How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia: A Novel

by Mohsin Hamid

Hardcover, 2013

Call number




Riverhead Books (2013), Edition: 1, 240 pages


His first two novels established Mohsin Hamid as a radically inventive storyteller with his finger on the world's pulse. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia meets that reputation - and exceeds it. The astonishing and riveting tale of a man's journey from impoverished rural boy to corporate tycoon, it steals its shape from the business self-help books devoured by ambitious youths all over "rising Asia." In a sprawling metropolis, its nameless hero begins to amass an empire built on that most fluid, and increasingly scarce, of goods: water. Yet his heart remains set on something else, on the pretty girl whose star rises along with his, their paths crossing and recrossing, a lifelong affair sparked and snuffed and sparked again by the forces that careen their fates along. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is a striking slice of contemporary life at a time of crushing upheaval. Romantic without being sentimental, political without being didactic, and spiritual without being religious, it brings an unflinching gaze to the violence and hope it depicts. And it creates two unforgettable characters who find moments of transcendent intimacy in the midst of shattering change.… (more)

Media reviews

It’s a love story and a study of seismic social change. It parodies a get-rich-quick book and gestures to a new direction for the novel, all in prose so pure and purposeful it passes straight into the bloodstream. It intoxicates.
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Novelist Mohsin Hamid lives in Lahore, Pakistan, quite some distance from the Long Island of Jay Gatsby. But his new novel — his third and, I think, best so far — reminded me of F. Scott Fitzgerald's quintessential American work. As I read this novel about the dark and light of success in a
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world of social instability, I kept asking myself how much I might be inflating the value of Hamid's novel by rating it so highly. After all, this story takes the form of a gimmick, and gimmicks usually work against real quality.... [T]his tale of an unscrupulous striver may bring to mind a globalized version of The Great Gatsby. Given the unabashed gimmickry of Hamid's how-to design, it's a pleasant surprise to find that his book is nearly that good.
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Mohsin Hamid’s audacious novels have changed the way we see Pakistan. His electrifying new work is his most impressive yet... But Mohsin Hamid is one of the most talented and formally audacious writers of his generation, and his electrifying new novel, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia,
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successfully (if satirically) follows, in its structure and in the voice of its narrator, the self-help format.
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In this one he essays a touching love story between the protagonist and a beautiful village girl who uses her physical attributes to build her own wealth. But love is a luxury in conditions of economic struggle. The pair remain tantalisingly estranged for much of the book, only finding each other
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when – tellingly – they abandon their material ambitions. If Hamid set out to write a satire on the globalised dream of consumer-driven economic development, he ends up being undermined by the strength of his characters. You can't help but root for them in their perilous climb out of the mire of penury, while all the time being relieved that you are not really "you".
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User reviews

LibraryThing member brenzi
In Mohsin Hamid’s follow-up to his rather unsettling but absolutely riveting novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, he once again utilizes an unnamed narrator who has put together this self help book for anyone who is interested in accumulating great wealth. Each chapter is entitled with the steps
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that will be necessary to achieve the goal, from move to the city, get an education, don’t fall in love, and avoid idealists to befriend a bureaucrat and have an exit strategy.

The narrator follows two individuals for about fifty years and explains, through the appropriate steps, their rise from poverty stricken youths to wealthy entrepreneurs. It makes it easier for those following the advice given in the book, to see how these two have managed to make a success of themselves against all odds. The author did something I can’t say I’ve seen before: he addresses both the reader and the character at the same time so that both are getting the advice simultaneously. It’s very effective. As our main character and his family are finally leaving the country the author gives us this:

”A month later you are well enough to ride with your brother and sister on the roof of the overloaded bus that bears your family and threescore cramped others to the city. If it tips over as it careens down the road, swerving in mad competition with other equally crowded rivals as they seek to pick up the next and next groups of prospective passengers on this route, your likelihood of death or at least dismemberment will be extremely high. Such things happen often, although not nearly as often as they don't happen. But today is your lucky day.” (Page 14)

The two characters are never named either but that hardly matters as their stories could apply to just about anyone living in Pakistan. Hamid adopts the same stark, abrupt language that he used so successfully in his last book and although it was effective, I didn’t find it to be as powerful. That does not mean that this book was any less meaningful or absorbing.

