Lovers of pop history will find much to enjoy in this cultural history’s ten entertaining chapters. The connection he draws between ancient conquerors and modern mob bosses and corporations is fascinating, and his efforts at reading the past through modern psychology produce interesting insights. Professionally trained historians will be frustrated by his reliance on Whiggish periodization and sweeping generalizations, while readers of premodern literature and theology may wonder why those texts, detailing the horrors and pleasures of conquest, are absent from Abraham’s analysis.
Abraham anticipates some of these critiques, presenting them as further evidence for his argument precisely because it upends prevailing scholarship. In this way, Kings reads as much as an attempt to provoke discussion as to prove its thesis. Yet Abraham doesn’t simply put forth a historical account. His work is a call-to-arms urging readers to assert power over our political system to consign to the past the psychopathy that has shaped our culture. Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths is a concise, compelling, and challenging exploration of how humanity became what it is.
Takeaway: Abraham’s entertaining and informative debut will inspire readers to rethink why humanity embraces authoritarian leaders.
Great for fans of: Anne Applebaum’s Twilight of Democracy; Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B+
"...the relationships between well-known titans of U. S. corporations in the 1940’s and the Nazi regime are disturbing and provide a reason to rethink what [we] know about commerce and the economic benefits of war. The point made by Dr. Abraham is that this is nothing out of the ordinary in authoritarian societies but reflects the patterns of behavior throughout history."
“Abraham reviews the historical precedent for accepting corruption and violence from our authorities. Why do we excuse an act, unforgivable if committed by an ordinary citizen, if executed or ordered by a leader?”
"In his must-read, can’t-put-it-down book Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths: From Alexander to Hitler to the Corporation, Joseph N. Abraham provides a fresh take on these and other questions, backing it up with solid (often shocking) research that concludes we can’t just blame authoritarians but those who follow, obey, and emulate them. It is virtually in humanity’s genetics. He convincingly makes (and documents) the case that despite often romantic images, kings and conquerors were vicious criminals — and the fact the they were psychopaths, narcissists, and sadists became whitewashed, almost in a form of mass hypnosis. Much of what they did and actually were like somehow vanished from cultural perceptions over time."
"If you are at all interested in politics and in the future of our country and, indeed, the future of mankind, this may be the most important book you will ever read."
"Some political observers and historians feel that authoritarianism, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, is making a comeback in the United States and in Europe after being discredited and (in part) defeated during World War II. The questions are always: how does that happen? Is it the strength of personalities, or ideologies that become unstoppable? Where did it start and can’t we be comforted by all the powerful kings and conquerors throughout history?"
Winner: Current Events/Social Change
Finalist: Historical Nonfiction
“There’s no question about it: this is an unsavory subject, but an irresistible one. Abraham paints fascinating (if very dark) portraits of the worst of humanity, and tries to answer that most important of questions — why does society give power to despots and demagogues? If you liked Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test, you’ll want to read this book.”