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The Fifth Risk

Written by: Michael Lewis
Narrated by: Victor Bevine
Length: 5 hrs and 10 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (126 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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’ 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.

Please note: Included with The Fifth Risk is the entirety of The Coming Storm, the Audible Original story of two scientists who revolutionized climate predictions, bringing warning systems to previously unimaginable levels of accuracy. Michael Lewis uncovers the potential cost of putting a price tag on life-saving information.

©2018 Michael Lewis (P)2018 Audible, Inc.

What the critics say

"Narrator Victor Bevine has a low, restrained voice that underlines Lewis's sense of foreboding.... Bevine narrates deliberately but varies his tone to keep the audiobook interesting... He also pauses effectively to allow us to consider the meaning of the author's words." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Elections have consequences

What happens when someone not interested in the government gets elected to run it? Michael Lewis focuses on the transition from the Obama administration to Trump. In so doing, he scared me more witless than a stack of Steven King horror films.
Ignore at your own peril.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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too short!

great narration, amazing topics of the devolution of trust toward government planning and the stacking of political appointments with ideologues but I thought there would be more!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Eye Opening.

The book is eye opening. I cannot comment on Trump's politics. I am not an American and I have no skin in the game. However, if this book is true, I am shocked at his administration's actions. I shudder to think of the state of these critical departments after he leaves office.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Two books?

This is clearly two separate small books spliced together. It is not a cohesive work. Although interesting at times, it is also rambling in the second half.

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Not much new here

I hate when authors do this, if you want to write a new book, write a new book. I love Micheal Lewis and I pretty much pick up anything he puts out. I was disappointed with this book because I kept feeling that I was buying this book a second time, it felt old, I could barely glean any new information. I was going to return it as I thought I duplicated the title but after going through my library, I found that I had not bought it twice. Turns out he wrote another book called "The Coming Storm" which formed more than half of this book. I feel ripped off so I will be returning this one for my money back!

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on and on and on

yes Trump and his cohorts are slimy as hell.
they know nothing about actually running the government.
the US will be cleaning up the mess left behind for years.

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Biased info

I appreciate the warning of trumps administration like so many other books are trying to do but as I listened I found some pretty clear biases around the science end of things that are more opinion and a type of science that is funded by big business and is more propaganda than real science. It’s a shame because he does have some real concerns that should be brought to light. When writers, journalists and media run with stories that are full of biased opinions then it ruins the message and makes them less credible. Bad science repeated does not somehow become good science it just is what it is...propaganda of those that benefit from deceiving the masses.

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Scary times.

Just another book describing how destructive trumps leadership is to important institutions in America. Good luck y’all.

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Interesting but no conclusion

This book shares some pretty incredible details about how poor Trump’s transition was. It delves deeply into a few important government areas that people probably know very little about. So it was certainly interesting. However, there was no conclusion, no call to action, no suggestions, nothing beyond sharing some information. I expected more than that. A very disappointing conclusion to the book. Like it was half finished or something. Seems lazy to me.

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Shocking and highly entertaining

For republicans and democrats alike, whether or not you agree with government providing some services or not, it’s so important to have an understanding of how government operates, particularly during transitions. This book is chalk full of insightful, appalling and hilarious stories about how absurdly the Trump administration transition was handled.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2018-10-11

Disappointed

Almost 1/3 of this book was already released on audible as “the coming storm.” I like Michael Lewis and his writing but I feel cheated that I used a credit on it. The main message of the book was already in The Coming Storm.

32 of 35 people found this review helpful

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  • Amit M
  • 2018-10-04

Awkward and Disappointing

I am a huge Michael Lewis groupie. The undoing project is literally my favorite book. That's why I feel so awkward writing this review as I was deeply disappointed with this book (and with audible as well).
As an audible member I recently got for free the book "The coming storm" by Michael Lewis. An awesome gift I thought. I read it and thought it was quite nice. Then, a few weeks later when The Fifth Risk was out, I was super excited to read that too. Half way through The Fifth Risk I discovered, to my surprise, that The Coming Storm is actually *the 2nd half of The Fifth Risk*. What???
So for the full price of an already short audiobook (5 hours) I got original content of just 2.5 hours. Money and value aside, this is just bizzare story telling! couldn't someone notify me these two books have the same content??
Why would I want to read the book's end before its start?

Other than that, the book is just ok. some truly interesting parts but I didn't feel a strong overarching theme (but maybe this is my fault as I read the 2nd part of the book few weeks before its first part... :/ ). Narrator is great.
If you ever decide to read this book do yourself a favor and don't read "the coming storm" AKA the second half of this book beforehand.