The book goes a long way toward explaining the abject poverty, lack of education, treatment of women and far flung corruption that exists in this part of the world and make it difficult for the average person to lift themselves out of the chronic destitution that effects so many. And I found myself really caring about these somewhat cardboard-like characters which is, in itself, mystifying.

This is an author that I will continue to follow as his books really examine a part of the world that is so utterly mysterious and inexplicable. Each book adds to the demystification and provides the necessary background to understand an enigmatic part of the world.
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LibraryThing member clfisha
Exciting, fascinating experimentation. A pastiche on the self help novel, a sharp social commentary on modern day Pakistan and a story of the rise and fall of one unnamed man. In fact that man is "You", this novel is written in the 2nd person.

"Is getting filthy rich still your goal above all
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goals, your be-all and end-all, the mist shrouded high-altitude spawning pond to your salmon?
In your case, fortunately, it seems to be. Because you have spent the last few years taking the essential next step, learning from a master"

There are some truly delicious moments in this book, some stunning craft and sly manoeuvres. It is a book that deftly instructs “You” the reader and “You” the character separately from different points and often the author wryly comments. It’s a book where all characters have no name and makes their descriptors work through them; "the pretty girl" brings sweet reminiscences in her dotage. It is a book where the entirety of a person’s life is written in the modern day but manages never to be jarring. It’s language is not fluid, but beautifully twists and makes interesting patterns in your head. It is also for me a book let down by the plot; the unrequited young love, the empty marriage, the struggle for work. An extraordinary ordinary life that personally doesn't interest me, although I found the end so beautiful I was in tears.. go figure. Yes the 2nd person is hard initially to get on with (especially as the character is male and I think he missed a trick there), but the separation of character and reader helps greatly.

It is a fascinating, heart breaking and joyful flawed experiment, dull in places and delightful in others. Anyone interested in technique, or a thirst for the different should try this. Anyone jaded by too much Western fair should take a peak and of course there will be a multitude who will love the story just fine. I do highly recommend it, I think it will shine in a reread.

We are all refugees from our childhoods. And so we turn, among other things, to stories. To write a story, to read a story, is to be a refugee from the state of refugees. Writers and readers seek a solution to the problem that time passes, that those who have gone are gone and those who will go, which is to say every one of us, will go. For there was a moment when anything was possible. And there will be a moment when nothing is possible. But in between we can create.”
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LibraryThing member vancouverdeb
How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is an intelligent , insightful and gripping read. In many ways the title and cover of the book are a disservice to this wonderful read. One could be forgiven for assuming that this is a non- fiction book about how to get rich. Instead, this is a story about an
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a young boy growing up in an impoverished rural family in Pakistan.

The bright, unnamed second person narrator is able to get a basic education unlike most of his peers. As an avid reader a particular quotation stood out to me. While watching the credits roll at the end of a TV movie, he realizes " Your mother sees a meaningless stream of hieroglyphs. Your father and and sister make out an occasional number, your brother that and the occasional word. For you alone does this part of the programming make sense. You understand who is responsible for what." p 33

The story follows our narrator from his babyhood, through his ambition and struggle with his integrity to become rich. As readers we are with him even in his old age. Along the way , he encounters gangs, government corruption and violence. But this tale is so much more than an intriguing look at the challenges in life in contemporary Lahore, Pakistan. This is also a romance, and a man struggling with his conscience and obligations to his family.

