Ponzi's Scheme

The True Story of a Financial Legend
Narrated by: Grover Gardner
Length: 9 hrs and 57 mins
4.3 out of 5 stars (246 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

You’ve heard of the scheme. Now comes the man behind it. In Mitchell Zuckoff's exhilarating book, the first nonfiction account of Charles Ponzi, we meet the charismatic rogue who launched the most famous and extraordinary scam in the annals of American finance. 

It was a time when anything seemed possible - instant wealth, glittering fame, fabulous luxury - and for a run of magical weeks in the spring and summer of 1920, Charles Ponzi made it all come true. Promising to double investors’ money in three months, the dapper, charming Ponzi raised the “rob Peter to pay Paul” scam to an art form and raked in millions at his office in downtown Boston. Ponzi’s Scheme is the amazing true story of the irresistible scoundrel who launched the most successful scheme of financial alchemy in modern history - and uttered the first roar of the Roaring 20s. 

Ponzi may have been a charlatan, but he was also a wonderfully likable man. His intentions were noble, his manners impeccable, his sales pitch enchanting. Born to a genteel Italian family, he immigrated to the United States with big dreams but no money. Only after he became hopelessly enamored of a stenographer named Rose Gnecco and persuaded her to marry him did Ponzi light on the means to make his dreams come true. His true motive was not greed but love. 

With rich narrative skill, Mitchell Zuckoff conjures up the feverish atmosphere of Boston during the weeks when Ponzi’s bubble grew bigger and bigger. At the peak of his success, Ponzi was taking in more than $2 million a week. And then his house of cards came crashing down - thanks in large part to the relentless investigative reporting of Richard Grozier’s Boston Post

In Zuckoff's hands, Ponzi is no mere swindler; instead he is appealing and magnetic, a colorful and poignant figure, someone who struggled his whole life to attain great wealth and who sincerely believed - to the very end - that he could have made good on his investment promises if only he’d had enough time. Ponzi is a classic American tale of immigrant life and the dream of success, and the unexpectedly moving story of a man who - for a fleeting, illusory moment - attained it all. 

©2005 Mitchell Zuckoff (P)2005 Books on Tape, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Zuckoff...tells Ponzi's story amicably and briskly, and keeps the complicated financial intricacies understandable." (The New York Times Book Review)

"Zuckoff's biography of Ponzi is meticulously accurate, based on memoirs and newspaper accounts of the day, weaving the story of the rise of this small-time Italian immigrant with that of Richard Grozier, second-generation editor of the Boston Post." (Booklist)  

“For Charles Ponzi, a poor Italian immigrant with big dreams and grand schemes, the streets of America truly were paved with gold. In Mitchell Zuckoff’s hands, the get-rich-quick saga of Ponzi is a portrait of America in the Roaring Twenties - a time of innocence and greed, of rogues, rascals, and reformers. It’s hard not to root for Ponzi as he tiptoes along a financial high wire of his own creation, high above his immigrant investors cheering him on and the Boston Brahmins hoping for him to fall. Zuckoff spins a tale rich in intrigue, corruption, betrayal - and love. It is a story that resonates today, in an age of financial scandals ranging from Enron to Martha Stewart.” (Mike Stanton, author of The Prince of Providence)

What listeners say about Ponzi's Scheme

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

An odd book

What does this book have going for it? It has a great narrator & a brisk style of writing. What does this book have going against it? Alot of extraneous material shoved in to make it thicker, a fairly despicable main character who is painted somewhat sympathetically by the author, a relatively simple-minded fraud (unlike two other books on tape I have recently listened to off of Audible -- on Enron & on LTCM) that does not have enough finance intricacy to be of significant interest. Oh, I should say that the book is probably worth reading just so you know where the term Ponzi scheme came from. I am sorry that I am not more enthusiastic about it.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A great book

I have seldom enjoyed a book more, and Grover Gardner's reading as always is the best! An inciteful look at the 20's and at the shambles that was (and still is?) Boston politics.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Surprise yourself! Sympathize with a crook!

Where does Ponzi's Scheme rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

About the second or thrid best book I've listened to.

Who was your favorite character and why?

It is hard not to sympathize with Charles Ponzi, who had a brilliant idea put forgot to put the paperwork in the mail. And forgot to do the real work too. But by selling his efforts as "Helping the little man", became everyone's hero.

What about Grover Gardner’s performance did you like?

His reading speed is brilliant, and the subtle way in which he emphasizes important quotes makes listening very easy and entertaining.

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

Yes.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

A Business Biography that Reads Like Novel

I really enjoyed listening to this book. The author doesn't overdo the coverage on any part of Ponzi's life, or spend time going over pointless antidotes that don't serve the purpose of illustrating either a pivotal moment or the character of Ponzi. As a result, the story moves along at a really nice pace and is never too slow or boring.
The narration was also really good - as good as it gets in my opinion. Some narrators are really boring to listen to, but this guy (Grover Gardner) did such a great job I felt that his narration added to the interest of the story. Some narrators sound like they just got woken up from a nap to do a reading, but Gardner's treatment is upbeat and lively.
I felt listening to this book was time well spent and worth the purchase/credit.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Good read

A truly fascinating story that is set up very well by the author in order to have the reader understand the context of how Ponzi could coordinate such a scheme(scam). There is a bit more information than is necessary, like the entire college history of who turns out to be the main antagonist, but it was worth it in the end. This is moxie beyond imagination........

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful

I love this kind of historical books! Easy and pleasureable to listen to while learning.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Very enlightening

Having heard of a Ponzi Scheme nearly all my life, it was very, very interesting to find out where and how it all started (and ended). This certainly falls into the "...it seemed like a good idea at the time..." category. I enjoyed this book very much.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

The reading was good, but the writing wasn't

The reading was good, but the writing wasn't as cohesive as I'd hoped. The story lines were a bit disparate.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

How stupid can people be???

What a fun book to listen to! It's hard to believe that people in the 20's were that gullible. But, given all the TARP money that Washington has handed out, maybe we haven't changed that much. I actually liked Charles Ponzi at the end of the book....

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Interesting

Everyone has heard of the term Ponzi Scheme, and this book details his life. Very entertaining, great reader. Ponzi was a nut.

5 people found this helpful