244 of 273 people found this review helpful

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  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 2018-10-06

Knowledge makes life messier

"It's the places in our government where the cameras never roll that you have to worry about the most."
- Michael Lewis, The Fifth Risk

I've read several books about President Trump and his administration in the last couple years. They all depress me a bit. I feel like I'm reading some real-time version of Gibbons' 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'. But none of the other Trump books scared me like this one did. Lewis isn't interested in the Fox/MSNBC politics or the Twitter-level anxiety of the Trump administration. He is interested, in this book, in the systematic and bureaucratic failures of the Trump administration and what risks this administration's lack of professionalism (this is beyond politics, thisis about competency of governance) might mean to our country and our people.

Lewis does this using his usual approach (which is a bit similar to John McPhee's new nonfiction approach). He finds interesting people who become narrative heros and guides to an area and ties them together into a compelling story or narrative. The areas Lewis explores? Presidential Transitions (guide: Max Stier); I Department of Energy/Tail Risk (guides: Tarak Shah, John MacWilliams), II USDA/People Risk (guides: Ali Zaidi, Kevin Concannon, Cathie Woteki), III Department of Commerce/All the President's Data (Guides: Kathy Sullivan, DJ Patil, David Friedberg).

This is a short book. It is relevant but still not top-shelf Lewis. I enjoyed it, but just wished it was bit longer and a bit deeper*. It

* I get the irony. This books scared the sh!t out of me. It made me sad. Therefore, I wish it were longer.

35 of 40 people found this review helpful

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  • Bit of a Geek
  • Dallas, TX, USA
  • 2018-10-09

Real Disappointment for a Michael Lewis Fan

I cannot fathom why a great writer like MIchael Lewis would agree to such a stupid stunt. I listened to The Coming Storm and really liked it. About half-way through The Fifth Risk, I couldn't believe that I was listening to the The Coming Storm again. I literally started a chat with Audible about having gotten a corrupt file. When they couldn't help me, I went back to the book description and saw the "warning label" about this book being The Coming Storm with a couple of chapters added on the front. I literally thought that The Coming Storm was a book that Lewis decided not to finish, so he gave it to Audible. Now I realize that The Fifth Risk is the book he didn't finish and The Coming Storm was the best part of it.

I'm really disappointed in Audible and in Michael Lewis. Audible should rethink its "Only from Audible" strategy. So far, it is definitely cheapening an otherwise great brand.

37 of 43 people found this review helpful

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  • mhenry
  • 2018-10-05

All over the place

I have loved all of Lewis's other books. They had a clear story and a clear point, even if it took several chapters to really find out what it was. The Fifth Risk is really all over the place. We started out with the series of events that led up to Donald Trump getting elected and how poorly he managed the transition. Then we talk about the way some of the government departments were run before he was elected. Then we talk about NOAA and weather data and how the Trump administration revoked public data sets because AccuWeather is greedy. Then we talked about tornadoes in Oklahoma. There was no real story, no climax, and no real point to it all other than the obvious "Trump is bad, and the people he has appointed are either stupid or just not the right people for the jobs to which they were appointed." (that's not a quote from the book, it's just what I took away as the major theme of it all). This is not a political statement at all, as he cites very clear evidence that it's an accurate reality...I just had really hoped there was more to it than that. Pretty disappointed in this one.

45 of 54 people found this review helpful

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  • Jonathan Russell
  • 2018-12-21

Mini-book

I’m a fan of Michael Lewis and his quirky and smart personality comes through as always. The book feels like he merged a couple chapters of one book with a couple chapters of another. The stories of the complete indifference and incompetence of the presidential transition quickly veered into the stories of some amazing people who work for the government. Both sides were interesting enough, however the two halves (of an already thin book) didn’t meld together. A miss for me.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • jane mccarter
  • 2018-11-03

Well done Michael Lewis

Clarity and detail. An informational delivery like that of a comet from the ball of basic information and concerns through the various methods of evaluation, research, and understanding to the glistening tail of understanding. Michael Lewis clearly and fully researches and then eloquently informs his audiences of difficult and diverse topics in government and science. Thank you Michael Lewis for your work. Immensely. One result of this book is a confirmation of the utter damage possible when those who temporarily govern lack even a modicum of interest in or respect for the work of intellectual and scientific Americans they neither understand nor value. Of especial concern is when those who temporarily govern look at the great responsibility in that work as nothing more than an avenue to maximizing personal monetary enrichment.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • David M. Falcon
  • Albany, NY USA
  • 2018-10-04

Share this book to everyone.

This book should be airlifted into rural areas across the United States. Equal parts illuminating and cautionary.

I had no idea how interesting NOAA is.

31 of 42 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2018-10-08

Michael Lewis never disappoints

I am a Huge fan of all of Michael Lewis’s work this is another great book.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • D. H-Smith
  • Las Vegas
  • 2019-05-29

What???

When I hit the 2 hour mark I suddenly thought I was restarting the book. I stopped to investigate and figured it out after reading other reviews that I was re-hearing the book because I had listened to the “perfect storm” first. Ugh

1 of 1 people found this review helpful