The Life and Times of Pancho Villa

Friedrich Katz

It’s hardly light summer reading, but I’ve been hauling this book with me to the pool when I go swimming each day. At 5 pounds and almost 1,000 pages long, the book is so heavy that I may not live long enough to finish reading it at the rate I’m going. But I’m learning something new on almost every page, and some of the lessons that can be learned from Mexican history of 100 years ago have parallels to U.S. history as it is currently playing out, what with widening disparities between rich and poor, a more and more oppressive national government and media and legal systems that are failing to perform their important roles in protecting the common man and woman. Francisco “Pancho” Villa does not even make a significant appearance in the book until about 70 pages in, but the writing is crisp, and the tale Katz tells is fascinating. Villa himself is a character to conjure with—bandit, womanizer, revolutionary. His ascendancy from the peasantry to the world stage is the kind of stuff that will keep me reading through the summer, and it will keep me fit, too, as I lug this hefty book back and forth to the pool.