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Hannibal and Me: What History's Greatest Military Strategist Can Teach Us about Success and Failure [Hardcover]

Andreas Kluth
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Jan 2012

The life of Hannibal, the Carthaginian general who crossed the Alps with his army in 218 BCE, is the stuff of legend. And the epic choices he and his Roman enemies made on the battlefield and in life offer timeless lessons to us today about how we should respond to our own victories and defeats.

Inspired by ancient history, Hannibal and Me explores the triumphs and disasters in our lives by examining the decisions made by Hannibal and others, including Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Steve Jobs, Ernest Shackleton, and Paul Cézanne. Kluth shows why some overcome failure and others succumb to it, and why some fall victim to success while others thrive on it. The result is a page-turning adventure tale, a compelling human drama, and an insightful guide to understanding behavior.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books,U.S. (5 Jan 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594488126
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594488122
  • Product Dimensions: 3 x 16.5 x 25.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 750,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Andreas Kluth's absorbing exploration of the life of the great military commander Hannibal will inspire you to look beyond simplistic notions of success toward a deeper understanding of what it is to live the good life. This is a book full of lessons both profound and practical."
--Daniel H. Pink, bestselling author "of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us"

"A serious and fascinating exploration of issues many of us grapple with on a daily basis."
--"New York Journal of Books"

"A startlingly fresh outlook on an old mystery."
--Patrick Hunt, "Electrum Magazine"

--"Los Angeles"" Magazine"

"Kluth does superior work in spelling out the elusive values of success and failure...Realistic and timely, Kluth's book uses historic truths to move us past the frequent traps of success and failure to mold practical, productive lives."
--"Publishers Weekly

""A study of the ephemeral nature of power that grapples, often very effectively, with the meaning of true happiness..."Hannibal and Me" is a rare blend of military strategy and emotional intelligence that offers a more mature solution for winning life's battles."
--"Kirkus Reviews"

"["Hannibal and Me"'s] fresh perspective, drawing on the life of a warrior who lived more than two millennia ago, gives it a fresh appeal."--"Booklist" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Andreas Kluth has been writing for "The Economist" since 1997. A dual citizen of Germany and the United States, Kluth is a graduate of Williams College and the London School of Economics and currently lives in Berlin. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By William Cohen VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I came to regard Rudyard Kipling's poem If was a corny work, beloved by Rotarians and dim-witted public school types. Andreas Kluth has made me see it afresh. He liked the line, 'If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same', and he has used it to create a rich and deep text which examines the question of success in life. What does it mean?

Kluth takes the sort of life stories that fascinate ambitious adolescents - Shackleton, Hannibal, Steve Jobs - and retells them beautifully, but he adds in the details of what happened to them after their great victories. It turns out that success can be as difficult to deal with as failure. Time takes the edge off heroism and can sink a character who is not prepared to accept change. I'm 43 and many of the experiences of my 20s and 30s, I considered huge failures, but as I get older I begin to see they were actually not so bad, in fact I can be quite proud of them.

When I left school, I watched in amazement as Sam Mendes, who was a few years above me, became a Hannibal in the world of entertainment. He won every prize in theatre and film and then married one of the biggest stars. How did he do it? How could any of us match his achievements? But in middle-age success has become more complex even for him.

So this book is for anyone who is beginning to see through the one-dimensional aspirations of youth. It's timely because so many people feel they have lived through prosperity built of firm foundations for the past 15 years, and they're discovering that it wasn't true. Andreas Kluth has written a gripping, thoughtful and wise book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars if you can meet with triumph and disaster.... 10 April 2012
By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Andreas Kluth has taken the Kipling poem 'If' as part of the inspiration of this book, related it to the story of Hannibal and his battles against the Romans, in particular his nemesis Scipio, and linked it all together to show what separates success from failure, and how best to treat these impostors in order to achieve future successes.

Kluth has taken numerous examples of the lives of people from all walks of life; Einstien, Freud, Jung, Tiger Woods, Eleanor Roosevelt, Ernest Shackleton and Lance Armstrong are just a few of the characters who cross these pages, with fascinating tales of how they faced their triumphs and met their disasters.

Kluth makes it clear that it is easier to handle success when it comes later in life, and that what we see as disaster is often the beginning of something better. He cautions us to remain fixed on strategy and not to be distracted by tactics - it is the coming peace, not the war and certainly not the battle which matters for future success and happiness, and it is in overcoming disaster that the greatest achievements of some of the true greats lie.

This a wonderful book - beautifully written, highly readable, and with some important lessons for life.

