contemplation.

Drawing together history and readings from scripture, Wills explains the beads on the rosary and the moments in Christ's life they represent, illustrating each mystery with a stunning Tintoretto painting. The result is an illuminating and poignant exploration of the power of prayer that will edify and inspire readers.

Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America (Simon & Schuster Lincoln Library)
ISBN: 0743299639

Simon & Schuster. 2006

In a masterly work, Garry Wills shows how Lincoln reached back to the Declaration of Independence to write the greatest speech in the nation’s history.

The power of words has rarely been given a more compelling demonstration than in the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln was asked to memorialize the gruesome battle. Instead he gave the whole nation “a new birth of freedom” in the space of a mere 272 words. His entire life and previous training and his deep political experience went into this, his revolutionary masterpiece.

By examining both the address and Lincoln in their historical moment and cultural frame, Wills breathes new life into words we thought we knew, and reveals much about a president so mythologized but often misunderstood. Wills shows how Lincoln came to change the world and to effect an intellectual revolution, how his words had to and did complete the work of the guns, and how Lincoln wove a spell that has not yet been broken.

Under God: Religion and American Politics
ISBN: 141654335X

Simon & Schuster. 2007

In Under God, Garry Wills, one of our liveliest and most eminent political observers, moves through the tapestry of American history, illuminating the instances where American politics and American religion have collided.

Beginning with the 1988 presidential contest, an election that included two ministers and a senator accused of sin, Wills surveys our history to show the continuity of present controversies with past religious struggles and argues that the secular standards of the Founding Fathers have been misunderstood. He shows that despite reactionary fire-breathers and fanatics, religion has often been a progressive force in American politics and explains why the policy of a separate church and state has, ironically, made the position of the church stronger.

Marked by the extraordinary quality of observation that has defined the work of Garry Wills, Under God is a rich, original look at why religion and politics will never be separate in the United States.

Henry Adams and the Making of America
ISBN: 0618872663

Mariner Books. 2007

In Henry Adams and the Making of America, Pulitzer Prize winner Garry Wills makes a compelling argument for a reassessment of Henry Adams as our nation’s greatest historian and his History as the “nonfiction prose masterpiece of the nineteenth century in America.” Adams drew on his own southern fixation, his extensive foreign travel, his political service in the Lincoln administration, and much more to invent the study of history as we know it. His nine-volume chronicle of America from 1800 to 1816 established new standards for employing archival sources, firsthand reportage, eyewitness accounts, and other techniques that have become the essence of modern history.

Ambitious in scope, nuanced in detail, Henry Adams and the Making of America throws brilliant light on the historian and the making of history.

Head and Heart: American Christianities
ISBN: 1594201463

Penguin Press. 2007

Hardcover Religious Studies

What Paul Meant
ISBN: 0143112635

Penguin Books. 2007

In his New York Times bestseller What Jesus Meant, Garry Wills offered a fresh and incisive reading of Jesus' teachings. Now Wills turns to Paul, whose writings have provoked controversy throughout Christian history. Upending many common assumptions, Wills argues eloquently that what Paul meant was not something contrary to what Jesus meant. Rather, the best way to know Jesus is to discover Paul. In this stimulating and masterly analysis, Wills illuminates how Paul, writing on the road and in the heat of the moment, and often in the midst of controversy, galvanized a movement and offers us the best reflection of those early times.

What Jesus Meant
ISBN: 014303880X

Penguin Books. 2007

In what are billed “culture wars,” people on the political right and the political left cite Jesus as endorsing their views. Garry Wills argues that Jesus subscribed to no political program. He was far more radical than that. In a fresh reading of the gospels, Wills explores the meaning of the “reign of heaven” Jesus not only promised for the future but brought with him into this life. It is only by dodges and evasions that people misrepresent what Jesus plainly had to say against power, the wealthy, and religion itself. But Wills is just as critical of those who would make Jesus a mere ethical teacher, ignoring or playing down his divinity. An illuminating analysis for believers and nonbelievers alike, What Jesus Meant is a brilliant addition to our national conversation on religion.

Martial's Epigrams: A Selection
ISBN: 0670020397

Viking Adult. 2008

A translation of bawdy and biting epigrams by the first-century satirist draws on an extensive body of poetic works that served as a scathing social commentary that has remained relevant to modern readers, in a volume that seeks to preserve Martial's piercing language choices.

What the Gospels Meant
ISBN: 014311512X

Penguin Books. 2009

“A remarkable achievement—a learned yet eminently readable and provocative exploration of the four small books that reveal most of what’s known about the life and death of Jesus.” (Los Angeles Times)

Look out for a new book from Garry Wills,

What the Qur'an Meant, coming fall 2017.


In his New York Times bestsellers What Jesus Meant and What Paul Meant, Garry Wills offers tour-de-force interpretations of Jesus and the Apostle Paul. Here Wills turns his remarkable gift for biblical analysis to the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Wills examines the goals, methods, and styles of the evangelists and how these shaped the gospels' messages. Hailed as "one of the most intellectually interesting and doctrinally heterodox Christians writing today" (The New York Times Book Review), Wills guides readers through the maze of meanings within these foundational texts, revealing their essential Christian truths.

Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State
ISBN: 1594202400

Penguin Press HC, The. 2010

From Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Garry Wills, a groundbreaking examination of how the atomic bomb profoundly altered the nature of American democracy and has left us in a state of war alert ever since.

In Bomb Power, Garry Wills reveals how the atomic bomb transformed our nation down to its deepest constitutional roots-by dramatically increasing the power of the modern presidency and redefining the government as a national security state-in ways still felt today. A masterful reckoning from one of America's preeminent historians, Bomb Power draws a direct line from the Manhattan Project to the usurpations of George W. Bush.

The invention of the atomic bomb was a triumph of official secrecy and military discipline-the project was covertly funded at the behest of the president and, despite its massive scale, never discovered by Congress or the press. This concealment was perhaps to be expected in wartime, but Wills persuasively argues that the Manhattan Project then became a model for the covert operations and overt authority that have defined American government in the nuclear era. The wartime emergency put in place during World War II extended into the Cold War and finally the war on terror, leaving us in a state of continuous war alert for sixty-eight years and counting.

The bomb forever changed the institution of the presidency since only the president controls "the button" and, by extension, the fate of the world. Wills underscores how radical a break this was from the division of powers established by our founding fathers and how it in turn has enfeebled Congress and the courts. The bomb also placed new emphasis on the president's military role, creating a cult around the commander in chief. The tendency of modern presidents to flaunt military airs, Wills points out, is entirely a postbomb phenomenon. Finally, the Manhattan Project inspired the vast secretive apparatus of the national security state, including intelligence agencies such as the CIA and NSA, which remain largely unaccountable to Congress and the American people.

Wills recounts how, following World War II, presidential power increased decade by decade until reaching its stunning apogee with the Bush administration. Both provocative and illuminating, Bomb Power casts the history of the postwar period in a new light and sounds an alarm about the continued threat to our Constitution.



Outside Looking In: Adventures of an Observer
ISBN: 0670022144

Viking. 2010

"One of the country's most distinguished intellectuals [and] one of its most provocative."
-The New York Times


Bookish and retiring, Garry Wills has been an outsider in the academy, in journalism, even in his church. Yet these qualities have, paradoxically, prompted people to share intimate insights with him- perhaps because he is not a rival, a competitor, or a threat. Sometimes this made him the prey of con men like conspiratorialist Mark Lane or civil rights leader James Bevel. At other times it led to close friendship with such people as William F. Buckley, Jr., or singer Beverly Sills. The result is the most personal book Wills has ever written.

With his dazzling style and journalist's eye for detail, Wills brings history to life, whether it's the civil rights movement

the protests against the Vietnam War

the presidential campaigns of Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton

or the set of Oliver Stone's Nixon. Illuminating and provocative, Outside Looking In is a compelling chronicle of an original thinker at work in remarkable times.

Why Priests?: A Failed Tradition
ISBN: 0670024872

Viking. 2013

In his most provocative book yet, Pulitzer Prize­–winner Garry Wills asks the radical question: Why do we need priests?

Bestselling author of Papal Sin and Why I Am a Catholic, Garry Wills spent five years as a young man at a Jesuit seminary and nearly became a priest himself. But after a lifetime of study and reflection, he now poses some challenging questions: Why do we need priests at all? Why did the priesthood arise in a religion that began without it and opposed it? Would Christianity be stronger without the priesthood, as it was at its outset?

Meticulously researched, persuasively argued, and certain to spark debate, Why Priests? asserts that the anonymous Letter to Hebrews, a late addition to the New Testament canon, helped inject the priesthood into a Christianity where it did not exist, along with such concomitants as belief in an apostolic succession, the real presence in the Eucharist, the sacrificial interpretation of the Mass, and the ransom theory of redemption. But Wills does not expect the priesthood to fade entirely away. He just reminds us that Christianity did without it in the time of Peter and Paul with notable success.

Wills concludes with a powerful statement of his own beliefs in a book that will appeal to believers and nonbelievers alike and stand for years to come as a towering achievement.


Awards

-- Pulitzer Prize for Lincoln at GettysburgLincoln ScholarTwo National Book Critics Circle Awards - one for Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence1998 National Medal for the HumanitiesMerle Curti Award for Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence