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

The Fifth Risk is a 2018 political book by Michael Lewis. It examines the transition and political appointments of the Donald Trump presidency, especially with respect to three government agencies: the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce. As of February 3, 2019, it has been on The New York Times non-fiction best-seller list for 14 weeks.Barack and Michelle Obama have acquired the rights to the book for a possible Netflix series to better understand the U.S. Government.Lewis is known for his non-fiction works The Big Short, Moneyball and others...

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The Fifth Risk - Michael Lewis Book Reviews (642)


The Fifth Risk - Michael Lewis2 star

Not his best, story went no where but was still worth the read given the political situation we are all in and concern over government working for the people. Support NOAA and any other government agency you rely on, we all do and may not know it. 25


Buy this book as fast as you can!4 star

EVERY American should read this book and take in the material with an open mind. If we don’t we will truly be doomed. 45


Goosebumps at the end5 star

Wow, what a great book. I always pick books that I feel might test my political views, most of them do for a day two, this one continues to resinate. 55

johnny spastic

Horrible1 star

Awful attempt to persuade reader that government is useful. Private enterprise would do a better job if given the same footing! Johnny spastic 15


Okay3 star

Blah 35


Boring!1 star

I can’t figure out what the point of this book is. It’s just a few interviews with some civil-service workers whom Lewis seems to have selected at random. They’re all unhappy with the Trump administration because there is no direction from above. I get that, but Lewis makes that point in the first few pages. After that, it just rambles along with one pointless anecdote after another. 15


Good, but misleading about the book’s theme4 star

I thought this book was more about the Trump administration not staffing various positions in the federal government. Instead it was a fascinating look at what leads various government employees to do what they do, and how important (and underappreciated) their jobs are. In that regard, the book was fascinating. 45


A Lewis Flop2 star

I have always enjoyed ML’s books and agreed with and learned things. This one was a flop!! Michael I’m sorry you don’t like President Trump, at least half of the country loves him. He won and I’m guessing your candidate lost. Go back to your old style of writing and keep your political beliefs to yourself. 25

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’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

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