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Publisher's Summary

As one of the first titles in Atlantic Monthly Press' "Books That Changed the World" series, America's most provocative satirist, P.J. O'Rourke, reads from Adam Smith's revolutionary The Wealth of Nations - so you don't have to.

Recognized almost instantly on its publication in 1776 as the fundamental work of economics, The Wealth of Nations was also recognized as really long. The original edition totaled over 900 pages in two volumes, including the blockbuster 67-page "digression concerning the variations in the value of silver during the course of the last four centuries", which, O'Rourke says, "to those uninterested in the historiography of currency supply, is like reading Modern Maturity in Urdu".

Although daunting, Smith's tome is still essential to understanding such currently hot topics as outsourcing, trade imbalances, and Angelina Jolie. In this hilarious, approachable, and insightful examination of Smith and his groundbreaking work, P.J. puts his trademark wit to good use and shows us why Smith is still relevant, why what seems obvious now was once revolutionary, and why the pursuit of self-interest is so important.

©2006 P.J. O'Rourke (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.

Critic Reviews

"In a highly accessible, often hilarious tone, O'Rourke parses Smith's notions of political and economic freedom." (Booklist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall

Good, but missing PJ

I've listened to other O'Rourke, some he read, and some (like this) read by others. His humor and points come through with this reader, but his work deserves his voice

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

On the Wealth of Nations--worth listening to

“On the Wealth of Nations”

As a result of the hype about deregulating everything in the U.S., especially since Reagan, I was interested to learn the origins of this aspect of economics. To read “The Wealth of Nations” is more than I could do. When this review came out, I was tempted to read it, but since becoming diabetic, reading is difficult for me. Getting the book on Audible was great. The presentation is entertaining and packed with interesting, thought provoking interpretations of Adam Smith’s concepts. I had trouble putting it down. After completing the book, I decided after a couple of weeks, a second listen would be a real good idea.

Perhaps this book should be required listening for anyone planning to vote in the U.S. this year. I found it very educational. Adam Smith’s concepts have been grossly simplified and exaggerated to suite the contemporary bias that politician need to get our votes. Mr. Smith’s thinking was far more complex and confused than I would have expected based on modern day accounts.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Jay
  • Easthampton, MA, United States
  • 02-22-08

A great read

All the meat of the original, plenty of laughs and 20 hours shorter... it's like if the class clown read you Cliffs notes, but better.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Essence of the second greatest book ever written

I have not read "the Wealth Of Nations". However , if it is half as good as P.J.'s interption of it , it is a wonderful book,indeed. Were I Dictator for a Day , I would Command that every person in America listen to it.
I find myself going back to it , time and time again.
Frankly, P.J.'s book opened a whole world to me , of logical thought , and I have pursued that world , of understanding the logical processes , and the emotional feelings , of many great thinkers, and see as well , the context of the present , and the hope and fear of the future.
Adam Smith should never be forgotten, and , if P.J.'s book is as faithful to the origional as I believe it to be , statues of Adam Smith should dot every town square in America.
Perhaps then , we will remain the Land of the Free.

7 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Should have been better!

As an accounting professor, and being familiar with the author's work, I had high hopes for this book. However, the producers apparently decided that they needed a "serious business voice" for a humorous book, and the narrator killed the content. I was hoping to use this for my classes, but would never consider boring them to death with it -- somehow they seem to find accounting boring enough!

3 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Where's PJ?

PJ has been a fine writer in his time, but this book does not reflect it. It isn't funny, it isn't insightful and it isn't really a good reflection of Adam Smith's work.
I don't recommend it.

3 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

For O'Rourke Fans

I'm not one. But I wanted to understand The Wealth of Nations. This whole Great Books project seems like a wonderful idea to help understand the books that mold our thinking.
O'Rourke could not write one sentence without his stupid humor. He is not funny. To me, that is. If he is HIlarious to you, this will be a great book. Do not read if you want to learn the essence of The Wealth of Nations.

5 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Debali
  • Chicago, Israel
  • 11-07-08

A Joke

Mr. O'Rourke does not seem to have read Adam Smith. If he had he would have encountered a very fascinating and in some unlikely book. As it is, one is treated to a farrago of ideological assertions with little textual basis.

1 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • David
  • Springfield, VA, United States
  • 06-29-10


O'Rourke's impression of this work is unimaginative, unhelpful, and boorish. He is apparently impressed with the sound of his voice, but other than him, I worry about who may appreciate this effort.

0 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
  • John
  • 08-02-07

Good listen for a right-wing take on Smith

Apart from the BA adverts, this was my first proper exposure to P J O'Rourke. O'Rourke's analysis of Smith spends a lot of time showing why he would be a natural modern day low-tax, small-government, supremacy-of-the-individual type US Republican.

But if you can get over O?Rourke?s in-built bias, this is a great listen. The late 1700?s must have been an incredible time to live in Scotland ? if you were part of the Enlightenment scene. I particularly enjoyed O?Rourke?s depiction of the relationship between David Hume and Smith.

But, good grief, the narrator?s pronunciation of Scottish names and place names; Edinboro arrgh! At least he got ?Smith? right.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Roy
  • 10-31-07

A work of genius ruined

Adam Smith was a man who's ideas shaped the economic in he same way that Darwin shaped the biological his ideas where that powerful and far reaching.

Reworking his work into a modern version to re-represent them to a world already shaped by those ideas is a great idea. Giving this work to P.J. Rourke was lazy thnking pandering to the worst of political and social understanding.

I may come across as vitriolic here but as an economics graduate I'd hate anyones first introduction to Smith to be via O'Rourkes right wing, american centric world view which has tainted his previous books and so warps his world view to make his conclusions in those books oversimplistic and meaningless.

This reading of the book isn't even very helpful addng insult to O'Rourkes injury this is read by an American who so mangles the language of Smiths original that O'Rourke left alone that he renderes them almost incomprehensable

I would have had no issue if they'd taken on an American right wing thinker with such an attitude but to ose this American centric view over Smith shows no respect and is up there with the travesties of interpretation in Disney movies

2 stars for the bits of Smith that survive this mauling none for any else involved in this

4 of 6 people found this review helpful