Jeffrey Lyons

The film critic on books about combats in the arena and across the globe.

Jeffery Lyons is a renowned film critic, best known as the co-host of Sneak Previews on PBS for fourteen years and host of The Lyons Den on WCBS (AM) for even longer. The name of that show was a tribute to the title of the column his father, Leonard Lyons, wrote for the New York Post for 40 years–over 12,000 articles covering theater, movies, politics, and art. In his new collection, Stories My Father Told Me: Notes from “The Lyons Den”, Lyons (the younger) assembles a wealth of anecdotes from his father’s best columns into a hilarious cross-section of the Golden Age of New York City nightlife. Here, the critic and author recommends four of his favorite books.

Books by Jeffrey Lyons

The Winds of War

By Herman Wouk

“Weaving fiction into history, Wouk delves into a family caught up in the maelstrom of the Second World War, managing to cover both principal theaters, Europe and the Pacific. ‘Pug’ Henry, a Naval officer, is the protagonist, seemingly on hand for every major event and conference, and his children’s lives are also woven into the story. Originally conceived as one volume, it was wisely broken up into two, with War and Rememberance following after the publication of The Winds of War, but I look at the books as one long, deeply involving epic.”

The Death of Manolete

By Barnaby Conrad

“This book carefully retells the events leading up to the fateful day, August 28, 1947, when Manuel Rodríguez, “Manolete,” Spain’s national hero, facing a challenge from the younger matador, Luis Miguel Dominguín, was fatally gored by his second bull from the dreaded Miura strain. Conrad, a former secretary to Sinclair Lewis, then a Vice Consul in Seville, onetime torero known as El Niño de California, an accomplished portrait artist (a brilliant depiction of Manolete adorns the cover), takes us right into the arena in the small city of Linares that terrible afternoon. Manolete had the largest funeral Spain had ever seen, and, as Conrad, author of a dozen other books on bullfighting, wrote, ‘He died killing and was killed as he died.'”

The Dangerous Summer

By Ernest Hemmingway

“This is a superb depiction of the incredible summer of 1959, when Antonio Ordóñez, Hemingway’s godson, faced (the aforementioned) Luis Miguel Dominguín, Hemmingway’s brother-in-law, in a summer of mano-a-mano appearances across Spain. The former was a classical bullfighter, the latter a suave, elegant matador (Ava Gardner’s boyfriend) who defied tradition. “Grace under fire” is a common Hemingway theme; it’s captured perfectly in this magnificent book.”

No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt

By Doris Kearns Goodwin

“An astonishingly detailed look at the Roosevelt White House before and during World War II. It’s as if author Doris Kearns Goodwin, who won the Pulitzer Prize for this tome, was there with notebook in hand. All the characters come alive: FDR, Eleanor, the President’s beloved assistant Missy LeHand, Edwin M. “Pa” Watson, Wendell Willkie, James A. Farley, and scores more. You are a silent observer to history on every page as she delves into Eleanor’s past, FDR’s strong attachment to his domineering mother, Sarah, and the comings and goings of dozens of visitors to the White House. It’s a must for any history buff.”