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

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9781402797781: Profiles in Folly: History's Worst Decisions and Why They Went Wrong
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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 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.

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About 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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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.
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