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Biography of the Dollar: How the Mighty Buck Conquered the World and Why It's Under Siege Paperback – April 7, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; Reprint edition (April 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307339874
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307339874
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.2 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,582,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this colorful but sometimes superficial survey of the history and present role of the U.S. dollar, Wall Street Journal reporter Karmin tackles the complex dynamics that have placed American currency at the top of the global economy and the forces that now threaten its position there. In six loosely linked chapters—one offers a peek inside a currency-trading hedge fund, while another takes readers to Ecuador, which in 2000 abandoned its own currency and adopted the dollar as its only legal tender—Karmin examines the dollar's unprecedented role as the first truly global currency that is trusted and accepted around the world, a phenomenon based on little more than faith in the U.S. government and the idea of America. The book is studded with interesting trivia, especially in a chapter about the Department of Engraving and Printing, which produces $529 million in banknotes every day and once printed counterfeit Cuban pesos as part of a government plan to destabilize Castro's regime, but Karmin occasionally sacrifices depth and explication in order to maintain the book's fast pace and glib tone. It's a fun read, but doesn't add up to more than the sum of its disparate parts. (Feb. 26)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"For decades the dollar has reigned supreme, so much so that many take it as part of the natural order. But we're in an era of rapid change and the dollar is not immune. Craig Karmin's Biography of the Dollar is an indispensable guide to understanding the way both the U.S. and the world economies work and the dollar's role in keeping the economic skids greased. Karmin's great skill is his ability to take what in lesser hands would seem like complex and opaque ideas and make them transparent, understandable and relevant, whether you are an entrepreneur, work in a Fortune 500 company or simply trying to understand what in the world is going on."
—Ram Charan, author of Know-How and co-author of Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done

"After 50 pages, I was able to hold my own discussing currency trading with a vice president at JP Morgan Chase. This is an incredible book that should be required reading for anyone whose future depends on understanding how the dollar is valued and manipulated. Whether you work in finance, travel internationally, or simply haven't been taught why the dollar rises or falls in relation to other currencies, read Biography of the Dollar now—or suffer the consequences."
Timothy Ferriss, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The 4-Hour Workweek


From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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The book is fun to read and quite instructive.
Rodrigo Silveira
I strongly recommend readers to visit BEP before reading this book because you will be more involved with the topic as you read the book.
Hosan Jeon
Craig Karmin's new book, "Biography of the Dollar," explores a world that most of us in America take for granted - the world of currency.
Roger Corn

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Roger Corn on March 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Craig Karmin's new book, "Biography of the Dollar," explores a world that most of us in America take for granted - the world of currency. So, what's so important about the currency? My answer to that is simple- everything.

A free-flowing, stable currency is what makes all trade possible- both domestically and internationally. A lack of confidence in the underlying value of a currency can bring entire economies to a screeching halt. The results can be devastating- life savings are wiped out, hyperinflation can take root, debt is defaulted on, investment dries up. It can take decades for economies to recover.

If you're like me, you probably haven't given much thought to these issues. Because, as Americans, they seem to be such remote possibilities. But are they . . . ?

Karmin's book does an excellent job of informing the reader of how the US Dollar is created, distributed and used not only in the United States; but, throughout the world. Karmin covers many aspects of the Greenback- from printing (it costs 5.7 cents to print one) to foreign government's hoarding (60% of the dollars in circulation are overseas) to lending and interest rates (thank China, not the fed, for keeping US consumer borrowing rates low).

Karmin also brings to light the intense pressure that the Dollar is under every day from seemingly all sides:

-the U.S. Government's unwillingness to balance the budget,
-Asian and Middle Eastern countries growing less interested with "subsidizing" the value of the Dollar,
-the solidifying of the Euro as an alternative global currency, and
-the U.S.
Read more ›
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rodrigo Silveira on July 1, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I picked it up I was expecting a historical journey starting with the revolutionary period and ending in today. What I got was a high level overview of key events this century, mostly in the last fifty years. The author offers deep and quite instructive insights in the dollar from a trade and monetary policy points of view, showing their deep connections, which goes unnoticed by most. I'm curious about macro economics and monetary policy has been an area where I've not been able to absorb any meaningful material until I read this book. It offers interesting insights about how financial instruments, particularly money and bonds, play a role in government policy and the economy as a whole. The book is fun to read and quite instructive.
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25 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Amazonian on April 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book following Amazon's recommendation, which recommended me serveral decent books in the past. This book just doesn't cut it. Here is a chapter by chapter description:

Chapter 1. The author spends three pages talking about how *rich* John Taylor, the founder of a currency fund, is. Utterly boring and totally irrelevant. Then he proceeds to dicuss many other funds, boring... nothing specifically about the operations, just in general the funds. Then he jumps back for another 20 pages of sales job for Mr. Taylor. I can't help wondering if Mr. Taylor is a patron who made publishing such a mediocre book possible.

Chapter 2. How $ dollars are printed. Yes, literally printed. Not circulating currency volume in economic sense. I couldn't care less.

Chapter 3. Gold standard, Nixon, Bretton Woods. If you know a bit monetary history, that's all this chapter is about.

Chatper 4. Some foreign countries (Ecuador for one) use USD directly (therefore a dollar colony). And... mmmh... that's it.

Chapter 5. Some foreign countries buy dollars as foreign currency reserve (duh)

Chapter 6. Americans are spending too much. Now it's not clear if dollar will enjoy the same status in the future.

Overall, it's a poorly written book. Not insightful, nor well written. Reading the book is like listening to a monotonic description of how to operate a refrigerator.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Hosan Jeon on November 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
Craig Karmin presents dollar's unique rise and potential dangers facing its status. I enjoyed the book since it had many interesting facts and histories about the US currency in general. What I enjoyed the most is the chapter 2 which detailed about Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Recently visited BEP and saw its greenback factory in action, which enabled me to appreciate the facts and interesting stories behind the BEP. I strongly recommend readers to visit BEP before reading this book because you will be more involved with the topic as you read the book. Chapter 5 also revealed how country's fate can turn itself within a short period time by sacrifice. I believe dollars will prevail for long time despite of financial crises because it is difficult to shift from what the world was being used to.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mariusz Skonieczny on August 14, 2009
Format: Paperback
The author says that the dollar has helped the world's economic expansion, but at the same time encouraged the United States to borrow heavily from foreigners. Now these foreign lenders are questioning whether the U.S. will be able to keep paying the interest on these loans. If they lose faith in our country's ability to pay, this could have very negative consequences for us and the rest of the world.

The dollar has a special status because it is the primary unit of international trade and finance. It is simply the world's currency. But the status of the dollar is changing and might one day be replaced by the Euro or the Yuan. I learned a lot from this book and recommend it to others.

- Mariusz Skonieczny, author of Why Are We So Clueless about the Stock Market? Learn how to invest your money, how to pick stocks, and how to make money in the stock market
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