The Fifth Risk - Michael Lewis

The Fifth Risk

Author: Michael Lewis

  • Publication Date: 2018-10-02
  • Category: Politics & Current Events
4 Score: 4
(From 288 Ratings)


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

    By Hetz W.
    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.
  • Interesting narrative, interesting thesis, but.....

    By Ms. Hush Puppy
    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.
  • Frightening but pleasantly insightful

    By JohnnyVonRotten
    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.
  • Good read. Extremely eye opening.

    By jekyllhyde91
    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.
  • Somewhat of a bait and switch

    By PR 475
    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!
  • The Fifth Risk

    By fgianakos
    Some points in the book became slow and tedious. Not crazy about this one.
  • I really love Lewis’s writing but....

    By NYC composer
    ...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.
  • The Fifth Risk

    By Dccyclist222
    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.
  • Okay but Narrow

    By Paulippoi
    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.
  • Half A Book

    By Jimmy V38
    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