THE BILLIONAIRES' HANDBOOK

A USER'S GUIDE TO WEALTH AND POWER

A sardonic spoof of business books that lambasts the superrich.

In this cleverly structured, darkly humorous book, portfolio manager/investment banker Stevenson (Cynicism, 2016) writes from a first-person perspective, as if he’s a billionaire candidly revealing his worldview. The resulting mock “handbook” begins with an overview of what he calls “The Old Rules.” In it, the narrator breaks economic history into three main periods: Mercantilism, Capitalism, and Cynicism—the latter of which, he says, is the “new economic system” that has replaced capitalism. Thirty “New Rules” of the post-capitalistic economy follow, each of which Stevenson outlines in biting, satirical text. For example, Rule 15 says that “a CEO’s value is measured by how much of their company’s cash they can get away with transferring into my bank account,” while Rule 22 proclaims, “if you pay someone enough you can always get the answer you are looking for.” Each of the rules, just a few paragraphs long, follows a similarly humorous path. The second part of the book is even darker in tone, as the narrator claims that the 2008 financial meltdown allowed billionaires to tap into “newfound fear and anxiety”: “Then we elected one of our own the President of the United States, and before you knew it, we were right back on track.” (An accompanying illustration shows a Donald Trump–like figure on a throne.) The narrator then proceeds to deliver 25 more rules that take aim at current issues and beliefs with uproarious cynicism. The author addresses health care, immigration, “fake news,” and other topics, depicting billionaires as narcissistic, hardhearted, and morally corrupt. One rule, for instance, advises that “empathy is the enemy of ‘the people’ and by ‘the people’ I mean rich people,” while another observes that “a shrinking middle class is great for lowering your company’s wage bills.” The book’s closing section, “A Few Years Later,” offers readers a novel contrast; in it, the billionaire narrator has retired and has decided that he’d like to be remembered as “The Greatest American of the 21st Century.” The 20 rules that he puts forth at this point reflect the actions of a more compassionate, philanthropic, and socially conscious person; ironically, however, he offers these rules solely in a personal bid for immortality. Overall, there are several elements that make this parody stand out. The voice of the narrator, for one, is spot-on, brilliantly portraying a self-involved and exceedingly callous caricature of a modern-day magnate. Despite occasional grammatical errors, the text is consistently cunning and merciless, and it’s made all the more effective by the inclusion of vibrant, colorful illustrations that cleverly reinforce the content throughout. The last section of the book shrewdly presents what American society could possibly be like if the people in it followed moral tenets of justice and fair play. Overall, this is a tour de farce that offers an unrelentingly amoral, profit-driven characterization of a billionaire, and as with all potent satires, the author’s words hit the mark more often than not.

A wicked and witty work.   

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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