Profiles in Folly: History's Worst Decisions and Why They Went Wrong

Profiles in Folly: History's Worst Decisions and Why They Went Wrong

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by Alan Axelrod
     
 

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Using the same engrossing anecdotal format that proved so popular in Profiles in Audacity, bestselling author Alan Axelrod turns to the dark side of audacious decision-making and explores history's most tragic errors. While Axelrod looks at the hopelessly dumb and the overtly evil, the main focus is on smart people who had the best of intentions--but whose

Overview


Using the same engrossing anecdotal format that proved so popular in Profiles in Audacity, bestselling author Alan Axelrod turns to the dark side of audacious decision-making and explores history's most tragic errors. While Axelrod looks at the hopelessly dumb and the overtly evil, the main focus is on smart people who had the best of intentions--but whose plans went disastrously wrong. The 35 compelling, often poignant stories include: the sailing of the Titanic; Edward Bernays's 1929 campaign to recruit women smokers; Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of the Nazis; Ken Lay's deception with Enron; and even the choice to create a “New Coke.” These are cautionary tales--albeit with exquisite twists ranging from acerbic to horrific. New in paperback.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Prolific author Axelrod (Elizabeth I, CEO, The Real History of World War II) has an engaging writing style and a good eye for telling incidents, making his 35 "cautionary tales" of bad decisions (and their deciders) illuminating and interesting. Covering a swath of history from 1250 B.C. to 2005, Axelrod begins with the Trojan Horse ("The Decision to Let Danger In") and ends with President Bush and Hurricane Katrina ("The Decision to Stop Short of Leadership"). Axelrod ends each story with an admonition; the Trojan War illustrates "wars whose cost vastly outweighs the original cause and the potential gain," and Katrina exposes the President as "a man content to vacation in the eye of a storm." This is popular, broad brush-stroke history, and Axelrod's opinions sometimes overreach, but the book is entertaining and occasionally surprising (as in the Japanese preparation for the assault on Peal Harbor). Axelrod helpfully includes a list of recommended reading for each incident covered.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Prolific author Axelrod follows up his Profiles in Audacity: Great Decisions and How They Were Made with this study of 35 of the greatest mistakes in history. The work is divided thematically into six parts (e.g., "Decision To Gamble and Hope," Decision To Manipulate"), each containing vignettes designed, as Axelrod says, to "pique interest, satisfy curiosity [and] teach." The topics span the course of history as well as the globe and include a mixture of the usual suspects, with some perhaps less predictable. For example, there is "New Coke," as well as Watergate, the Iraq War, the Romanovs and Rasputin, the Dreyfus affair, and Ford's Edsel. Often a writer on leadership and management, Axelrod looks at these events as resulting from decisions made by particular people, so he takes into account personalities and character flaws while focusing less on the broader historical context. He warns readers that he makes no claim to being objective in analyzing the events. The result is less a history book than a look backward at leadership and decision making. Still, the book serves as a good introduction to a broad range of historical events. Importantly, Axelrod has included a list of further readings. Recommended for high school and public libraries.
—Lisa A. Ennis

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781402797781
Publisher:
Sterling
Publication date:
04/03/2012
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
808,300
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Alan Axelrod is the author of more than 60 books on subjects covering history, business, and management, including the bestselling Profiles in Audacity, the CEO series, and the Real History series. He has appeared on MSNBC, the Discovery Channel, CNN, Fox, and numerous radio news and talk programs, including NPR. Axelrod and his work have been featured in BusinessWeek, Fortune, Men's Health, Cosmopolitan, and many newspapers, including USA Today.

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Profiles in Folly: History's Worst Decisions and Why They Went Wrong 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is an interesting read of some of the more notable mistakes in decisions from different eras and fields of interest. The author does show a very pronounced liberal bias. One example is when she discusses the Gulf of Tonkin and iraq. Both are identified as misleading but one is clearly identified as a plot and meant to mislead the public for nefarious reasons, and the other is credited to years of policy and well meaning intentions, thereby letting bush/cheney seem evil and LBJ justwrong. Same sort of thing occurs when she talks about Katrina. Read it with a grain of salt.