As a typical (sorry peeps, just how I see it) American, I really didn't know much about Napoleon.
I KNEW he was the Emperor of France, a pretty good general, and fell sometime after the French Revolution, but I had literally NO IDEA how Napoleon fit and his place in world history.
AFTER reading this book I spoke with a couple of my colleagues from France (hello Pierre & Eric) and asked them how the French people think about Napoleon. It was really interesting AND their answers agreed wholeheartedly with the “net net” of the book. Many French are of a split mind when it come to Napoleon – Great… or Scary…
This book is a GREAT first overview book – not a trivial project. These are some of the take-aways you'll get from this amazing book:
- Napoleon was an amazingly complex individual – defying descriptions.
- By nearly any measure, Napoleon was an intellectual giant. Goethe said “My hours with Napoleon were some of the most intellectual hours of my life.” (This is a massive paraphrase, ok?)
- Nearly 300 years removed, Napoleon's influence on the world is immeasurable.
- He wasn't just a good military commander – he likely had no peer in history – not Alexander, not Caesar, no one. True – Wellington bested him – but that wasn't Napoleon's best that Wellington faced either.
- Napoleon was amazingly authentic.
- Napoleon probably wasn't the war-monger he is made out to be – there was a much, much larger battle raging – one between monarchies and self-destination and Napoleon, albeit declaring himself Emperor was a key pivot in history.
There are a number of lessons you can take from this book for your own (or mine) learning:
- It is ok to take lots of baths.
- Sleep when you need to sleep – work when you need/want to work.
- Work ethic – Napoleon had it, but directed it at things he was most interested in.
- If you don't want to do something – don't.
- If you eat meat with little else for most of your life, BEWARE!
I couldn't recommend this book more. On the whole, the author seemed wonderfully balanced and I trust his writing. This is one of the few that I would consider reading again.