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Comment: All profits go to Housing Works -- NYC's largest HIV/AIDS organization. Minimal wear to cover. Pages clean and binding tight. Paperback.
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Wealth Secrets: How the Rich Got Rich Paperback – March 15, 2016

4.0 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Sam Wilkin is a senior advisor to Oxford Economics, one of the world's foremost global forecasting and research consultancies, where he previously served as head of business research. He is also a senior advisor to Oxford Analytica, a strategic analysis and advisory firm that counts among its clients many global companies and more than twenty-five world governments. Wilkin received his B.A. in economics from Eckerd College, where he was the 2004 alumni fellow, and his M.A. in international relations from the University of Chicago. He lives in New York.


"Want to become "obscenely" rich, as the subtitle of this illuminating book has it? Well, the best bet is to be born that way. The next best bet is to have a "wealth secret," the better-mousetrap sine qua non for building an empire. Economic forecaster Wilkin, head of business research at Oxford Economics, has good fun looking at how some fabulously rich people got to be that way.... Eye-opening."―Kirkus Reviews

"Wilkin is a knowledgeable guide to the world's greatest fortunes.... Thoughtful, playful prose."―Bryan Burrough, New York Times Book Review

"An amazing read... Get on to one of those [secrets] and you too can light your cigars with $100 bills.."―Marvin Zonis, Professor Emeritus, Booth School of Business, University of Chicago

"Sam Wilkin combs history for a provocative and well-written account of the secrets of wealth formation. Just reading this book will make you richer."―Darrell M. West, Vice President of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and author of Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust

"So how do our billionaires make their billions? Business analyst Sam Wilkin offers up the real scoop.... Delicious and insight-packed."―Sam Pizzigati, Too Much

"Clever, entertaining.... Rich and poor will enjoy it equally, and if you have a modest entourage, I would consider getting copies for them too."―Marcus Berkmann, Daily Mail (UK)

"Pay attention.... What makes this book different is Sam Wilkin is an inside man."―Joe Shute, The Telegraph (UK)

A "highly entertaining and useful guide to the 'fascinating economic puzzle waiting to be solved' behind every billion-dollar fortune.... If you too would like to get your hands on today's equivalent of 250,000lb of fattened goose meat, Wilkin's book is a brilliant place to start."
Julia Richardson, Daily Mail (UK)

"This is at heart a theoretical book, not an historical one. Its merit lies not in the stories it tells, but in the connections it draws between them."―Nick Wolven, Washington Independent Review of Books

"A great read.... Infused with a great sense of humor."―Life Elsewhere

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (March 15, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031637895X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316378956
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #412,913 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Rated at 5 stars in part due to the irresponsible review by Yves, who clearly hasn't read the book. "Network network network" isn't about networking, it's about network effects, an economic principle. "You've got to own it" isn't about owning your own business, indeed the author says owning your own business isn't a wealth secret. I guess Yves just skimmed the headings.

Essentially, this is a book about the economic principles that enable some entrepreneurs to become so much richer than others. To understand these economic principles (which the author calls "wealth secrets") you've got to read the book, because the lengthy stories of different entrepreneurs in each chapter explain how people put each principle into practice, in different times and places (from ancient Rome to modern-day India to the tech sector!).

"Freakonomics meets Malcolm Gladwell" is how one reviewer described it on Goodreads, and I agree with that. You get the Malcolm Gladwell type of stories, which are well told and witty. And, you end up with Freakonomics type of insights – which explain why doing some things really well will make you rich, while doing other things won't help your pocketbook much at all, no matter how well you do them!!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a terrible reader - I start most books and then get bored and never finish them. I'm happy to say that this is the first book that I have finished in probably 10+ years. When I saw how long it was and that is was written by a numbers guy, I was trepidacious, but his writing is smart, witty, and quite entertaining, particularly given the subject matter. I really loved reading the book and looked forward to reading a bit more of it each day. While he definitely covers the secrets, it is by no means an easy thing to become a billionaire, but should you choose to do so, I think this is an excellent way to get started.

I think the best part of the book is they way it is written. I was truly laughing out loud many times during my read, and the impartial way he approaches the subject is all the more hilarious. They book is either a guide to getting rich by exploiting the many systems that exist or an indictment of capitalism. The author addresses this at the end of the book but never quite shows his hand - besides the US book cover perhaps, which amusingly was not considered appropriate for the UK version. I guess it's more dignified to wipe with a president that a Royal!

Anyways, it was an excellent read and if you are a student or professor of history or economics, entrepreneur, or perhaps a socialist/member of Occupy Wall Street, there is much to love about this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book promises to take a realistic look at what makes people rich. "Those get rich quick books don't teach you how to become a Mexican telecom mogul," the promotions for this book stated (and which is what intrigued me).

While the premise for this book is well intentioned the author forgets a key rule of writing: BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front). The reader is dragged through chapter after chapter of history and stories, from ancient Romans to robber barrons, while the "wealth secrets" are only distilled in the last chapter. The pledge he promises in the title (the "wealth secrets") are randomly interspersed in each chapter, and never organized until the last one. This lack of follow-through dampens whatever interesting history might be in these pages.

Herein are the "Seven Secrets of Spectacularly Rich People" as Wilkins summarizes in the chapter 7. I recommend saving your money, as in spite of the verbosity of the book, these "secrets" are really quite simple:

1. "Secret #1: Don't be the best. Be the only." This is the key theme of the book. Secure a monopoly on an industry and you will make lots of money.
2. "Secret #2: Bigger is still better." Make your business scalable. Bigger businesses still make more money.
3. "Secret #3: The worst place to do business is really the best." Third world countries and developing markets allow business owners to exploit lax regulation or leverage politics for their own gain.
4. "Secret #4: When lenders can't lose, you win." Not sure what this lesson was about, sorry. The story became too muddled here for my liking.
5. "Secret #5: You've got own it baby, own it." Owning your own company is good?
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Format: Hardcover
Don't judge this book by its title, and especially by its subtitle. This book is not "a modern manual" about anything. And it contains no wealth secrets of the one percent. Indeed, the book doesn't even talk about the one percent. Its focus is the mega-rich -- the about 0.00001% of humanity that through the ages topped the charts of the rich.

Maybe they should even be called the giga-rich. We're not talking many millions of (today's) dollars here. No, these people have many billions.The top 88 families in the world have as much money as the bottom half of humanity. And when you look at the richest in history, you're narrowing it down even further.

This book tells stories of a few of the world's richest people and how they actually made their fortunes. Starting with the Romans and ending with some latter-day tycoons who are just as rich as Croesus. (Croesus was a Greek -- possibly as fictional as Midas -- and does not make Sam Wilkin's book. Instead, we read about Marcus Crassus, a Roman plutocrat who amassed the largest fortune of his time.)

Sam Wilkin knows how to tell a story, making this book a good read. There is some insight as well, both into how to become rich and what being rich really means. In his Notes, Sam Wilkin says: “Whether you read the book as a guide to earning great riches or a social critique is your choice.”

I didn't find the book to be either. Nor is it mainly a humorous book. (Despite its cover, which features a roll of toilet paper made out of $100 bills.) But the book does a good job leavening storytelling and commentary with humor. I was surprised at how much Sam Wilkins could teach and entertain at the same time. Good books, in my mind, are like that.
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