Two historical books in a row. It’s a record for me. This one, Absolute Monarchs, I liked. Billed as a non-scholarly history of papacy, it reviews 265 popes, wisely fortunately focusing on a few key figures and giving quick summaries for the others, and what a cast of characters! It’s astonishing that the Catholic church has managed to survive for centuries under such dreadful leadership. Not that there are not several great popes in the lot, but the number of incompetent, corrupt, debauched, and violent popes is simply astounding. And among the good popes, it’s interesting to note how they all seemed to have some great strengths in one area but not in others. So there were great administrators who did not seem to be able to do much on the spiritual side, and vice versa. Talk about an impossible job.