Books: Heroes squeezed through a template

Snippets, cliches and namedropping are offered here, rather than real character studies of achievers, says Nigel Nicholson.

Success Built to Last
Jerry Porras, Stewart Emery and Mark Thompson
Pearson £14.99
To order, visit

This is an entertaining but ultimately depressing, frustrating and misleading book. It will sell extremely well. How could it fail? It trades on the association that has bred two worthy bestsellers - Built to Last (James Collins and Jerry Porras) and Good to Great (Collins) - and focuses on the irresistible theory that if you talk to enough successful people, you'll unearth the secret of personal success.

It is depressing that such an apparently huge database of interview material should be reduced to this exhausting parade of snippets, homilies, cliches and relentless name-dropping, masquerading as systematic analysis. Jerry Porras and his team have gathered interview material from more than 200 'remarkable' and 'talented' people in public life (almost all American) so that they can spin out a menu of exhortations for readers thirsty for the secrets of success.

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