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Hannibal and Me: What History's Greatest Military Strategist Can Teach Us About Success and Failu re Hardcover – January 5, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Here’s an intriguing premise: show, through the life and career of the Carthaginian military genius Hannibal (and other history-makers), how the line between success and failure can sometimes be blurry, not to mention how success can turn into failure when least expected, and vice versa. Always outnumbered, Hannibal planned meticulously and never lost a war against Rome in 16 years of battle. On the other hand, he never conquered Rome. So was his career triumph or tragedy? How about General MacArthur, whose surprise landing at Inchon, South Korea, led to immediate triumph and, later, embarrassing failure? Kluth’s main thesis seems to be that triumph and tragedy, success and failure, are merely points on a line, and that we make our way in life by cultivating the ability to turn failure into success and recognizing that success can breed failure, if we’re not careful. This isn’t the first book to tackle this subject, but its historical perspective, drawing on the life of a warrior who lived more than two millennia ago, gives it fresh appeal. --David Pitt


“Charming and fascinating”
The Wall Street Journal

"What makes or breaks a book like this, with its uncommon structure and sometimes lofty subject matter, is the storytelling, and this book is one of the best in that regard that I have read in a long time."
—Jack Covert,

“Fight any urge to dismiss Hannibal and Me as boys-only self help. True, the book comes complete with warriors, military strategies, elephants, golf, and a seductress, but this book is a serious and fascinating exploration of issues many of us grapple with on a daily basis. Highly recommended.”
New York Journal of Books

“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.”

"[Hannibal and Me's] fresh perspective, drawing on the life of a warrior who lived more than two millennia ago, gives is a fresh appeal." 

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books (January 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594488126
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594488122
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #892,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Andreas Kluth has been writing for The Economist since 1997. He is currently the magazine's Berlin Bureau Chief, covering Germany. He has previously been based in California, Hong Kong and London. Andreas is a graduate of Williams College (US) and the London School of Economics (UK).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Howard Goldowsky on January 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By J. Lebeck on January 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By mandarinmom on January 10, 2012
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.
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Format: Audible Audio Edition
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.
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