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A Global Life: My Journey Among Rich and Poor, from Sydney to Wall Street to the World Bank Hardcover – October 12, 2010


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Frequently Bought Together

A Global Life: My Journey Among Rich and Poor, from Sydney to Wall Street to the World Bank + Voice for the World's Poor: Selected Speeches and Writings of World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn, 1995-2005
Price for both: $49.59

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1 edition (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586482556
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586482558
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 6.5 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #187,921 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Now 76 years old, Wolfensohn (Voice of the World's Poor) has had a rich and varied life as an investment banker, chairman of Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, head of the World Bank, and finally advocate of peace as special envoy to the Middle East. The first third of the book is devoted to a fascinating chronicle of his early life growing up in a close-knit, middle-class Jewish family. His parents, who emigrated from Britain to Australia, faced tough financial times during the Great Depression and over-coddled the young Wolfensohn, expecting him to excel. Though he nearly flunked out of Sidney University, he ultimately earned a law degree and went on to receive an MBA at Harvard and become a U.S. citizen. He writes candidly of the mistakes he made during his long and successful career and the lessons they taught him. Married to his college sweetheart, with three children, he claims that the idea of writing this book, "grew out of a desire to leave... a record of the events that shaped me" for his adult children, and in the hope that younger readers might be encouraged to "follow at least some part of the path he has taken."
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From Booklist

Wolfensohn, investment banker, diplomat, musician, arts patron, and influential player on the global stage, recounts his boyhood in Australia, his education there and abroad, and his marriage and return to Australia to engage in investments and merchant banking while his young family grew. In 1968 he moved to Schroders in London, participating in the Eurodollar revolution, which created the impetus for a new phase of globalization in financial markets, and over time led their New York and London efforts. He joined Salomon Brothers in New York in the early 1980s, where he witnessed the fierce competition and the innovative skills of Wall Street as he built their corporate-finance department and then later formed his own firm. The wide reach of his community interests included chairmanships of Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center in Washington before being named president of the World Bank in 1995. He notes themes that inspired my presidency: fighting poverty, using technology and education to document and spread knowledge, and protecting the environment. --Mary Whaley

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 23 people found the following review helpful By G. Gregory Boyd on October 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Before the reader sits down with Mr. Wolfensohn's book he is best advised to be well-rested because in addition to a fascinating autobiography they are also receiving a forum on international development and global relations, a primer on business, and an introduction to the personal and professional psychological machinations of interpersonal/organizational relationships. Jeffrey Goldstein, one of Wolfensohn's first hires at his investment firm in the 1980s, described Wolfensohn as being "a sponge" during the time they were building Jim's business but judging from his humble childhood in Sydney, Australia to his movement into the highest echelons of power, Wolfensohn also has to be viewed as a laser guided torpedo constantly locking onto new targets be they in business, development, or in the arts. The book paints a picture of a self-assured almost cocky young boy who finds himself, at the outset, getting his head "dunked" by a farmhand into a bucket of lime and who later upon making the Australian Olympic team as a fencer is dismissed by a young autograph seeker who states, "Oh don't worry about him, he's only a fencer." This pattern of challenge and personal reassessment is sprinkled throughout his life. After applying to Oxford (rejected) and failing to receive an appointment as a Rhodes Scholar, Wolfensohn took what was behind door number three, Harvard Business School, and that to paraphrase Frost, "Made all the difference." After that Wolfensohn slammed down onto a personal gas pedal that led to Europe, Wall Street, two terms as the president of the World Bank, an appointment as the Special Envoy to the Gaza Disengagement in addition to numerous corporate boards and the chairmanship of both Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.Read more ›
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A Global Life: My Journey Among Rich and Poor, from Sydney to Wall Street to the World Bank

I found this an intriguing volume expecially in the early chapters. My eyes tended to glaze in some of later chapters when references were made to his association with financial corporations and the famous names dropped (some of whom I have also known personally). This may have gender specific appeal although I really enjoyed the personal insights into his relationships with his parents and immediate family later in his career. It was a long read and because I tend to read in sessions had to continually reread the preceding paragraphs to maintain the continuity of my interest.

It is a book I shall re-read at a later date - having the Kindle edition makes it an extremely easy "carry-on" when travelling.
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By Nicholas Koshiw on November 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
A very interesting autobiography from one of the most fascinating bankers/statesmen who made a lasting mark upon the latter half of the 20th century. This book starts with Wolfensohn's early life in Australia and chronicles his experiences as a child, undergraduate student, lawyer, investment banker and head of the World Bank. The story also delves into the author's passion for music (how many other financiers can say they played the cello with Yo Yo Ma onstage at Carnegie Hall?), philanthropy and family. Unlike most autobiographies penned by Type-A elites, this piece comes with a dose of humility and praise for others, which is a breath of fresh air compared to some other hubris-filled autiobios. All in all, a great tale from a colorful character who successfully navigated to the top levels of finance, philanthropy and public service.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful By JayB on October 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Jim Wolfensohn is an interesting person who has lived an interesting life and who has written a crushingly boring book. (The Economist description as "plodding" is kind...) As suggested by another reviewer, to learn about Wolfensohn and the World Bank, read Sebastian Mallaby's "The World's Banker".
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful By T. Coner on October 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover
An excellent book! An amazing history of the 20th century and beyond told by one lucky enough man to be in the right place at the right time for his entire life. His love of the arts, music, his family and friends, and the growing yet flattening world around him make him a true man for the modern universal travel and thinker.

Wolfensohn has somehow kept the elusive tone of genuine sincerity and humbleness for someone of his accolades and is so grateful to those around him that made it all possible. His personal background is fascinating, yet his first hand accounts and stories to some of the most incredible events in the past 75 years make this book ravishing.

Don't stop looking into Mr. Wolfensohn's era from other authors if this Interests you though, as there are some loud critiques against him out there. However I think that he does an excellent job explaining why he made the decisions he made and how the World Bank fundamentally works, or should work.

HIGHLEY recommended for those who are just getting into the field, it is a beautiful story told by someone who has lived a life more full than many could possibly believe
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