Ventresca, Robert A. Soldier of Christ: The Life of Pope Pius XII. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2013.
"Here they do nothing other than dance, night and day, in private homes and in public places. The newspapers are filled with advertisements of dancing classes...of cafes and clubs for dancing....Just like the decadence of the Roman Empire: panem et circenses" - Pope Pius XII (58)
Pope Pius XII is most likely the most controversial modern Pope, particularly among non-Catholics. The arguments surrounding his actions and inactions during the lead up to WWII are vociferous enough to be referred to as the "Pope Pius Wars." From that frame of reference, Ventresca's biography attempts to neither condemn nor canonize, but present the entire life story of Eugenio Pacelli, the man who became Pope Pius XII. In his major goal, he is successful, the Pius who emerges is neither the Quisling nor the prophet, but a man who tried led the Roman Catholic church through turmoil and upheaval, and who sometimes failed, but not the malicious "Nazi Pope" of some other portraits.
With some minor complaints, I highly recommend this book, it provides a detailed explanation of the world from which Pacelli emerged, the so-called Black Aristocracy of Rome during the years of the Resurgimento. This, and the time he spent as Papal Nuncio in intra-war Germany are critical influences on his behavior in the lead-up WWII. As we get to the rise of Naziasm one oddity, a written tic almost, appears: the German government is never referred to as "German" from 1933 until 1945; it is the "Hitler Government" or the "Nazi Government", but never once the "German Government."
Throughout the book, Ventresca provides what is lacking from the debates over Pius' wartime conduct, nuance and background. It is also helpful that the book covers the postbellum period, the 13 years after 1945 figure less in the fighting about his legacy, but are important to create a complete portrait. They are also influential in another way, it was his longevity that influenced the choice of John XXIII as his successor, which has proven to have been a momentous choice.