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Publisher's Summary

What are the consequences if the people given control over our government have no idea how it works?   

"The election happened," remembers Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, then deputy secretary of the Department of Energy. "And then there was radio silence." Across all departments, similar stories were playing out: Trump appointees were few and far between; those that did show up were shockingly uninformed about the functions of their new workplace. Some even threw away the briefing books that had been prepared for them.   

Michael Lewis’ brilliant narrative takes us into the engine rooms of a government under attack by its own leaders. In Agriculture the funding of vital programs like food stamps and school lunches is being slashed. The Commerce Department may not have enough staff to conduct the 2020 Census properly. Over at Energy, where international nuclear risk is managed, it’s not clear there will be enough inspectors to track and locate black market uranium before terrorists do.   

Willful ignorance plays a role in these looming disasters. If your ambition is to maximize short-term gains without regard to the long-term cost, you are better off not knowing those costs. If you want to preserve your personal immunity to the hard problems, it’s better never to really understand those problems. There is upside to ignorance and downside to knowledge. Knowledge makes life messier. It makes it a bit more difficult for a person who wishes to shrink the world to a worldview.   

If there are dangerous fools in this book, there are also heroes - unsung, of course. They are the linchpins of the system - those public servants whose knowledge, dedication, and proactivity keep the machinery running. Michael Lewis finds them, and he asks them what keeps them up at night.

Please note: Included with The Fifth Risk is the entirety of The Coming Storm, the Audible Original story of two scientists who revolutionized climate predictions, bringing warning systems to previously unimaginable levels of accuracy. Michael Lewis uncovers the potential cost of putting a price tag on life-saving information.

©2018 Michael Lewis (P)2018 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Narrator Victor Bevine has a low, restrained voice that underlines Lewis's sense of foreboding.... Bevine narrates deliberately but varies his tone to keep the audiobook interesting... He also pauses effectively to allow us to consider the meaning of the author's words." (AudioFile)

What members say

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Awkward and Disappointing

I am a huge Michael Lewis groupie. The undoing project is literally my favorite book. That's why I feel so awkward writing this review as I was deeply disappointed with this book (and with audible as well).
As an audible member I recently got for free the book "The coming storm" by Michael Lewis. An awesome gift I thought. I read it and thought it was quite nice. Then, a few weeks later when The Fifth Risk was out, I was super excited to read that too. Half way through The Fifth Risk I discovered, to my surprise, that The Coming Storm is actually *the 2nd half of The Fifth Risk*. What???
So for the full price of an already short audiobook (5 hours) I got original content of just 2.5 hours. Money and value aside, this is just bizzare story telling! couldn't someone notify me these two books have the same content??
Why would I want to read the book's end before its start?

Other than that, the book is just ok. some truly interesting parts but I didn't feel a strong overarching theme (but maybe this is my fault as I read the 2nd part of the book few weeks before its first part... :/ ). Narrator is great.
If you ever decide to read this book do yourself a favor and don't read "the coming storm" AKA the second half of this book beforehand.

191 of 214 people found this review helpful

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Knowledge makes life messier

"It's the places in our government where the cameras never roll that you have to worry about the most."
- Michael Lewis, The Fifth Risk

I've read several books about President Trump and his administration in the last couple years. They all depress me a bit. I feel like I'm reading some real-time version of Gibbons' 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'. But none of the other Trump books scared me like this one did. Lewis isn't interested in the Fox/MSNBC politics or the Twitter-level anxiety of the Trump administration. He is interested, in this book, in the systematic and bureaucratic failures of the Trump administration and what risks this administration's lack of professionalism (this is beyond politics, thisis about competency of governance) might mean to our country and our people.

Lewis does this using his usual approach (which is a bit similar to John McPhee's new nonfiction approach). He finds interesting people who become narrative heros and guides to an area and ties them together into a compelling story or narrative. The areas Lewis explores? Presidential Transitions (guide: Max Stier); I Department of Energy/Tail Risk (guides: Tarak Shah, John MacWilliams), II USDA/People Risk (guides: Ali Zaidi, Kevin Concannon, Cathie Woteki), III Department of Commerce/All the President's Data (Guides: Kathy Sullivan, DJ Patil, David Friedberg).

