Monday, January 24, 2011

Mandela's way: Fifteen lesson on life, love, and courage

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

Mandela’s Way: Fifteen lessons on life, love, and courage

By Richard Stengel

Before embarking on this book, know what you’re getting.  This is not a biography.  As a self-help book, it does not contain earth-shattering, newly discovered, unique ideas that will move you from where you are to where you want to be.  Also, it is not an in-depth examination of any aspect of Mandela’s life.

It is, indeed, an easily digestible, comfortable collection of vignettes written by an editor of Time magazine who has “distilled countless hours of intimate conversation [and experiences] with Mandela into fifteen essential life lessons.  For nearly three years,” the front flyleaf of the book continues, “Stengel collaborated with Mandela on his autobiography and traveled with him everywhere.  Eating with him, watching him campaign, hearing him think out loud, Stengel came to know all the different sides of this complex man and became a cherished friend and colleague.”

The book gives you but a glimpse of the man; however, if that is all you want or care about, you get solid and interesting insights.

There are several things I really enjoyed about this book.  First, it offered me more than enough information about Mandela.  I really needed to know nothing more!

Second, the personal insights and observations were delightful.  I didn’t just enjoy the information Stengel shared with readers, but even more, I enjoyed the manner in which it was shared.  Stengel is a good writer, and the material flows effortlessly and comfortably; thus, reading the book is a pleasure.

Third, the stories, anecdotes, experiences, and insights are wonderfully engaging.  This is truly an entertaining book.

Fourth, it is a quick read.  It is a small book to begin with, and with each line widely separated from the one before and the one after, there are only 25 lines on a page.  Also, with only 239 pages of content, it is a very quick read.

Fifth, although the “lessons” are not earth-shattering, as noted above, it is always nice to have some fundamentals reinforced.  Lessons include: courage is not the absence of fear, be measured, lead from the front, lead from the back, look the part, have a core principle, see the good in others, now your enemy, keep your rivals close, know when to say no, it’s a long game, love makes the difference, quitting is leading too, it’s always both, and find your own garden.

Jill Guntur of New York ended her review of the book at in this way: “This wonderful book takes you through the life of Nelson Mandela from his childhood, through the freedom fighter days, into prison and the incredible journey of 27 years that could not destroy his soul, and then into his life after and his second marriage. It is an inspiring book and is beautifully written.”  I couldn’t agree more.

Get this book at

Mandela’s Way: Fifteen lessons on life, love, and courage -  By Richard Stengel

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