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Editorial Reviews

The Ascent of Money is a fast-paced, superbly written, and richly informative excursion through tableaus, themes, scenes, and events that mark the financial history of the world. Included are substantial details on the fiscal meltdown in progress in May 2008, before the book went to press, adding a 21st century variation on the theme of financial collapses detailed in The Ascent of Money. Niall Ferguson has written an exciting panorama of finance that is also very much a book for our times. This is history as global financial drama, of advancing financial development, and the always recurring back stories of financial decline and debacle. It is a book orchestrated as much as written. The Ascent of Money demands a narrator with the range of talents necessary for bringing to voice the rich orchestration of Ferguson's prose. Enter, stage right, Simon Prebble.

With his rich, versatile, and expressive British tenor voice (and his 300+ unabridged narrations in a variety of genres), Prebble is Ascent's perfect narrator. From the first sentence of the Introduction — "Bread, cash, dosh, dough, loot, lucre, moolah, readies, the wherewithal: call it what you like, money matters." — to the last sentence of the Afterword — "It is not the fault of the mirror if it reflects our blemishes as clearly as our beauty." — Prebble delivers the authentic voice of this financial history. Applying here an altered nuance of phrasing, there the shortest of a shift of timing and slant of intonation, and everywhere present the voice's active tonal center, Prebble drives Ferguson's historical narrative forward. In a print book the reading eye catches, and the mind registers - at places only subliminally - meanings that are too subtle to be directly communicated. By his command and application of stored registries of articulation, expression, and ranges of emotion, Prebble clearly shows that he belongs with the best of narrators who can tap into and reflect and suggest the visual acuity that registers in the mind when reading and narrating. —David Chasey

Publisher's Summary

Niall Ferguson follows the money to tell the human story behind the evolution of finance, from its origins in ancient Mesopotamia to the latest upheavals on what he calls Planet Finance.

Bread, cash, dosh, dough, loot, lucre, moolah, readies, the wherewithal: Call it what you like, it matters. To Christians, love of it is the root of all evil. To generals, it's the sinews of war. To revolutionaries, it's the chains of labor. But in The Ascent of Money, Niall Ferguson shows that finance is in fact the foundation of human progress. What's more, he reveals financial history as the essential back story behind all history.

Through Ferguson's expert lens familiar historical landmarks appear in a new and sharper financial focus. Suddenly, the civilization of the Renaissance looks very different: a boom in the market for art and architecture made possible when Italian bankers adopted Arabic mathematics. The rise of the Dutch republic is reinterpreted as the triumph of the world's first modern bond market over insolvent Habsburg absolutism. And the origins of the French Revolution are traced back to a stock market bubble caused by a convicted Scot murderer.

©2008 Niall Ferguson (P)2008 Tantor

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My Favorite History Lesson

Would you listen to The Ascent of Money again? Why?

I HAVE to listen to it again. There was so much information stuffed into this book that I am sure I missed things. Maybe in two more listens I might grasp all of the facts and concepts in their entirety.

What other book might you compare The Ascent of Money to and why?

I have not read or listened to a book like this one before. I would describe it as a combo of history, statistics, and business textbooks with a fluid and engaging flow that keeps you interested.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I would have liked to, but I think my brain would have exploded. It was great listening in 5 hour chunks.

Any additional comments?

Definitely a worthwhile buy. Everyone in a business field should listen and learn from this book. We cannot fathom our future without understanding our history.

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Good but would be better to actually read it

This is a good overview of the history and evolution of money, banking and finance. I think it would be better as a book to read. Some of the material is a little dry even for someone like me who is fascinated by finance. The book is a little out of date and was written just as the recession of 2008 was beginning to emerge so some of the discussion seems be missing content had it been written post-2010 or so. If you are interested in this type of material, I definitely recommend it, but I would suggest you read it rather than listen.

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Entertaining look at the world of finance

I didn't know if I would enjoy this book, but I found it held my attention quite well. It was entertaining and informative without being overly technical. Definitely worth my time and money.