Tightly written, unsentimental , and well worth the read. Highly recommended.
4. 5 stars
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LibraryThing member kidzdoc
This new novel by the Pakistani writer Mohsin Hamid is set in an unnamed contemporary South Asian country, and it is meant to serve as a self-help guide for those who wish to make a lot of money there. The book uses the life of a poor country boy to illustrate the path to financial success, with
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chapter titles that include "Get an Education", "Avoid Idealists" and "Befriend a Bureaucrat". The boy, also unnamed, does become a wealthy producer of bottled water in a country that lacks potable drink, mainly through his own hard work, corrupt business practices, and greasing the palms of government officials and protection men when necessary. The story of a young woman he first met as a teenager, "the pretty girl", is the other key element of the guide, as she enters and departs his life at various points and finds her own degree of success independent from him.

This novel was an entertaining and pleasant read, but the main characters are thinly developed, unrecognizable and not at all memorable, unlike Changez in his earlier novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist.
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LibraryThing member JRCornell
A window into the rapid changes in Asian cities (in this case Pakistan). A self-help parody, Hamid exposes a kind of idealistic cynicism about financial success in 'rising Asia'.
LibraryThing member susanbooks
If I had reviewed this book after the first two chapters I'd have written a rave & given it 5 stars. The voice, as in Hamid's other novels, is smart, witty, and playful. The conceit of the novel as self-help book is brilliant, allowing him to ironize certain aspects of the plot which might
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otherwise cry out for blatant anger or bathos. Hamid's irony allows the distance between tone and what is said to become devastating.

Unfortunately, for me, the distance stops feeling ironic so much as just, well, distant. I never got a sense of the protagonist, never connected with him, and therefore never really cared what happened to him.

As social critcism, this book is great. As a novel, it's less successful.
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LibraryThing member kfschmid
This is definitely the best book I have received from the early reviewers program on Librarything. A snapshot of life by following the cradle to grave path of two individuals in Asia. Well written, thought provoking, and entwined you with the main characters even with the very detached narrative
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Even though I found this book incredibly well written, I HATED the act of reading it. I have never had a book more acutely depress me than this book. Ugggg, the inevitability of aging is now forefront in mind. Uggg, so what is the point of life? Makes me feel old at even age 31.

I don't want to take away anything from Mr Hamid, this book really is well crafted. I think my reaction to the book says more about my mind currently than the book.
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LibraryThing member richardderus
Rating: 3.5* of five

The Publisher Says: His first two novels established Mohsin Hamid as a radically inventive storyteller with his finger on the world’s pulse. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia meets that reputation and exceeds it. The astonishing and riveting tale of a man’s journey from
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impoverished rural boy to corporate tycoon, it steals its shape from the business self-help books devoured by ambitious youths all over “rising Asia.” It follows its nameless hero to the sprawling metropolis where he begins to amass an empire built on that most fluid, and increasingly scarce, of goods: water. Yet his heart remains set on something else: on the pretty girl whose star rises along with his, their paths crossing and recrossing, a lifelong affair sparked and snuffed and sparked again by the forces that careen their fates along.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is a striking slice of contemporary life at a time of crushing upheaval. Romantic without being sentimental, political without being didactic, and spiritual without being religious, it brings an unflinching gaze to the violence and hope it depicts. And it creates two unforgettable characters who find moments of transcendent intimacy in the midst of shattering change.

My Review: An internationally flavored mash-up of Death of a Salesman and The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit.

I liked both of those stories, and this one too. I got tired of the second-person gag way early, and it took most of a month to read the book because of that.
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LibraryThing member LynnB
An interesting and creative book. Written as a self-help manual, complete with chapter titles such as "get an education" and "focus on the fundamentals", this is the story of the rise and fall of a young Asian man...from poverty and near death, to the pinnacle of success as a businessman, to old
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age and death. The author uses sparse prose to build the two main characters, the young boy and the pretty girl. They are rich characters, with their motivations and emotions fully exposed, yet in the neutral tones of the self-help genre. So, with this book, you get a good story and a unique format which adds so the story telling -- I loved it.
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LibraryThing member rhussey174
I very much enjoyed this book; it's a good story with interesting characters, and a light style that's entertaining and readable. It's sort of a parody of self-help books, and that conceit works well. The author follows the life of his main character pretending that it's an illustration of how to
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become rich. But this is really a way to tell what is a traditional story of a man's life. The self-help element is used partly to consider what a "self" really is and also as a way to say something about the state of Asia today. I can't say it goes very deeply into these topics, but it handles them with a enjoyably light touch.
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LibraryThing member mohitgoel
I won a copy of this book as part of the LT giveaway.

