The review in the Wall Street Journal

The review in the Wall Street Journal is now out, and it is the 7th or 8th review by my count. (I try to keep the list current here.)

Philip Delves Broughton is the reviewer, and he has grouped my book, Hannibal and Me, with two others:

  • Julius Caesar: Lessons in Leadership From the Great Conqueror, by Bill Yenne; and
  • Atatürk: Lessons in Leadership From the Greatest General of the Ottoman Empire, by Austin Bay.

You can see why Delves Broughton would do that: All three books take a great figure from the past, and promise lessons for us today. The other two have the word “lessons” in the subtitle; mine has “lessons” in the title of the last chapter, and the word “teach” in the subtitle.

I’ve long been fascinated by both Caesar (Of course! He even appears in my book) and Ataturk. So I’ll be adding the other two books to my queue.

Delves Broughton begins his triple review with an extended anecdote about Hannibal (the Alpine prisoners fighting one another to the death, which I use to open Chapter 5, “The Art of Winning”). But he doesn’t explicitly mention my book until the end, after he has discussed the other two:

Andreas Kluth’s “Hannibal and Me: What History’s Greatest Military Leader Can Teach Us About Success and Failure” is something quite different, a wide-ranging reflection in which the author takes that lonely figure high up in the Alps, surrounded by elephants, as a prism for understanding his own life….

Fortunately, the book quickly recovers [from a “bathetic” moment in the first chapter] and becomes a charming and fascinating inquiry into triumph, failure and that gnarliest of head-scratchers: What makes for a successful life? Mr. Kluth has the riveting Hannibal at the heart of his book, but there is nearly as much about other famous figures raised and dropped by fate: Eleanor Roosevelt, Meriwether Lewis, Albert Einstein and the author’s own great uncle, Ludwig Erhard, the chancellor of West Germany from 1963 to 1966.

With each of these lives, Mr. Kluth forces us to ask what we admire and what we would rather do without. He offers reflections rather than prescriptions. …

“Your struggles are likely to be less violent and to involve smaller stakes than Hannibal’s,” Mr. Kluth justly notes. But the themes will remain consistent. The good life, Mr. Kluth suggests, is not to be found by trying to imitate those we consider leaders and successes, who are rarely all they seem. It consists of doing what we must, as well as we are able, perceptions and consequences be damned.