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The Book About What I Didn't Know About Money

I would only recommend this book to people who had an interest in money.
Things I especially liked about it were Otto von Bismarck advice to Germany's post WWI politicians, the discussion of the Bond Market and its beginning which were an after math of Waterloo, and the comparison of socialism in Japan and England. This was a very interesting and informative read/listen. I loved the book so much that I bought it in hard back afterword to have better access to the information.

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Excellent overview

What made the experience of listening to The Ascent of Money the most enjoyable?

The convenience of this medium is exceptional. I've been traveling a lot lately and am really glad I found audible.

What other book might you compare The Ascent of Money to and why?

None right now as this was my first financial history book.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Creating the double-edged sword: The wonders and perils of financial systems

Any additional comments?

Overall, this was an excellent book. It was heavily weighted toward the last few centuries but did an excellent job providing an overview of the important financial developments and interrelationships that made the western world the dominant society within the modern world.

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An informative survey

Would you consider the audio edition of The Ascent of Money to be better than the print version?

No, because I found the reader unsatisfactory. However, with a different reader, I might prefer the audio edition.

What did you like best about this story?

It covers a large number of subjects, many vital and interesting. Unlike certain reviewers, I enjoyed hearing even about events that are familiar, such as the Enron fraud, because my memory is far from perfect and I always find new information I had ignored.

How could the performance have been better?

Could have been much better. I have trouble with Prebble's voice that lacks resonance and sounds muffled (at least on my Bose Soundlink), and also with his clip but too matter of fact way of reading. His British accent (something I don't mind in other readers) adds to rendering certain words hard to understand.

Any additional comments?

One constant frustration is that this book was written shortly before the 2008 financial debacle and I am always wanting to know what the author would say today. This is one book that I think would benefit much from a second edition.On the other hand, just on the basis of what Ferguson wrote, the 2008 collapse could have been anticipated (at least with hindsight). I actually believe that if I had read this book say in June of 2008, I would have been sufficiently alarmed to take some steps to cut losses (at the time I took no interest in financial matters and had never heard of subprime mortgages, a topic Ferguson covers well considering that he was writing in 2007). It makes it even more incomprehensible that not more people (I mean those involved in finances) were aware of the danger. Though Ferguson takes a largely objective and politically unbiased view, the information he gives does seem to support in part something like 'The Trillion Dollar Conspiracy' (I have little affinity for conspiracy theories, yet cannot deny some of the evidence marshaled by Marrs and others).A book that provides a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of money is Divid Graebber's Debt: The First 5000 Years. A truly great book.

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Decent book on money policy history

I enjoyed Ferguson's Civilization more but this was still a good read on the history of money and money policy up to the depths of the financial crash of 2008.

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A thorough and engaging history of finance

Would you consider the audio edition of The Ascent of Money to be better than the print version?

Simon Prebble does a great job communicating the ideas that Niall put forth within the work, thus, the engagement the listener feels may help them to retain the information presented.

What did you like best about this story?

The story seems factual, devoid of ego and agenda, it was very refreshing and I enjoyed the work highly. Unfortunately, I later listened to / read Niall's "Civilization," which came across as filled with ego and agenda perhaps to the detriment of facts. This has worried me in regard to the credibility of the information presented in "Money" (thus the four-star story rating). In any case, this work's content is very entertaining, and in spite of my worry, I recommend it.

What does Simon Prebble bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Perhaps, I thought so.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I felt really engaged while listening to this book, but it isn't the type that tries to make readers / listeners laugh or cry.

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A must read for anyone interested Money

Any additional comments?

This book could be named How Money Impacts History or Money is the root of Everything. Niall does a good job of taking the reader through history using many smaller sub stories. There are so many great insights on what money actually is, how it can be used, and how its invention is tied directly to the advancement of the human race.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the study of finances, history, or culture.

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Fresh Perspective

Would you listen to The Ascent of Money again? Why?

This book quickly shows you that the real wizard behind the curtain is the world of finance. It explains and exposes why countries failed and succeeded, and how simple financial incentives have changed the course of human history. I would love to listen to this book again to better understand the lessons it has to teach.