Highly recommended
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 16 July 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Interesting book
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  45 reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eastern Philosophy Extracted from Western History 10 Jan 2012
By Howard Goldowsky - Published on Amazon.com
Kluth, a staff writer for the Economist magazine, interprets the life trajectories of multiple historical figures, focusing primarily on Hannibal, the Carthaginian general who almost overthrew Rome. Kluth finds parallels between Hannibal's life, the other historical figures' lives, and his own. The "successes" and "failures" of these lives are interpreted to produce meaning. The book derives its power from constantly challenging the reader to find parallels and meaning in her or his own life.

"Hannibal and Me" reads like a Western interpretation of Taoist and (some) Buddhist philosophy. It's no accident that the book's final paragraphs include a passage from the Bhagavad Gita, and talk about equanimity and self-actualization, the abilities of a person to remain level-headed throughout their life, both during the short- and long-term. These final paragraphs sum up Kluth's admiration for those people who can control their emotions, feel satisfied, live in the moment, and be content with their lot. Self-actualization is Kluth's modern interpretation of the Eastern monk's daily routine of meditation, of 'chop wood and carry water.' The whole book is a journey of ideas that culminates in these final paragraphs.

The strength of "Hannibal and Me" lies in its organization. The book is structured to chronologically progress through Hannibal's triumphs and failures, and in the process it references other figures' -- Steve Jobs, Eleanor Roosevelt, the explorer Shackleton, Einstein, the novelist Amy Tan, Kluth's uncle Erhard (a former head of W. Germany), Tiger Woods, Tennessee Williams, and many, many others -- parallel life situations. Kluth even references his own life, which gives the book the flavor of a memoir. Kluth analyzes these lives, based on modern psychological theory anchored by Carl Jung (yet another profile). In the end we're left with, as Aristotle would say, an examined life. The book is worth reading if only to get yourself to perform an examination on your own life.

Woven into this life analysis is a series of philosophical concepts that we need to be aware of in order to achieve equanimity and self-actualization. Some of these "life secrets," so Eastern in flavor, include the distinction between strategy and tactics, how to level emotions, how to use our opponents' aggressiveness against them (and we all have opponents, even if we don't want to admit it), how to balance between general principles and specific situations, plus many, many others, all universal truths that modern living often steals from us as we lead our busy and emotionally filled lives.

Since most people never examine their lives, Kluth likes to label traditional success and failure as impostors. What looks like "success" in the short-term often is just one step on the trajectory toward ultimate failure; what looks like "failure" is often a speed bump on the path to ultimate success. We would not know this about ourselves if we did not put our and other lives into perspective.

The only small improvement I would make to the book is that Kluth often spends a lot of time summarizing history. For someone like me who does not know many historical facts, this was wonderful; but for others some sections may seem tedious. Nevertheless, this book is a fantastic introduction to how to make your life better lived.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There is some Hannibal in us all 14 Jan 2012
By J. Lebeck - Published on Amazon.com
Hannibal and Me is about taking the time to contemplate where you are in life and where you would like to be. Mr. Kluth uses Hannibal as a historical metaphore for understanding your obstacles, confronting them on your terms, and being diligent and focused in overcoming them.

Mr. Kluth draws parallels with many other famous people from antiquity (e.g. Cleopatra) to the modern (e.g. Tiger Woods) as he chronicologically works through specific milestones in Hannibal's life to draw parallels between how these different people achieved success and failure in various stages of their lives much like Hannibal did.

Mr. Kluth aptly demonstrates there are different methods of achieving success. Some people achieve greatness through great acts of insight or daring early in life while others take smaller, more methodical, steps and achieve it later in life. Some others stumble through their youth to do great things later in life through a combination of small steps and insight or daring.

He also emphysizes success can be a proverbial double-edged sword where even if a life goal is reached, there needs to be a strategy to cope with what comes after or the success could ultimately become a failure (which Mr. Kluth terms an imposter).

Hannibal and Scipio (the Roman general that ultimately defeated Hannibal) both had brilliant military careers and yet both ultimately became persona non grata to the respective aspiring empires they dedicated their youth to. If you aren't mindful of the larger picture beyond your immediate struggles, you can have great triumphs and successes during your life and yet die with nothing.

There is something in this book for everyone regardless of whether you are interested in Hannibal or not.

