Pius VI, the Lyndon Johnson of the prelacy once observed, "pope's aren't elected - they're made." In "Next Pope," acclaimed papal handicapper Peter Hebblethwaite provides an insider's guide to contesting - and winning - the ultimate ecclesiastical election. If your sights are set on the papal suite, where should you study (surprise - not the Ivy league!)? Where should you socialize, and what interests should you cultivate? Hebblewaite lays out the path -from first mass to white smoke. The final chapter - "Life in the Key of See," is written for those who make the grade. It includes a detailed map of Vatican City, a handy list of common Latin phrases and greetings, and a trove of hat balancing tips that you?ll wish you?d read before even becoming a Cardinal.
The most interesting part of the book for me was the first half where past conclaves in history are discussed. Some of the history is really fascinating. Although the tone of the book optimistically predicts a less severe papacy next time around, there is little evidence presented to back this up. The criticisms of John Paul II, while quite accurate, do little to help us understand who we might expect as the next pope. It is a well written book and very readable, but as time continues to go by and the current pope continues to live, the latter section on potential popes becomes less and less relevant due to the age restriction and deaths. Still, there is enough here to recommend a read.