The Fifth Risk

New York Times Bestseller

What are the consequences if the people given control over our government have no idea how it works?

"The election happened," remembers Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, then deputy secretary of the Department of Energy. "And then there was radio silence." Across all departments, similar stories were playing out: Trump appointees were few and far between; those that did show up were shockingly uninformed about the functions of their new workplace. Some even threw away the briefing books that had been prepared for them.

Michael Lewis’s brilliant narrative takes us into the engine rooms of a government under attack by its own leaders. In Agriculture the funding of vital programs like food stamps and school lunches is being slashed. The Commerce Department may not have enough staff to conduct the 2020 Census properly. Over at Energy, where international nuclear risk is managed, it’s not clear there will be enough inspectors to track and locate black market uranium before terrorists do.

Willful ignorance plays a role in these looming disasters. If your ambition is to maximize short-term gains without regard to the long-term cost, you are better off not knowing those costs. If you want to preserve your personal immunity to the hard problems, it’s better never to really understand those problems. There is upside to ignorance, and downside to knowledge. Knowledge makes life messier. It makes it a bit more difficult for a person who wishes to shrink the world to a worldview.

If there are dangerous fools in this book, there are also heroes, unsung, of course. They are the linchpins of the system—those public servants whose knowledge, dedication, and proactivity keep the machinery running. Michael Lewis finds them, and he asks them what keeps them up at night.


The Fifth Risk - Michael Lewis Summary

Michael Monroe Lewis (born October 15, 1960) is an American financial journalist and bestselling non-fiction author. He has also been a contributing editor to Vanity Fair since 2009...


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The Fifth Risk - Michael Lewis Book Reviews (300)

Hetz W.

The Fifth Risk5 star

What a great presentation of facts, people and circumstances into a story that is hard to put down. As scary as many of the details are...it’s important for all Americans to understand the current state and the amazing people that have insured our safety and security throughout their service to our country and communities. Well done...I only hope Mr. Lewis gets on more shows to share his findings. I see another movie in the making soon. 55

Ms. Hush Puppy

Interesting narrative, interesting thesis, but.....3 star

Is this a book? I read this in e-book form so when it ended, I was surprised. Lewis's thesis is not fully-fleshed out, but is well-supported in parts. No real conclusions or predictions or parallels to other branches of government--why or why not. 35

JohnnyVonRotten

Frightening but pleasantly insightful5 star

I highlighted very liberally reading this. The core premise - that the United States government is something that most people really don't understand, or understand the ways they depend and have depended on it, and that the Trump administration is dedicated to staying ignorant even as they're charged with running it - is very effectively communicated. But what's more, Lewis - as he always does - is extremely adept at actually educating you in the process and making you care about the things he cares about. Some of his personal portraits, too... Fantastic book. If you want to better understand some of the pieces of our government, and understand the stakes of placing them in the hands of inept cronies... read it. 55

jekyllhyde91

Good read. Extremely eye opening.4 star

Slow but satisfying. The author has a knack for shedding light on the unnoticed facets of our government. And the negligence that they are faced with in this administration. 45

PR 475

Somewhat of a bait and switch2 star

As I read the sample section this book had my full attention. Shortly after I downloaded and paid for it ,the focus shifted and became less interesting. I thought it was going to describe the mindset of the Donald. I was bored all the way to the finish line or in this case the cash register. Come on Mike you can do better than this! 25

fgianakos

The Fifth Risk3 star

Some points in the book became slow and tedious. Not crazy about this one. 35

NYC composer

I really love Lewis’s writing but....2 star

...this one seemed phoned in. First disappointment in a long time, including older books like “Losers”, which I went back and read. Like Billy Beane, no one can be perfect forever. 25

Dccyclist222

The Fifth Risk4 star

As a young journalist, I was told there are no dull stories, just dull writers. Lewis takes what would be a dull subject, the energy and commerce departments, and makes it exciting, including tornado chasing by the National Weather Service. My only complaint is the book is fairly short. 45

Paulippoi

Okay but Narrow3 star

Of course the job Trump’s tradition “team” did and did not not do was abominable, but the book focused on three narrow instances. Although these are likely microcosms of all the agencies experiences during the transition, other examples would have been more helpful rather than dedicating 1/3 of the book on the NOAA, despite the value of its data. The author lost me when he condemned the Ferguson police and referred to Michael Brown as an unarmed and innocent teenager. Showed explicit bias that cast doubt on every other assertion in the book, even though I have heard other evidence supporting the inept transition process. Meh book. 35

Jimmy V38

Half A Book2 star

OK, we know the Trump administration is a clueless reality show, but I didn’t need to know that much about the inner workings of NOAA. Most of it a very boring read. JimValTenn 25


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