Here is my nomination for every college or university that sponsors a campus-wide book for students and faculty to read and discuss together:"Gandhi & Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age," a new book by Arthur Herman.Herman also wrote another of my favorite books, "How the Scots Invented the Modern World." "Gandhi & Churchill" tells how the lives of these two very different inspirational figures intersected during the turbulent times that led to the break-up of the British Empire -- and left us, their successors, with a host of challenges. Some example discussion topics are: racism and racial pride; benevolent colonialism and the oppression that accompanied it; nonviolence and hard-nosed big power politics; the dangers of appeasement and the strategic advantages of accommodation to the reasonable aspirations and demands of opponents; the conflicting imperatives of global economic development against the spiritual advantages of local village life.All of these important topics, and the different opinions we have about each of them, are part of the history of the first half of the 20th century as seen through the roles Gandhi and Churchill played. When Churchill was born in England's Blenheim Castle in 1874 and Gandhi on the west coast of India in 1869, India was the jewel of the British colonial possessions. Of all of Queen Victoria's subjects, two-thirds of them lived on the Indian sub-continent. British rule had brought stability and order to a people of more than 250 million inhabitants.Churchill believed that India was an essential part of the British Empire. Without India, he thought, Great Britain could not be a great power. He also believed that without British oversight, India would fall victim to disorder and violence as its various groups competed for domination. He proudly believed in the superior qualities of the Anglo-Saxon peoples and the importance of stern and forceful rule.Gandhi trained as a British lawyer in London. He believed that the principles of English law required that Indian subjects of the British king be entitled to equality, self-government and their own superior culture. He thought that the most effective weapon to gain those objectives for India was through nonviolent resistance.Both men, in their very different ways, were amazing examples of courage and character.Ironically, each of them first proved these qualities in South Africa during the Boer War in the late 1890s. Gandhi had come there as a lawyer and became a leader of the Indian community's demands to be treated equally. To further those efforts, he organized groups of Indian ambulance drivers to support the British forces and was recognized for his bravery. During the same time, Churchill, although theoretically a news reporter, was actually an active combatant whose heroism made him a celebrity. Herman reports that the two men passed each other on the same battlefield.Later, as the two men became leaders of their respective peoples, the conflict between Gandhi's determination to achieve self-government and equality and Churchill's belief that India must remain subject to British rule led to their bitter rivalry. That rivalry provides the backdrop to Herman's saga of the breakup of the British Empire. Although I would be delighted if UNC-Chapel Hill chooses this book for its summer reading program next school year, it is a long shot. The author's politics tilt conservative. So his book would be a tough sell in Chapel Hill and in many university communities.