Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

Buy Used
FREE Shipping on orders over $25.
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Minimal signs of wear. Ships direct from Amazon!
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Riches Among the Ruins: Adventures in the Dark Corners of the Global Economy Hardcover – March 18, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

See all 5 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$4.12 $0.01

ITPro.TV Video Training
Take advantage of IT courses online anywhere, anytime with ITPro.TV. Learn more.
click to open popover

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Smith's memoir of a career spent brokering sales of sovereign debts (also known as government debts) makes for a gripping read. With a raconteur's gusto, the author describes his flight from a solidly conservative New England Jewish upbringing into a world of high-stakes wheeling and dealing. He plied his trade in developing markets, where shortages of hard currency force governments to offer promises of payment for imported goods or services. The author bought and sold these debts, thriving on the risk (he lost $15 million in one day in "the ruins of the Russian economy" in 1988) and the rewards (in three years he had more than made up his losses). He details his travels to five continents seeking creditors looking to cut their losses and investors willing to take on the tremendous risk, hoping for a windfall should an ailing government ever fulfill its obligation. Smith clearly explains the mechanics of international debt trading—now a $1.7 trillion industry—and his yarns of successes, failures and dangerous near-misses are thrilling. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“A gripping read….his yarns of successes, failures, and dangerous near-misses are thrilling.” Publishers Weekly

"This crackling good yarn about a high roller in the age of globalism will appeal to financial specialists and to general readers."

Foreword Magazine

“… a rambunctious rollercoaster that dodges bullets and missiles, maneuvers around shady characters, and speeds through all sorts of danger…shines an unnerving light on the state of today’s economy.”

Conference Board Review

“…one of the best books I have read about what it has been like to do business in the crazy…international debt markets of the past 30 years. It's an immensely engaging and often exciting memoir... lessons are particularly germane to today's financial crisis…”

Providence Journal

“Usually, the world of finance doesn’t yield memoirs that keep you turning the pages… Riches Among the Ruins is the true exception to the rule…great reading and insight to the way the real world operates.”


“Smith offers lessons relevant for U.S. investors seeking opportunity overseas…also shares his take on the importance of narrowing the gap between rich and poor; the U.S. role in the global economy; and an increasingly integrated world trade system.” -- Associated Press

"With his ear and eye for the telling detail, his vignettes have the stamp of authenticity and are often screamingly funny."-- Financial Post

“Wow! This is one fascinating book; it reads like an adventure story...Not only is it a terrific book, but Smith and Zheutlin are great teachers….Enjoy!” -- Life Insurance Selling

“… it’s great to read a book like this and live vicariously through some of these incredible stories.” -- 800 CEO-Read

“…a treasure trove of stories of profit and loss and of warnings of the on the ground reality of economic crisis.” -- Blog Business World

“…riveting adventure that takes you deep within the world of emerging market debt….we thoroughly enjoyed learning more through his roller coaster ride.” -- MarketFolly.com


The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: AMACOM; 1 edition (March 18, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081441060X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814410608
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,299,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John Chancellor TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Most self-help teachers advise those seeking success to find a good role model and emulate what they did to achieve success. The idea is that success leaves footprints - steps that others can follow.

Riches Among the Ruins is a great example and Robert Smith would be an excellent role model for others to follow. He finished last in his high school class. But his financial success has allowed him to build a theater and arts center at his high school, a new student center at the college he attended and to renovate the synagogue in his mother's hometown.

The opening sentence of the introduction tells how he lost $15 million in one day. But that did not spell financial ruin for him.

I will not presume to guess the primary motivation for Mr. Smith writing this book. In my mind there are three themes or lessons to be gained from reading it.

The first is a better understanding of foreign currency and the interdependence of world trade. We are all subject to the forces of globalization and having a better understanding of the interdependencies will help us better understand our world and how things fit together.

The second underlying message is what it takes to achieve financial success. While these are not directly addressed, they are the footprints we need to observe is we are going to try to follow his example. Success is often found among the ruins. Doing what everyone else is doing will not separate you from the crowd. If you are going to achieve huge success, you must separate yourself from the crowd. Do what others might find distasteful.

Another success principle that kept driving Bob was he was doing what inspired and motivated him.
Read more ›
Comment 11 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
These days, it seems that all the trading of financial instruments can be done with the click of a mouse using electronic online exchanges. But that's not the way it always was when it came to some of the more esoteric forms of trading, like trading the debt instruments of developing countries. Robert P. Smith was one of the first to play in this niche market and helped form much of what we see today when it comes to debt securities. He shares his stories of life as a global vagabond in the book Riches Among the Ruins: Adventures in the Dark Corners of the Global Economy. With the correct expectations, Riches is an entertaining read and helps shed some light on how financial markets are formed and manipulated.

Smith started out as a collections lawyer working for his father in Boston. He absolutely hated the job, and wanted far more than what his father and mother considered a "good life." This longing led him to sign up for programs that took him overseas to places like Vietnam where he worked for the US government collecting information on the country's economic condition. As he dug deeper, he started to see how countries were crippled by the inability to convert their debt into dollar-based offerings that would allow them to use what few resources they had to start an ongoing flow of capital. Smith worked out how he could buy these debt instruments from the holders for far less than their face value (in order to give the holders something for their investment) and then sell them back to the government for less than the government owed. The spread between those two prices is where his profit would come from. All this was easier said than done, as the holders were generally not compiled in a single list, and there was little transparency in the process.
Read more ›
Comment 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is certainly not a typical investment book and for that alone, it's worth reading. I loved the story telling ability of the author and the underlying meaning of doing what you love. This is one crazy life and his pursuit to make money in the most unconventional markets. The creativity and risk taking was inspiring and unsettling at the same time. There were lots of things to learn in this book about the cultures he experienced and it goes to show you that with the right mental attitude you can make a living anywhere. In summary, a very interesting book and worth your time to read.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Who says being a banker is steady and boring? Smith paints an image of high wire adventurism that gets more interesting with each chapter (the climax being present day Iraq). Its light on financial theory but makes up for it with practical wisdom on how business gets done in the shady world of emerging market bonds. great summer read!
Comment 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Finance has never been my area of expertise, but this book triggered a new-found enthusiasm for me. When you think of bonds, you don't think "adventure;" more likely, you imagine staid and boring traders sitting at desks on Wall Street, shouting into phones, wearing pinstripe suits and expensive sunglasses.

The author of this book is about as far from that stereotype as you can imagine, although he does spend his fair share of time arguing on the phone. In his case, those, it's with characters such as Russian oligarch Vladimir Potanin, double-dealing Turkish grifters and black-market money changers in war-torn El Salvador. This is the dark, seamy, and thrilling side of international finance.

The book moves along at a fair clip and only lags in a few places. The economics are clearly and concisely explained; I wouldn't call it a manual for trading, by any means, but it's definitely a good way to get a handle on some of the confusing aspects of the global economy. Rather than learn about spreads, basis points, coupons and interest rates in a dull textbook or an MBA class, pick this book up and get your information with a nice fix of adventure.

There's more than just money here; there's also the story of a guy who seems a bit crazy, a bit genius, and completely and totally driven. Ever lost $15 million in a day? Smith has, and he made it all back with sheer nerve. The story jumps nimbly from Brookline to Istanbul to Lagos, and only towards the end does it settle down and slow a little. But that's inevitable, given the fabulous adventures in the first 100 pages. My favorite incident involves a scheme with Lloyds of London in Guatemala that required, if I may say, 'cojones latóns.'

Do yourself a favor. Pick this book up.
Comment 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews