The Myth of the Strong Leader -- Political Leadership in the Modern Age by Archie Brown, BasicBooks '14, $29.99, 466 pages, ASIN #0465027660. Index, notes and sources, unillustrated.
Leadership is such an elusive word, whether applied to governing or the directing of business entities. Author Archie Brown, a specialist in politics, deconstructs in his new book "the misconception that strength is the most important qualifying factor when looking for a leader." Using as examples such leaders as Nelson Mandela, Charles de Gaulle, Margaret Thatcher, and Mikhail Gorbachev, Brown discusses what it means to lead and the varying roles leaders can play in their country's political history.
His conclusions may surprise some readers. A few examples:
*"Ronald Reagan wasn't a redefining leader, and he wasn't central in bringing the Cold War to a close; he was just at the right place at the right time and left the budget deficit larger than when he took office. It was Gorbachev who fundamentally changed Soviet and foreign defense policy.
*"Even in the 21st century, Stalin frequently tops the poll when citizens of post-Soviet Russia are asked to name the greatest leader of their country in the 20th century.
*"Fundamental change is usually heralded by leaders in an autoquarian system, so the US has only had a few such leaders. In fact, our last truly transformational leader was Abraham Lincoln. Transformational leaders in other countries include Adolfo Suarez in Spain, Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union, Deng Xaioping in China, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, and Charles de Gaulle and his creation of the Fifth French Republic."
Author Archie Brown is emeritus professor of politics at Oxford University and an Emeritus Fellow of St. Antony's College, Oxford, where he was a professor of politics and director of St. Antony's Russian and East European Centre. He has written or edited more than 18 books and lives in Oxford.
Brando's Smile -- His Life, Thought, and Work by Susan L. Mizruchi, Norton '14, $27.95, Index, notes, appendix, b&w images sprinkled through text.
"Marlon Brando loved watching people, a habit that supported a genius for impersonation and characterization," writes author Susan L. Mizruchi in her Introduction. "Though it came naturally, he pursued it with an almost scientific zeal. 'The face is an extraordinarily subtle intstrument, he noted. 'I believe it has 155 muscles in it. The interaction of those muscles can hide a great deal, and people have very non-expressive faces'....
"....'In such cases I try to read their body posture, the increase in the blink rate of their eyes, their aimless yawning or a failure to complete a yawn -- anything that denotes emotions they don't want to display.' Brando made a lifelong study of emotions and the differences of personality and culture that inhibited their expression, which he managed to exploit in a remarkable variety of film roles."
Author Susan L.Mizruchi, a professor of English at Boston University, specializes in American literature, cultural history, and film. Her most recent work was The Rise of Multicultural America. She lives in Boston.
Black Baseball Entrepreneurs -- The Negro National and Eastern Colored Leagues, 1902-1931 by Michael E. Lomax, Syracuse UPress '14 paperback. $34.95, 472 pages, ASIN #0815610394. Index, bibliography, notes, grouping of b&w images.
From the back cover:
"As the companion volume to Black Baseball Entrepreneurs, 1860--1901: Operating by Any Means Necessary, Lomax's new book continues to chronicle the history of black baseball in the United States. The first volume traced the development of baseball from an exercise in community building among African Americans in the pre-Civil War era to a commercialized amusement and a rare and lucrative opportunity for entrepreneurship within the black community.
"In this book, Lomax takes a closer look at the marketing and promotion of the Negro Leagues by black baseball magnates. He explores how race influenced black baseball's institutional development and shaped the business relationship with white clubs and managers. Lomas analyzes the decisions that black baseball magnates made to insulate themselves from outside influences. He explains how this insulation may have distorted their perceptions and ultimately led to the Negro Leagues' demise. The collapse of the Negro Leagues by 1931 was, Lomax argues, 'a dream deferred in the overall African American pursuit for freedom and self-determination."
Author Michael E. Lomax is associate professor of sports history in the Dept. of Health and Human Physiology at the University of Iowa.