The Adven­tures of Her­bie Cohen: World’s Great­est Negotiator

September 1, 2021

Meet Her­bie Cohen, World’s Great­est Nego­tia­tor, deal­mak­er, risk tak­er, racon­teur, advis­er to pres­i­dents and cor­po­ra­tions, hostage and arms nego­tia­tor, les­son giv­er and jus­tice seek­er, author of the how-to busi­ness clas­sic You Can Nego­ti­ate Any­thing. And, of course, New York Times-best-sell­ing author Rich Cohen’s father. The Adven­tures of Her­bie Cohen fol­lows our hero from his youth spent run­ning around Ben­son­hurst with his pals Sandy Koufax, Lar­ry King, Who Ha, Inky, and Ben the Wor­ri­er; to his days coach­ing bas­ket­ball in the army in Europe; to his years as a devot­ed and uncon­ven­tion­al hus­band, father, and Jew­ish Bud­dha’ cross­ing the coun­try to give lec­tures, set­tle dis­putes, and hone the art of suc­cess while find­ing mean­ing in this strange, fun­ny world. This book is an ode to a remark­able man by an ador­ing but not undis­cern­ing son, and a trea­sure trove of hilar­i­ous antics and coun­ter­in­tu­itive wis­dom. It’s a bil­dungsro­man, a col­lec­tion of tall tales, the unfold­ing of a unique biog­ra­phy coiled around Herbie’s guid­ing prin­ci­ple: The secret of life is to care, but not that much.

Discussion Questions

This affec­tion­ate and clear-eyed por­trait was writ­ten with humor, ten­der­ness, and love by a son about his father. Her­bie Cohen, a street­wise kid from Brook­lyn who said he learned every­thing he need­ed on those streets, became the Aris­to­tle of hus­tle.” Her­bie devel­oped his skills as a mas­ter nego­tia­tor by out­fox­ing, out­think­ing, out­flank­ing, and out-empathiz­ing with his oppo­nents and thus out-nego­ti­at­ing them. He lec­tured at Har­vard and Yale, was in demand all over the world, yet he retained the per­son­al­i­ty of a rau­cous kid in a harm­less boy­hood gang. Through all of his adven­tures, he thought of him­self as a free­lance injus­tice fight­er and used his skills to empow­er those who need­ed a leg up. His insight at the end of the book is a fit­ting coda: The mean­ing of life is more life.” Her­bie Cohen is remark­able indeed, and this delight­ful and engag­ing mem­oir does jus­tice to him.