This is a very different book. Written in the format of a self help book, it reads very differently from the usual fiction. the story is pretty thin in itself but kind of works with the "how to" chapters.

I think the book gets too clever by half
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in some places but the overall story worked for me. Having read all the previous works from the author, I am getting used to expecting something different from him each time.

Here's looking to more work by this brilliant writer.
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LibraryThing member gbelik
A novel in the guise of a self-help manual. It is the personal story of an ambitious, successful man in modern Pakistan, but a touching love story also runs through the novel.
LibraryThing member booklove2
'How to Get To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia' is written in the style of a self-help book, directed at "you" but tells the story of a boy moving to an unnamed Asian city from the country and trying to be successful: first becoming a pirated DVD delivery boy and then starting a boil-and-bottle
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water company. He also falls in love, despite one of the chapters in this self-help book is called 'Don't Fall in Love'. The writing style is unique and fresh to me. It reminds me more of the 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books from my childhood, probably since I've read more of those than self-help books. (I'm beyond help anyway!) There is a mighty brain behind this book -- a lovely, smart way with words. Hamid has spent time in Pakistan and America (and some good schools -- even though one of my favorite bits in the book skewers universities.) Since the characters are unnamed, the Asian city is unnamed, and the book is directed at "you", I think Hamid is trying to connect the reader to the story as much as possible by making the details vague and universal, and also avoiding politics as much as possible. But some may see Hamid's last book as a bit too political, with a character grinning at images of the towers falling on 9/11 in 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' (nominee for the Man Booker prize and also just made into a film.) I don't recall 'Filthy Rich' even mentioning 9/11, but since DVDs were mentioned, there is a good possibility the setting takes place after 2001. Not to say that this book needed to be political. However, this book did have a funeral from the point of view of a drone... but seemed too hesitant to mention the horribleness of drones. The drone was only present, which might have been enough to say what it needed to say anyway. Maybe Hamid wanted to take a different approach this time around, cut the politics, have relateable characters, tell the story of a life that could be anyone. It would make for a nice discussion comparing both books side by side just to analyze why one is so political and the other is not. (They almost seem like they'd be stronger read as a pair.) Both books are very worthy reads, and I think I liked them both equally. I can appreciate them for their own reasons. As the book explores the main character's life and "the pretty girl" he loves keeps appearing and disappearing, I shed a tear for that love and life lost, not because it is sentimental, but because of Hamid's eloquence. Being "filthy rich" isn't the most important thing in a life, which doesn't need to be said, of course: which is why I'd like to have seen a different message here. I will look forward to seeing what Hamid's next book has to say.
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LibraryThing member bostonbibliophile
I adored this bittersweet, smart, wonderful book.
LibraryThing member danieljayfriedman
“This book is a self-help book. Its objective. . . is to show you how to get filthy rich in rising Asia. And to do that, it has to find you, huddled, shivering, on the packed earth under your mother’s cot one cold, dewy morning. Your anguish is the anguish of a boy whose chocolate has been
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thrown away, whose remote controls are out of batteries, whose scooter is busted, whose new sneakers have been stolen. This is all the more remarkable since you’ve never in your life seen any of these things.”

So Moshin Hamid explains the framework and sets the context for his compelling, sobering, and ultimately redemptive How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. Following the self-help conceit, each chapter loosely illustrates a self-help step towards riches in today’s Asia through telling us how a nameless boy in a nameless village in a nameless, presumably south Asian nation, eventually becomes filthy rich: Chapter One—Move to the City; Chapter Two—Get an Education; Chapter Three—Don’t Fall In Love; Chapter Six—Work for Yourself; Chapter Eight—Befriend a Bureaucrat.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is simultaneously a portrait of both rapid, chaotic capitalist development, and of a nameless boy’s growth, maturation, greed, success, failures, and his capacity for loyalty and love. The nameless boy, his mother, and two siblings follow their migrant father to the nameless city where he works: “you embody one of the great changes of your time. Where once your clan was innumerable, not infinite but of a large number not readily known, now there are five of you. Five. The fingers on one hand, the toes on one foot, a miniscule aggregation when compared with the shoals of fish or flocks or birds or indeed tribes of humans.”

The nameless boy attends secondary school, where his teacher bribed bureaucrats to alter his secondary school grade examination and then bribed other bureaucrats to secure a job as a teacher. The nameless boy pursues riches by becoming as salesman and deliverer for a successful businessman who distributes canned and other food products at competitive prices to small stores, the competitive prices enabled by the businessman’s cleverly altering the “sell-by” dates on already expired products. The nameless boy, now a nameless young man, learns the lessons of business success well, and starts a bottled water business, which crudely filters non-potable tap water. His bottled water business grows through business acumen, violence, and bribes, and he reaches riches and legitimizes his business.

The nameless pretty girl yearned for by the nameless boy escapes from their slum by becoming the mistress of her boss. Due to her intelligence, drive, and flexibility, she achieves her own success by moving from mistress to modestly successful model and actress to furniture importer. The nameless pretty girl and the nameless boy “Don’t Fall In Love” with each other or anybody else, but both find modest happiness as adults. She, through surrounding herself with devoted employees, and he, through his love for and devotion to his gay son. Ultimately--after the nameless boy loses his riches through his former brother-in-law’s embezzlement and after the nameless pretty girl loses her wealth through a brutal theft and murder—the nameless boy and the nameless pretty girl reunite in their old age.

Moshin Hamid’s How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia fascinates, elegantly revealing the human rewards and costs of rapid economic development. Hamid was deservedly short-listed for the 2008 Man Booker Prize for his riveting The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Hamid stands with Aravind Adiga, Kiran Desai, Rohinton Mistry, and Jeet Thayil as a remarkably skilled, humane, and clear-sighted chronicler of contemporary development in India and Pakistan.
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LibraryThing member beckybrandon
This is a novel written like a self-help book. It's odd that the reader is invited into the story by being told this is "your" life, or what "you" should do. But after the first two pages, I didn't even notice that change-up. The writing is clear, fast, and perfectly paced. I'm a slow reader and I
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read this in two days!
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LibraryThing member pdepena
Unnamed protagonist creates a successful company selling clean water in a corrupt third-world country.
LibraryThing member bcquinnsmom
All in all, I found Mr. Hamid's book to be very clever, well-written and thought provoking. There is so much more to this novel than I can encapsulate in a few sentences here, which is okay, because the book is really best experienced via one's own imagination.

I found that the use of the self-help
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format and the second-person narration brought more of an immediacy while reading. It separates different periods of the unnamed protagonist's (only known as "You" here) life and his material rise to entrepreneur under chapter headings that seem to be commonsensical and offer sound advice, for example, "Work for Yourself," "Befriend a Bureaucrat," or even "Be Prepared to Use Violence." It also brings to light that while riches can be achieved, and success can be realized, there's also a flip side: loss. While "You" is steadily climbing the success ladder, his losses begin to mount: his marriage and relationship with his son are slowly disintegrating, and as he gets older, health and fortune begin to wane. While the story focuses on this character, the format of this book also allows the reader to project his story outward onto this unnamed country, and the growing pains it endures: health concerns, the mass move to the cities that changes traditional family structures and family dynamics, and among other things, leads to the construction of haphazard housing that as the author notes, probably wouldn't survive torrential rainstorms or earthquakes. Rapid growth and one's financial successes are caught up together in webs of corruption, nepotism and graft that are inherent in every stage of the process (even "you's" elementary school teacher got his job through bribes and family connections in the bureaucracy); physical security comes from having a bodyguard prepared to shoot your rivals' hitmen or anyone else who might want you out of the way; then, of course, there are the ever-present environmental concerns that are pretty much ignored. The book as a whole also provides a framework for trying to understand a part of the world that most of us actually know very little about.

