Book Review: Rich Like Them by Ryan D'Agostino

Rich Like Them: My Door-to-Door Search for the Secrets of Wealth in America's Richest Neighborhoods by Ryan D'Agostino - Hardcover: 256 pages Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (January 5, 2009)

One summer my mother showed me a series of articles in Money magazine by a reporter named Ryan D'Agostino who knocked on the doors of expensive homes to find out how the occupants became rich.  These articles were quite memorable for me because I thought it was hilarious how the author literally invaded the private property of rich people.  Now a couple years later, D'Agostino has collected the entire experiment along with his personal stories into a book called Rich Like Them.

I read this entire book in one  four hour sitting since it was funny yet serious.  Each chapter is divided into small sections headlined by words of wisdom that are often a bit cliche.  For example, the author details the importance of networking in "Connect the people you meet", and the power of patience in "Perseverance doesn't take forever".  If you have read any kind of self help book you would probably have heard these mantras before.  What really made the book fun to read were the personal stories of the strange and wealthy people D'Agostino met after he knocked on hundreds of doors.  My favorite two characters from the book were Harvey Jason, a first edition book seller in Beverly Hills, and Arthur Tauck, the chairman of Tauck World Discovery.  Harvey Jason was  an actor before he became a bookstore owner and he utilized his Hollywood connections to create a very success niche business.  Tauck is a septigenarian who thought of interesting tours for the tour company his father founded.  One of his most crazy and popular tours is helihiking for seniors.  These people's innovative and sometimes wacky ideas and visions for their businesses were absolutely fascinating. 

This book is also somewhat familiar to me because I live just a few blocks away from Atherton, California which happens to be the richest neighborhood in the United States according to the book. I have driven through the town several times and most of the homes there are hidden behind trees or gates. Once you cross the border into my neighborhood of Redwood City you would have no idea that such an exclusive pod of extreme wealth is so close by because the entire scenery changes.  The closest I have gotten to "socializing" with Atherton residents is when they drive their expensive cars through the Taco Bell across from the Ferrari-Maserati dealership on El Camino Real. I have spotted a Ferrari, Porsche, and a Bentley with a driver at that particular Taco Bell late at night.  I always found that pretty funny because these folks can definitely afford something fancier, but instead they favor greasy semi-Mexican fast food . With that said,  D'Agostino's book appropriately ends with a chapter on humility.  He found that quite a few of the people that chose to speak with him were humble even though they have "made it" so to speak.  He profiled one Athertonian named Heidi Roizen who was a powerful venture capitalist in the Silicon Valley who would gladly grab a cup of coffee with a college graduate just to see if there is a good idea. She also owned her own company at one time and worried about her employees when there was a bad quarter.  Her humility brought her positive relationships and opportunity and thus the author calls humility "the secret ingredient" in becoming rich.  After reading this, I felt a bit ashamed of myself because the wealthy people I see at Taco Bell probably would not laugh at me for grabbing a few Gorditas in my Honda, but I am the one mocking their humble hunger.

In conclusion, this is probably a good book if you want to be entertained and enlightened by the personal stories of a group of wealthy people who are also surprisingly down to earth.  However, I would not use this book as a guide to becoming rich because it  is nearly impossible to replicate any one person's strategy to attaining wealth. This book repeats a lot of the basic principles to becoming successful such as working hard and being patient, but those are not exactly secrets.  I recommend this book for people who like to read memoirs and personal blogs, but I do not think anyone would become "rich like them" just by reading this book.

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Guest's picture

Thanks for the review. I really like the idea that it is humility that sets people apart. While many people may make money and have a huge ego, I believe that successful business people who are truly here for the long term and want to make a positive impact do have the humility that your review and the book notes.

Guest's picture

...and I liked it because I like reading about high net worth individuals and how they live.

I agree that it isn't a great book to learn how to build wealth, but it's entertaining nonetheless.

Fabulously Broke in the City
Just a Girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver

Guest's picture

I am reading this book to write a review on and I completely agree with you. Very light and entertaining but can't be looked at as a finance book.