What We Are Reading Today: Eurovision! by Chris West

Updated 10 May 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Eurovision! by Chris West

  • Eurovision started in 1956 with just seven competitors performing before 200 people in Switzerland
  • Today the contest is watched by an audience of billions

For those who think the Eurovision Song Contest is just an evening of questionable tunes, dubious dancing and general over-the-top cheesiness, think again.

From its beginnings in 1956 with just seven competitors performing before 200 polite, but not terribly enthusiastic, people in Switzerland, the contest has been a mirror for cultural, social and political developments in Europe.

For the countries once imprisoned behind the Iron Curtain, it has been a voice of rebellion.

For regional minorities it has been a voice of liberation. It even triggered a national revolution.

And the notorious bloc voting by regional neighbors is so blatant that nobody is surprised any more.

Nowadays the contest is watched by an audience of billions. People throw Eurovision-themed parties.

The singers have not always come from the country they represent. Canadian Celine Dion competed for Switzerland in 1988, while Greek singer Nana Mouskouri sang for Luxembourg in 1963.

Even the “Euro” element of the contest is now very loosely interpreted, with Israel and Australia competing.

Eurovision! charts both the history of Europe and the history of the song contest over the past six decades and shows how seamlessly they interlink. Something to ponder while watching this Saturday’s cheese-fest from Lisbon.


What We Are Reading Today: John Adams by David McCullough

Updated 26 May 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: John Adams by David McCullough

In this powerful, epic biography, David McCullough unfolds the adventurous life-journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent, often irascible, always honest Yankee patriot — “the colossus of independence,” as Thomas Jefferson called him — who spared nothing in his zeal for the American Revolution. 

Like his masterly, Pulitzer Prize-winning biography Truman, David McCullough’s John Adams has the sweep and vitality of a great novel, says a review published in goodreads.com.

It is both a riveting portrait of an abundantly human man and a vivid evocation of his time, much of it drawn from an outstanding collection of Adams family letters and diaries. In particular, the more than 1,000 surviving letters between John and his wife Abigail Adams provide extraordinary access to their private lives and make it possible to know John Adams as no other major American of his founding era.