If these sensible lessons break no new ground, the biographies make good reading.

SAILING TRUE NORTH

TEN ADMIRALS AND THE VOYAGE OF CHARACTER

Principles of leadership drawn from the lives of 10 admirals from ancient Greece to the present.

Exploring self-improvement through the lives of great leaders has become a popular—and often eye-rolling—genre, but this earnest mixture of biography, memoir, and pop psychology makes no outlandish claims, and readers will absorb some significant naval history. Well-read but no scholar, Stavridis (Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the World's Oceans, 2017), the former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO and current chairman of the U.S. Naval Institute, has done his research in the works of popular historians. For the most part, the author has chosen his subjects well, and ambitious readers can follow up using his excellent bibliography, which includes works by such noted historians as Jan Morris, Walter Borneman, and James Hornfischer. Stavridis begins with history’s first great sea commander, Themistocles, who led the ancient Greeks to victory over the Persians at Salamis and then fell from favor, ending his life in exile. Stavridis concludes that Themistocles represents a case study in charisma, risk-taking, and overweening arrogance. Perhaps most obscure is 15th-century Chinese Adm. Zheng He, a Muslim eunuch who rose to the top of the imperial hierarchy and led a titanic fleet in several voyages across south Asia as far as Africa. Demonstrating grit and self-reliance, he was “carefully organized, calm of spirit, devoted to his prince, and willing to take risks.” More familiar figures march across the pages, including Francis Drake, Horatio Nelson, John Arbuthnot Fisher, Alfred Thayer Mahan, Chester Nimitz, Hyman Rickover, and Elmo Zumwalt. Stavridis ends with Grace Hopper, whose “vision of the distant future” guided a not-always-enthusiastic Navy into the computer age. In the final chapter, the author summarizes character traits that these impressive figures demonstrated, and few readers will deny that they include creativity, resilience, humility, empathy, decisiveness, and determination.

If these sensible lessons break no new ground, the biographies make good reading.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55993-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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