This is a short book. It is relevant but still not top-shelf Lewis. I enjoyed it, but just wished it was bit longer and a bit deeper*. It

* I get the irony. This books scared the sh!t out of me. It made me sad. Therefore, I wish it were longer.

21 of 23 people found this review helpful

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Disappointed

Almost 1/3 of this book was already released on audible as “the coming storm.” I like Michael Lewis and his writing but I feel cheated that I used a credit on it. The main message of the book was already in The Coming Storm.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Real Disappointment for a Michael Lewis Fan

I cannot fathom why a great writer like MIchael Lewis would agree to such a stupid stunt. I listened to The Coming Storm and really liked it. About half-way through The Fifth Risk, I couldn't believe that I was listening to the The Coming Storm again. I literally started a chat with Audible about having gotten a corrupt file. When they couldn't help me, I went back to the book description and saw the "warning label" about this book being The Coming Storm with a couple of chapters added on the front. I literally thought that The Coming Storm was a book that Lewis decided not to finish, so he gave it to Audible. Now I realize that The Fifth Risk is the book he didn't finish and The Coming Storm was the best part of it.

I'm really disappointed in Audible and in Michael Lewis. Audible should rethink its "Only from Audible" strategy. So far, it is definitely cheapening an otherwise great brand.

24 of 29 people found this review helpful

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All over the place

I have loved all of Lewis's other books. They had a clear story and a clear point, even if it took several chapters to really find out what it was. The Fifth Risk is really all over the place. We started out with the series of events that led up to Donald Trump getting elected and how poorly he managed the transition. Then we talk about the way some of the government departments were run before he was elected. Then we talk about NOAA and weather data and how the Trump administration revoked public data sets because AccuWeather is greedy. Then we talked about tornadoes in Oklahoma. There was no real story, no climax, and no real point to it all other than the obvious "Trump is bad, and the people he has appointed are either stupid or just not the right people for the jobs to which they were appointed." (that's not a quote from the book, it's just what I took away as the major theme of it all). This is not a political statement at all, as he cites very clear evidence that it's an accurate reality...I just had really hoped there was more to it than that. Pretty disappointed in this one.

40 of 49 people found this review helpful

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Well done Michael Lewis

Clarity and detail. An informational delivery like that of a comet from the ball of basic information and concerns through the various methods of evaluation, research, and understanding to the glistening tail of understanding. Michael Lewis clearly and fully researches and then eloquently informs his audiences of difficult and diverse topics in government and science. Thank you Michael Lewis for your work. Immensely. One result of this book is a confirmation of the utter damage possible when those who temporarily govern lack even a modicum of interest in or respect for the work of intellectual and scientific Americans they neither understand nor value. Of especial concern is when those who temporarily govern look at the great responsibility in that work as nothing more than an avenue to maximizing personal monetary enrichment.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Share this book to everyone.

This book should be airlifted into rural areas across the United States. Equal parts illuminating and cautionary.

I had no idea how interesting NOAA is.

28 of 35 people found this review helpful

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Thought Provoking

An excellent example of wha our government provides us and how important government services are

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Lewis goes total “Never Trump”

What a one-sided hack job by Lewis. Using “friends of Trump” as a credible source and doing everything possible in prologue and chapter 1 to discredit Trump - the President of the US elected by American Citizens!!!! The President IS NOT appointed by leftest-activist story tellers like Lewis OR Hollywood elites (thank God). I’ve read all of Lewis’ books and liked many.....now I’m left wondering what was true/false from his earlier works. Lewis is 100% democrat and a Clinton supporter I’m sure! I wonder how Lewis feels now, two years into Trump Presidency, with unemployment / minority unemployment at record lows and economy flying high....North Korea has stopped nuclear tests....we are improving trade deals....Lewis should stick to telling us stories based in fact and stay out of his biased political views.... or at least tell us he is giving political opinion.... I want my $$$ back!!! Ugh.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very Dissapointed

I'll start off by saying that I'm a huge Michael Lewis fan. Unfortunately, I found this book very disappointing. It had such promise in the beginning and then drove straight off the cliff. I actually found myself counting the minutes until the end.

I get that weather is important but way too much time was spent on that one point. Again, very disappointment.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful