Noel Malcolm’s new book is about an old and forgotten Albanian family, but it’s much more interesting that it sounds — and Agents of Empire: Knights, Corsairs, Jesuits, and Spies in the Sixteenth-Century Mediterranean World is winning rave reviews in Britain and America.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Malcolm recounts the old-time conflict between East and West, as Ottomans and Venetians battled for supremacy. He also talks about the amazing archival detective work behind his engrossing story and describes what it’s like to work in the Vatican Library, the setting of many conspiracy-minded potboilers–and where he found a key document.

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Thomas C. Leonard of Princeton University says that 20th-century Progressives weren’t the people you may have thought they were, in his new book Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Leonard talks 41zMhIbMYKLabout how the Progressives of yesteryear differ from the Progressives of today, whether eugenics really was central to their politics, and what lessons their experience holds for us now, at a time when we possess unprecedented powers to alter the human genome.

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Abraham Lincoln is one of America’s best-loved presidents. Does he really need redemption? Allen C. Guelzo says yes, in his new book called, appropriately, Redeeming the Great Emancipator.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Guelzo explains why Lincoln suffers a barrage of attacks today, what motivated him to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, and whether he was a racist and an atheist.

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Philanthropy is a $360 billion business. It’s also an example of American exceptionalism, says Karl Zinsmeister, author of The Almanac of American Philanthropy, a big book (more than 1300 pages), just published by the Philanthropy Roundtable.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Zinsmeister explains why Americans give more than people in other countries, whether small donors can make big differences, and why private philanthropy is essential to freedom.

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Daniel Oppenheimer is no conservative, but he’s fascinated by the political conversions of people who’ve moved rightward over time, such as Whittaker Chambers, James Burnham, Ronald Reagan, Norman Podhoretz, David Horowitz, and Christopher Hitchens — and now he’s written a book about them, Exit Right: The People Who Left the Left and Reshaped the American Century.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Oppenheimer talks about how he became interested in their stories, what his subjects share in common, and whether he — a self-described leftist — is a target for conservative conversion.

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Bernard Cornwell says he’s writing “the tale of England’s making” through his series of historical novels known as the Saxon Tales. The latest one has just published, Warriors of the Storm.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Cornwell discusses the challenges of writing about England before the Norman Conquest of 1066, why he’s happy to let other writers control the BBC America television series based on his books, and how he wound up living in the United States as an American citizen.

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Roger Scruton got in big trouble three decades ago for his bracing attack on left-wing intellectuals. Now he updates his classic book in a new edition, Fools, Frauds, and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Scruton describes how a near riot broke out over his work in the 1980s and explains why discredited leftists are on the march again. Asked to define the proper role of an intellectual in society, he calls it a “jolly good question” (he’s British) and delivers an excellent answer.

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The ordinary pro-life activist was once a middle-aged Catholic woman who voted for Democrats, says Daniel K. Williams, author of Defenders of the Unborn: The Pro-Life Movement before Roe v. Wade.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Williams explains that the original pro-lifers were liberal rather than conservative. He also explains why the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling changed everything and what today’s pro-lifers can learn from their intellectual ancestors.

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The greatest social injustice of our time isn’t income inequality or racism — it’s family breakdown, says Micheal Novak, co-author of Social Justice Isn’t What You Think It Is (with Paul Adams and Elizabeth Shaw).

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Novak describes the intellectual origins of “social justice,” how the Left has usurped the term, and what conservative candidates should say about it in 2016.

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Margaret Thatcher performed one of the great feats of modern statesmanship in 1981, when she overcame her own unpopularity as well as foes within her own party–and became a political hero in the United Kingdom and beyond. Kwasi Kwarteng describes the challenge she faced and history’s verdict in Thatcher’s Trial: 180 Days that Created a Conservative Icon.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Kwarteng takes us back in time and extracts lessons for today’s conservatives. He also relates his single encounter with Thatcher, toward the end of her life. And Kwarteng — a Conservative MP — talks about what it takes for a professional politician to write a serious book.

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James Strang was a political boss who became a king, a cult leader who declared himself a prophet, and a con man who tried to establish a personal theocracy on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan. He’s the subject of my new ebook, The Polygamist King: A True Story of Murder, Lust, and Exotic Faith in America.

For this special edition of The Bookmonger, the host is the guest — and I take questions from former Ricochet editor Lauren Fink. We talk about how Strang became the leader of a dissident Mormon sect, how he went from opposing polygamy to practicing it, and how he and his colony came to a violent end.

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A quarter century ago, he battled with Dinesh D’Souza over political correctness in a series of campus debates. Today, he’s the author of Think Again: Contrarian Reflections on Life, Culture, Politics, Religion, Law, and Education.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Stanley Fish talks about the role and responsibility of contrarians, how higher education has changed over the last 25 years, and whether he and D’Souza have become friends (the answer is yes). Finally, he explains why he regards the late Charlton Heston as one of America’s great actors.