As I came to the end of the novel, one of the questions I took away with me was whether or not the unnamed protagonist's successes were worth the inevitable losses -- extending that concept outward I find myself hoping that this country will survive the downsides of its attempts at its own rise in the world. The powerful and continuing love story between the unnamed character and the pretty girl holds the key to existing with a measure of peace and stability among the chaos; that's all I'll say about this right now and leave it to you to read it for yourself. The book as a whole also provides a framework for trying to understand a part of the world that most of us actually know very little about.
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LibraryThing member kgib
I think the self-help book conceit worked, especially since the author managed to use the second person, never name his characters, and still make them multidimensional. It also kept the story moving, with each chapter a leap to a different stage in the main character's life.
LibraryThing member amaryann21
This is a story of a man who transforms himself from a poor, rural youth to a successful business man in "rising Asia". The reader never learns his name or his country of origin, but we are privy to the trials and tribulations of what it takes to become wealthy in a region where the rules change
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constantly. Hasid's style is in no way straightforward and this adds to the pleasure of reading this book. There is a humanness and depth to this book that is compelling. I've read Hasid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist and loved it, and this is another victory.
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LibraryThing member jasonlf
A perfectly executed, beautifully written, compelling novel that is about universal themes of greed and ambition while also portraying "rising Asia" and telling a beautiful love story. In some ways it feels like the novel Balzac would have written if he visited Pakistan today.

Unusually written in
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the second person, it almost makes "you" feel like the protagonist of the story, as if you are going through the experiences that are recounted literally from cradle to grave.

Much of the rise and fall arc of the story follows a conventional, archetypal pattern of moving from country to city, moving from fraudulent business to a more respectable but still corrupt corporation, and all the usual stages including apprenticeships, violence, bribery, military contracts and the like. And much of the progression feels inevitable. But that is not the same as uninteresting or predictable--in fact almost the complete opposite, you feel immersed in it.

The beautiful counterpoint to this story is the "pretty girl" he falls in love with as a child in school, sleeps with and then runs into periodically over the course of their life. Their geriatric re-connection, physically and emotionally, is particularly well told and moving.
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LibraryThing member muddyboy
The author starts by telling us that this is a self help book to exactly what the title portends. However very quickly the book becomes much more than that. Its a story about dreams - some we can attain, like the main character's ability become wealthy which does through the water sales business.
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However, some dreams we never can quite reach, like the main character's quest for the love of the "pretty girl" who he befriends as a youth and she reappears all through his life even into his eighties. This is also a book about life stages - the vibrancy of youth. satisfied accomplishment of middle age and then trying to age with dignity. I really love the classiness of the writing and felt that it was a total joy to read.
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LibraryThing member Ashles
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is the bittersweet story of a young man growing up in an unnamed Asian country and his quest for wealth from extreme poverty. This fictional memoir is written in second-person, in the style of a self-help book. It's prose is distant but warm, and sparse but
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beautiful. I never thought I would read such a poetic description of a pharmacy ("… a crowded micro-warehouse stacked with pallets not much bigger than matchboxes …").

This book was very compelling, and I often had a hard time putting it down, not only because of its tight prose but also because of the glance it gave me into a rather unknown world.
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LibraryThing member morningwalker
This was a self-help book of a most unique kind. It was also a love story. It was a story of success and the eventual fall from success. It was a glimpse into the cultural realm of a poverty stricken country's citizens, trying by whatever means necessary, to dig their way out of the pervasive
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poverty that surrounds them. It was strange, it was insightful and I liked it.
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LibraryThing member nnschiller
This book tempers its social commentary with humor and generosity.




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