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Richistan: A Journey Through the American Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich Hardcover – June 5, 2007

4.2 out of 5 stars 116 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When Frank, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, began noticing that the ranks of America's wealthy had more than doubled in the last decade, and that they were beginning to cluster together in enclaves, he decided to investigate this new society, where $1 million barely gets you in the door. The Richistanis like to consider themselves ordinary people who just happen to have tons of money, but they live in a world where people buy boats just to carry their cars and helicopters behind their primary yachts, and ordering an alligator-skin toilet seat won't make even your interior designer blink. But Frank doesn't just focus on conspicuous consumption. He talks to philanthropists who apply investment principles to their charitable contributions and political fund-raisers who have used their millions to transform the Colorado state legislature. He also meets people for whom sudden wealth is an emotional burden, whose investment club meetings can feel like group therapy sessions. It's only in the final pages that Frank contemplates the widening gap between Richistan and the rest of the world—for the most part, his grand tour approach never loses its light touch. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Frank, a Wall Street Journal columnist, observes the unprecedented rise of wealth in the U.S., which has essentially created a new country, here dubbed Richistan, with a net worth of $1–$10 million in over 7 million households, $10–$100 million in over 1.4 million households, and $100 million to $1 billion in thousands of households, plus more than 400 billionaires. Stemming from the rise of financial markets, new technology, and a freer flow of goods and information, this river of money courses around the world, seeking investments not only in stocks but in hedge funds, private-equity funds, and venture capital. Conducting extensive interviews, the author tells stories of these wealthy individuals, neither deifying nor denigrating them. With emphasis placed here on the increasing gap between the wealthy, middle class, and poor, we also learn about the challenges to society of this great disparity, the responsibility that this abundant wealth carries, and Frank's hope that some of this enormous pool of money will be used to solve widespread social problems. Excellent book. Whaley, Mary
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 277 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; 1St Edition edition (June 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307339262
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307339263
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #488,338 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stephen Balbach on June 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Robert Frank is a reporter at the Wall Street Journal who, a number of years ago, began a column on what it's like to be rich in America. This soon became a very popular and he was tasked to work on it full time. This book represents the synthesis of his experiences over the past few years.

"Richistan" is a colloquial term Frank uses to describe the booming numbers of wealthy. Starting in the late 1980s, there has been a doubling or tripling of the number of wealthy households in the US, currently at over 9 million with $1 million or more in net assets. Within this "nation within a nation" there is a class system, with the "lower class" rich (or "merely affluent") in the 1-10 million net worth range, the "middle class" rich in the 10-100 range and the "upper class" rich in the 100-1 billion range. The billionaires, estimated to be about 1000 strong in the US, are in a separate group entirely. Each of these groups have distinct spending patterns and investment goals. 90% of these new rich came from middle or lower class backgrounds and everything about them is different from the stereotypes of the "old" rich: how they made their money, how they spend it, how they give it away.

Frank's book is both easy reading and hard to put down. I listened to the audiobook version, going through the 7 hours in "no time". Although educational, this is also a very funny book. The audio greatly enhances the humor as the narrator has perfect timing and change of voice, many times I was laughing out loud, yet at the same time going "ah-ha!". A rare treat.
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Format: Hardcover
Greenwich, Connecticut, a town featured in Robert Frank's great new book, "Richistan", is my hometown and a place where I have spent my entire life. As the author points out, Greenwich used to be known as a place of old money but the new money that has flown into town over the past decade or so makes it a spot of even more enormous wealth, capturing all levels of the super-rich as Frank describes. As in many cities in America the new money is most evident in the McMansions that have sprung up. (as some people call it, "Vulgaria") I wonder if every new McMansion has to have Greek-like columns.

Frank does a comprehensive job in explaining how the rich live, but it is of note that so many Richistanis, when asked if they have enough money, say "no". If you have $20 million you think you need $40 million. He offers another excellent chapter on how many of the rich aren't any happier with all their money, with many of them being more miserable. But his best point is that the super-rich have created a class unto themselves, and towns like Greenwich, which has a sustainable middle class, will itself, in the future, become even more separated between rich and poor. It's a sobering look. I highly recommend "Richistan".... it's a terrific exposé and an eye-opener as well.
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Format: Hardcover
The "new rich" have been around for a few years now, but beyond the nonsense to be seen or read about in the tabloid realm, we've never had the opportunity to take a look at what the lives of these people are really like - until now.

The people of Richistan did not inherit their wealth, it was earned, sometimes quite quickly, for others it was a steady rise to billionaire status. What this book gives its readers are sharp and humorous obervations on how they made their money and how it has changed their lives, for better and/or worse. For instance, read why it now takes five people to kill a renegade mouse in a big house instead of one...

Similarly, the author then takes a look at the different industries and jobs that so much money in the U.S. has spawned. For example, the founder of the Starkey Institute for Household Management (aka: Butler School) wouldn't be where she is today if it weren't for the labor shortage of 20th century butlers. Then there's the need for private chefs, an army of nannies, housekeepers, pilots and executive assistants.

And where does a mega-billionaire go on vacation? How does he find a spot that will guarantee his total security and privacy? Richistan will tell you about the man who answered these questions and built a quasi "time share" business for islands instead of condos...plus you'll read about the billionaires who go there and how they spend their vacations.

It really is addictive stuff and a great beach book for the Summer. For self-confessed business junkies who enjoy reading about mega-successful business people, and how they got to where they are - this is a must-read, because you get all of that and so much more.
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Format: Hardcover
The Rich, F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, are different from us. Fitzgerald was right: they *are* different from us.

They own 500-foot yachts, for one thing.

For another, they own watches that are more expensive than a Rolls Royce. They hire "household managers", uber-butlers who double as managerial major domos, to run their vast, sprawling estates, and when they buzz their Household Manager to have Jeevesy 'bring the car around', they're probably talking about their 1.1 million dollar Bugatti Veyron or 750K McClaren Mercedes supercar---or if they're in a downscale mood, maybe it'll just be the Maybach.

You know, to slum around in.

As Bob Dylan (himself, by now, no doubt a 'Richistani') once sang "The Times they are a-Changing"---though not the way Dylan and his hippy brethren might have imagined. We find ourselves in an era of ostentatious wealth, in a time when the Forbes 400 is made up solely of billionaires, in a time when the rich are getting richer---much richer, fabulously richer!---and the rest of us? Well, forget about it.

That's the ostensible subject of Robert Frank's book "Richistan", which, on the whole, is a light, airy, engaging little fluff-piece that takes the reader from one enclave of Richies to another: from a Palm Beach Red Cross fundraiser to Butler Boot Camp in Colorado, from a man who made his fortune building teensy little ceramic villages to the grinding account of a tech billionaire who lost his entire fortune during the Dot Com bust, from billionaire philanthropy to what Frank calls a 'new Rich man's politics'.

Frank, in his introduction, bills his little survey of the uber-wealthy as a work of anthropology: get in, take lots of pictures, ask a lot of questions, boogie out, research report in hand.
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