Paul Johnson is the master of the quick biographical essay. He takes on more than 12 major figures who influenced modern Western thought, including Rousseau, Shelley, Marx, Ibsen, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Brecht, Bertrand Russell (one of the “Old Atheists”), Sartre, Orwell, and others. Most of these intellectuals don’t fare well under Johnson’s probing mind. These intellectuals spouted a host of ideas that many in the West took to heart,including the innocence of the child, the possibility of a socialist utopia, and the success of the Soviet experiment. Not only were most of these ideas rubbish, but the perpetrators of these ideas weren’t such great people themselves. This is a good, quick introduction to a lot of ideas and people you ought to know about.