BOOK REVIEW

Non-fiction e-books and audiobooks by Greg Steinmetz, Frank McLynn and Nancy Weber

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 September, 2015, 9:00pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 September, 2015, 9:00pm

The Richest Man Who Ever Lived by Greg Steinmetz

Simon & Schuster (e-book)

Jacob Fugger may not be a familiar name, even among those who follow the business news. But, according to Greg Steinmetz, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, the German merchant, banker and mining giant was the richest man in history. And so important to him was market-sensitive information, he created the world’s first news service. Impressive, considering Fugger was born in 1459. Steinmetz shows at length how his subject was a pioneer in the art of money-making as we know it today, using shrewd, aggressive tactics to grow an empire that would equal 2 per cent of Europe’s gross domestic product today. His client list included popes and emperors, among them the House of Habsburg’s Frederick III and Maximilian I, and Spain’s Charles V. Greedy for copper, Fugger knew, however, that financing mines would require “scary amounts of money” up front, and it would be years before they would turn a profit. Readers will also learn about his insistence on double-entry bookkeeping and his enjoyment of lending for profit.

 

Genghis Khan by Frank McLynn

Da Capo Press (e-book)

Readers will open Frank McLynn’s book wondering which Genghis Khan he’ll be writing about: the one accused of extreme cruelty and slaughtering half the world or the rehabilitated one, free of racial prejudice and religious intolerance, whose legacy is to be applauded. To his credit, McLynn tries to achieve balance between the wildly divergent figures and views, showing how the nomad born in 1162 as Temujin would become the “greatest conqueror the world has ever known”. To put things in perspective, the modern population of the countries ruled by the Mongol Empire at its greatest would be three billion today. We learn about the violent, chaotic world of his boyhood. Kidnappings, murder, enslavement and pillaging formed the backdrop to his world before he was proclaimed supreme leader in 1206. Battles rage, including the 23-year war Genghis waged in Jin China, which was the most calamitous in its human cost. McLynn takes an epic story and distills it into a book that will fill readers with awe.

 

The Life Swap by Nancy Weber

Audible Studios (audiobook)

(read by Tessa Aberjonois)

Tessa Aberjonois’ ditsy voice is annoying but it suits the social experiment chronicled in Nancy Weber’s The Life Swap. The Village Voice advert on the cover says it all: “Woman writer, 31, will exchange her joyful, productive existence with yours for a month.” Apart from swapping homes, she wanted to be someone else and take on her habits, wear her clothes, and sleep with her lovers. Why? “I want to know if people can get out of their skins.” It was the 1970s, after all. After hearing from many wannabe Webers, she chooses to swap lives with a sociologist called Micki, a bisexual radical feminist. The women spend many hours preparing, and surprisingly (or maybe not), respective partners, male and female, play along – before it all starts to unravel. Micki uses the opportunity to bed-hop, breaks the rules both agreed to and misbehaves in other ways. Sometimes The Life Swap is muddle-headed, as we learn about what New Nancy and New Micki get up to. Other times it is just heavy, man.