This is not just a book about Hannibal, we all have a little Hannibal in us, it is a book about awakening the insightful, innovative, and driven Hannibal in you.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, educational and transforming 10 Jan 2012
By mandarinmom - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Hannibal and Me is a journey through the triumphs and failures of not just military strategists, but great men and women in arts, literature, sports, politics, psychology and science. It is an experience that every person will relate to simply by the fact that we all succeed and fail at times in our lives.
Mr. Kluth's ability to take us from the ancient lands of Carthage and Rome to the modern tactical discipline of Tiger Woods creates a fantastic voyage through time and into the lives of many remarkable historical and modern personalities. His stories flow effortlessly bringing us into Cleopatra's mind as an ambitious seductress and Einstein's self-imposed imprisonment. His words are entertaining while educating and transforming one's outlook.
Most compelling is Mr. Kluth's skill in reforming our understanding of success and failure. By traveling in the footsteps of other's trials and tribulations, we come to see the concept of success as a prison and failure as a liberation. In a sense, he challenges us to rethink our current goals, to refocus on the tee and to let go of the chains disguised as success.
At a time when many people are staring at adversity and their own Swiss Alps to cross, Hannibal and Me is inspiring and uplifting.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun book 9 July 2012
By Utah Streamer - Published on Amazon.com
This book is uneven. The parts about Hannibal are lively and engrossing. The parts about modern politicians are not so much. The author must have written each in about ten minutes because he pulls their individual epiphanies from their own autobiographies with no skepticism or analysis. We all know politicians never lie. Also, apparently only Democratic politicians ever have life changing experiences. In addition, the author must never watch professional golf or play golf himself. He says among pro golfers only Tiger Woods plays "green to tee" (as opposed to "tee to green"). Please Mr. Kluth, pick a sport about which you know something. All professional and good amateur golfers know exactly where they want to lay up to the green and what clubs to get them there. It just doesn't always work out the way they planned. Still a fun book-just skip the dorky parts that seem like they were written for children.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good. Very worthwhile. It caused me to think about events in my own life and my subsequent actions. 17 Dec 2013
By Jane - Published on Amazon.com
It’s an uplifting book. It reminds me of the Malcolm Gladwell books. If you like those, I think you’ll like this.

The author talks about many famous people - their triumphs, tragedies, successes, failures. What makes this book special is seeing what these people did “after” their success or failure, what happened and why. Some reacted poorly to success resulting in problems or tragedy. Some made changes in their lives after a failure which led to great success. I enjoyed these stories.

The author talks about psychological concepts: the stages of grief when there is a loss (or failure) and a little about Maslow’s self actualization. He talks about John Paul Sartre’s statement “Hell is other people” - the schoolyard bully, office politics, and any mediocre man or woman who sees others succeed and hates them for it. Hannibal and Scipio (the Roman commander) had great success but later suffered due to fellow citizens who were jealous and conspired against them.

The Hannibal story is fascinating. He was outnumbered. He was facing the Romans on a plain which is the way the Romans liked to fight. Yet Hannibal was able to surround the Romans so that most of the Romans were inside their own circle and couldn’t get to the perimeter to fight. Hannibal won. I loved what Scipio did in a later battle - how he defended against Hannibal’s attacking war elephants.

Hannibal was successful in battles, but he (Carthage) lost the war with the Romans - 13 years later. The author shows how tactics win battles, but strategies win wars. Ask whether you want to annihilate the enemy, or get concessions and live in harmony afterwards. The latter means allowing the enemy dignity.

It was fascinating how the Romans used strategy. Those who engaged in battle with Hannibal lost. Fabius (a Roman leader) was successful because he would not fight Hannibal. He was an example of how doing nothing can be the best course of action.

The author talked about early vs. late achievers. Picasso and Einstein were early achievers. Picasso’s later works were never as famous as his early works and sold for less. After Einstein’s early success, he had no more success in his field because he lost his youthful imagination and was close minded. He refused to accept the idea of randomness and chaos which is the basis for quantum something. Cezanne, Harry Truman, and Carl Jung were examples of later-in-life achievers.

Other stories include Eleanor Roosevelt, Ludwig Erhard (former head or W. Germany), Shackleton (Antartica explorer), Meriwether Lewis (Lewis & Clark expedition), Amy Tan (novelist), Morihei Ueshiba (founded the Japanese martial art of aikido), the Chinese President Liu Shaoqi and his wife, Tiger Woods, Cleopatra, Lance Armstrong, Eliot Spitzer, and Steve Jobs.

The narrator Sean Runette was good.

Narrative mode: some 1st person, most 3rd person. Unabridged audiobook length: 12 hrs and 4 mins. Swearing language: none. Sexual content: none. Setting: Historical figures from 300 BCE to current day. Book copyright: 2011. Genre: psychology and history, nonfiction.
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