The Fifth Risk - Michael Lewis

The Fifth Risk

By Michael Lewis

  • Release Date: 2018-10-02
  • Genre: Politics & Current Events
Score: 4
From 206 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 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
  • Another Winner

    By Bossgolfer1
    Mr. Lewis does it again. One of my favorite authors.
  • A bit thin.

    By trsilvius
    I am a democrat, but blaming the right for this level of complexity is absurd. One or two managers out of 100,000 do not matter a bit. Please check on how long it took prior administrations took to build cabinets. In short, a very thin book with biased and thinner arguments. Remember, I am the resistance!
  • another useless liberal rant

    By WeldonT3
    when will intelligent people realize liberal governing elites care only about themselves? This is just another rant without an understanding that many many government posts are nothing but patronage.
  • Promising setup, incomplete finish

    By BBALL coach 22
    Full of interesting anecdotes and Lewis’ energetic style. And quite revealing as to Trump’s approach to transition (there wasn’t any) and some key appointees (figureheads at best). Many cabinet positions and departments were not addressed. And ones that were...maybe more on what might be the long term impact of the ignorance in DC. Entertaining and fast, but wanted more.
  • Worth Reading

    By S in Austin
    Another insightful book from Michael Lewis. He took what most of us would consider a boring subject and made it interesting. Americans should be happy with the government we have. Too many of us have succumbed to the propoganda of idealogues.