A compact, profoundly inspiring book that captures the spirit of Nelson Mandela, distilling the South African leader’s wisdom into 15 vital life lessons.
We long for heroes and have too few. Nelson Mandela, who recently celebrated his ninety-fourth birthday, is the closest thing the world has to a secular saint. He liberated a country from a system of violent prejudice and helped unite oppressor and oppressed in a way that had never been done before.
Now Richard Stengel, the editor of Time magazine, has distilled countless hours of intimate conversation with Mandela into fifteen essential life lessons. For nearly three years, including the critical period when Mandela moved South Africa toward the first democratic elections in its history, Stengel collaborated with Mandela on his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, 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.
In Mandela’s Way, Stengel recounts the moments in which “the grandfather of South Africa” was tested and shares the wisdom he learned: why courage is more than the absence of fear, why we should keep our rivals close, why the answer is not always either/or but often “both,” how important it is for each of us to find something away from the world that gives us pleasure and satisfaction—our own garden. Woven into these life lessons are remarkable stories—of Mandela’s childhood as the protégé of a tribal king, of his early days as a freedom fighter, of the twenty-seven-year imprisonment that could not break him, and of his fulfilling remarriage at the age of eighty.
This uplifting book captures the spirit of this extraordinary man—warrior, martyr, husband, statesman, and moral leader—and spurs us to look within ourselves, reconsider the things we take for granted, and contemplate the legacy we’ll leave behind. (Summary and book cover courtesy of goodreads.com)
There were some aspects of this book that I enjoyed a lot and some aspects I found frustrating. The “life lessons” were sometimes relevant and sometimes seemed geared to too young an audience. This may be cynicism coming through, but some items were over-simplified.
That aside, I learned a LOT about Mandela’s life and the discrete stories in each chapter were fascinating. Stengel does a fantastic job boiling down a lifetime of memories to a short book without watering down Mandela’s character. Some weaknesses were acknowledged and I appreciated the effort to try to separate the public figure from the private figure at times. This kept Mandela from being portrayed too much of a secular god.
I’d recommend this book as a good/quick overview, but I will be looking forward to reading more in depth biographies in the future.
Rating: 3 stars!
Who Should Read It? Folks looking for a quick overview of Mandela’s life.