A landmark book.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller



A massively reported deep dive into the unparalleled corporate industrial giant Koch Industries.

In 1967, Charles Koch inherited from his recently deceased father the leadership of a medium-sized, nearly invisible industrial conglomerate based in Wichita, Kansas. Charles would build the conglomerate into an entity so sprawling, profitable, and politically powerful that it seems to defy all reason. “Koch’s operations span the entire landscape of the American economy,” writes business reporter Leonard (The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America's Food Business, 2014). “The company’s story is the story of America’s energy system, of its blue-collar factory workers, of millionaire derivatives traders, corporate lobbyists, and private equity deal makers.” Brother David shared ownership and participated in management of the company, which never sold stock to the public. Another brother challenged Charles by filing lawsuits but, over the decades, finally pulled back. The fourth brother never became involved in the operation of the business. As the author shows, the Koch brand does not appear on consumer products. Rather, the brothers became multibillionaires by controlling oil and gas production, paper products, derivatives trading in multiple commodities, engineering services, and much more. At first interested in influencing electoral politics to aid Koch Industries’ profitability, Charles eventually expanded the corporate presence inside state legislatures and the U.S. Congress partly for ideological reasons. Labeling Charles’ political philosophy is impossible, but there is definitely a kinship to libertarianism, with an emphasis on capitalist free markets untrammeled by government intervention. Charles opposed almost every policy of President Barack Obama and then battled various Donald Trump initiatives for entirely different reasons. Leonard is especially skilled at explicating the politics as well as at delineating how Koch Industries dominated industrial sectors, with natural gas extraction via fracking a timely recent example. This impressively researched and well-rendered book also serves as a biography of Charles Koch, with Leonard providing an evenhanded treatment of the tycoon. Leonard’s work is on par with Steve Coll’s Private Empire and even Ida Tarbell’s enduring classic The History of the Standard Oil Company.

A landmark book.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4767-7538-8

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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


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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

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


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

Did you like this book?