Book Review: How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid

filthy rich

 

Rating: 4 / 5

When I first saw this book, I thought it was literally about how to make money in Asia, specifically with regards to getting into the import/export business. I know…wtf, right? I had to read this book after glancing at the jacket because I was pretty much way off base.

The protagonist is unnamed, and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is told in the second person.  It works in this case, which is surprising since I’ve read tons of books, and I can’t remember the last time I read a book narrated in the second person.  How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is the life of the protagonist, from his childhood in an impoverished rural town to a fairly successful entrepreneur in a big city.  Each chapter begins in a self-help book format, and is titled as advice, such as “Move to the City”, “Work for Yourself”, and “Don’t Fall in Love.” 

I’m a little torn over Hamid’s writing style.  It is definitely different from most books I’ve read, and the fact that I found the story engaging is evidence of the author’s success with this particular writing style.  There are very little precise, concrete background details given in this book.  There are no proper nouns named in this book, so it is fascinating how the Hamid was able to tell a story without the narrator, his love interest, his family, or the places he’s lived being named.   On the one hand, it shows that these are insignificant details, and the purpose of reading this book is for the story itself.  On the other, sometimes I found it aggravating that there were no names that a character and personality could be associated with.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is funny, heartbreaking, thought-provoking, and observant.  Some of what Hamid writes is definitely spot-on.  One particular line I loved was, “There are forks in the road to wealth that have nothing to do with choice or desire or effort, forks that have to do with chance, and in your case, the order of your birth is one of these.” (pg 32) Many successful people will attribute their success to their own hard work and sometimes the help of others, but I find it rare when someone actually realizes the role luck plays, as well as other aspects that are outside a person’s control.  In discussing socioeconomics and the plight of the poor, I think Hamid has made a very keen and clever observation.

There’s little to criticize in How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.  I did wish, however, that the story was longer.  At 228 pages, it was more of the highlights reel of the protagonist’s life.  Because age was never given, I think decades could have passed between one chapter and another.  At one point, I read half a chapter before realizing that he had gotten married.  I wouldn’t go so far to say it was bad, but it was somewhat disorienting.  Overall though, I really enjoyed this book and Hamid leaves me plenty to think about.

 

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