ON GRAND STRATEGY

A lively, erudite study of the past in service of the future.

A Pulitzer Prize–winning historian offers a capacious analysis of how leaders make strategic decisions.

Drawing on a yearlong “Grand Strategy” course he teaches to Yale undergraduates, Gaddis (History/Yale Univ.; George F. Kennan: An American Life, 2011, etc.), the recipient of a National Humanities Medal in 2005, analyzes the processes and complexities involved in devising grand strategies: “the alignment of potentially unlimited aspirations with necessarily limited capabilities.” The adjective “grand,” he adds, has to do with “what’s at stake,” which is why grand strategies traditionally have been associated “with the planning and fighting of wars.” Arguing that strategic leaders need to be flexible, creative, and observant, the author cites political theorist and philosopher Isaiah Berlin, who popularized a memorable line from an ancient Greek poet: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” That big thing—an obsessive idea or abstract ideal—may make a leader appear decisive but is likely to prevent innovation. “Assuming stability is one of the ways ruins get made,” Gaddis writes. “Resilience accommodates the unexpected.” Elizabeth I, whom he admires, defied traditional expectations by “reigning without marrying, tolerating (within limits) religious differences, and letting a language gloriously grow.” Rather than impose a grand design, she responded deftly to her changing world. Not so Xerxes and Napoleon, who mounted campaigns that failed because of limited “peripheral vision” blinding them to the variables of “landscapes, logistics, climates, the morale of their troops, and the strategies of their enemies.” Abraham Lincoln, too, merits Gaddis’ admiration: Self-taught and astoundingly intuitive, Lincoln “managed polarities: they didn’t manage him.” The author returns often to Tolstoy and Carl von Clausewitz, both of whom respect theory and practice “without enslaving themselves to either.” Abstraction and specificity “reinforce each other, but never in predetermined proportions.” Both writers, Gaddis argues, considered the contradictions and irony of history with “the amplitude, imagination, and honesty” that make them “the grandest of strategists.”

A lively, erudite study of the past in service of the future.

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59420-351-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Awards & Accolades

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

NIGHT

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

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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