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Critics denounce Pope Pius XII as “Hitler’s Pope,” a pontiff who didn’t speak up against Nazi atrocities–but he was in fact busy in the shadows, running an anti-Nazi spy system and even collaborating in an effort to assassinate the German dictator, according to Mark Riebling, author of Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War against Hitler.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Riebling describes how Piux XII battled the Nazis from the Vatican, why he stayed silent, and whether Pope Francis heads a system of espionage today.

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History professor Burt Folsom became friends with Mitch Rutledge, a convicted murderer on death row in Alabama — and he tells about it in a book he has co-authored with his wife Anita, Death on Hold: A Prisoner’s Desperate Prayer and the Unlikely Family who Became God’s Answer.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Folsom describes what compelled him to get in touch with Rutledge, why prison rehabilitation is so hard, and why a guy who has written best-selling books on FDR and the New Deal would take up this subject.

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When it comes to ancient Greece, Athens gets all the attention–but Sparta deserves most of the credit for the defeat of the Persians during the classical period, says author and Ricochet contributor Paul A. Rahe in his new book, The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta: The Persian Challenge.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Rahe argues that the West owes much more to the Spartans than 300 (which is an excellent movie) and accuses many historians of overrating the importance of Athens. He explains why he calls the Persian invasion a “jihad” and whether the Spartans have any lessons to teach Americans in the 21st century.

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The world changed on All Saints Day in 1755, when a massive earthquake, tsunami, and firestorm struck at the heart of the Portuguese empire, reports Mark Molesky in This Gulf of Fire: The Destruction of Lisbon, or Apocalypse in the Age of Science and Reason.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Molesky explains how this cataclysm shaped scientific and intellectual history, launched the world’s first international relief effort, and revealed the enduring role of faith in European society. He also speculates on what would happen if similar earthquake were to take place near Europe today.

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What do Martin Luther, Albrecht Durer, and the Shroud of Turin have in common? They all play a part in the new comic novel by Christopher Buckley, The Relic Master.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, the author of Thank You for Smoking explains why he wanted to write a story about the market for holy relics in 16th-century Europe, which turns out to be almost as funny as 21st-century America.

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On the pop-culture Richter scale, Gary Gygax deserves a place alongside Walt Disney and Steve Jobs, says Michael Witwer, author of Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons and Dragons. In other words, Gygax was a 12th-level genius.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Witwer explains the significance of D&D (as players call it). He also describes what Gygax was like as a man: a high-school dropout who read voraciously but was not prepared to run a business. Finally, Witwer says a word about the politics of his subject: Gygax was a fervent Republican who become increasingly libertarian as he grew older.

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Is Washington killing you? That’s the question Darcy Olsen raises in her new book, The Right To Try: How the Federal Government Prevents Americans from Getting the Lifesaving Treatments They Need.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Olsen describes how she got involved in a national movement to help severely sick patients, what she’s trying to accomplish, and how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stands in the way.

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What if Dick Cheney were to participate in the modern-day equivalent of the Frost-Nixon interviews? Now he has, in Cheney One on One: A Candid Conversation with America’s Most Controversial Statesman, by James Rosen of Fox News.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Rosen describes how he sat with Cheney for 10 hours as they talked about everything from the events of 9-11 to the former veep’s views of the Tea Party. Rosen also offers a unique theory on why Cheney is so disliked by so many liberals.

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One of the most important conservatives of the 20th century now has his definitive biography, in Russell Kirk: American Conservative, by Bradley J. Birzer of Hillsdale College.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Birzer describes the life and legacy of Kirk, how he became the first researcher to gain complete access to Kirk’s papers, and what Kirk would think of the conservative movement today, a generation after his death.

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Why do so many people enjoy feeling afraid? Margee Kerr tries to make sense of this paradox in Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, she describes why people seek out haunted-house attractions. She also explains her book’s epigraph from Edmund Burke: “Terror is a passion which always produces delight when it does not press too close.” Finally, she names the scariest movie she’s ever seen.

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Around Halloween, I like to read horror stories. Edgar Allan Poe is one of the greats–think “The Black Cat” and “The Tell-Tale Heart”–and now he’s available in The Annotated Poe, a new collection of stories, poems, and annotations from Harvard University Press.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, editor Kevin J. Hayes explains how he selected the table of contents, what he has tried to accomplish with the book’s annotations, and where he ranks Poe among the best American writers. He also replies to the famous put-down from Henry James, who claimed that “enthusiasm for Poe is the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection.”

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Life doesn’t end when guys marry and have kids–that’s when life begins, say Jim Geraghty, co-author with Cam Edwards of Heavy Lifting: Grow Up, Get a Job, Start a Family, and Other Manly Advice.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Geraghty explains what’s so great about marriage and fatherhood, why millennials need to hear his message, and why he’s obsessed with Ward Cleaver.

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You’ve heard about the Winston Churchill who won the Second World War. Have you also heard about the one who spent his life fighting socialism? Hillsdale College president Larry P. Arnn describes them both in his new book, Churchill’s Trial: Winston Churchill and the Salvation of Free Government.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Arnn discusses why we haven’t heard so much about Churchill the foe of socialism, why his message matters to 21st-century Americans, and what he’d make of Bernie Sanders, the “democratic socialist” who presently seeks his party’s presidential nomination.

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