Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Five Star Billionaire” as Want to Read:
Five Star Billionaire
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Five Star Billionaire

3.46  ·  Rating Details ·  2,749 Ratings  ·  393 Reviews
An entertaining, expansive, and eye-opening novel that captures the vibrance of China today, by a writer whose previous work has been called “mesmerizing,” “haunting,” “breathtaking,” “mercilessly gripping,” “seductive,” and “luminous.”

Phoebe is a factory girl who has come to Shanghai with the promise of a job - but when she arrives she discovers that the job doesn't exist
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published July 2nd 2013 by Spiegel & Grau (first published February 28th 2013)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Five Star Billionaire, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Five Star Billionaire

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth OzekiThe Lowland by Jhumpa LahiriThe Luminaries by Eleanor CattonTransAtlantic by Colum McCannThe Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín
2013 Man Booker Prize Longlist
10th out of 13 books — 250 voters
Life After Life by Kate AtkinsonThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil GaimanThe Rosie Project by Graeme SimsionAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieBurial Rites by Hannah Kent
Man Booker Prize Eligible 2013
45th out of 176 books — 320 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
One of those novels about a set of tangentially linked characters in a city. It's a format I like, but it's been done a lot so each book does need to distinguish itself, and the settings are important: most American ones feel very tired indeed to me, London rather overdone though at least likeable. Five Star Billionaire is set in Shanghai which is, mindblowingly, bigger than London & New York put together [in population terms].

For perhaps the first half of the book I was swept away by the en
Ruth Ozeki
Aug 07, 2013 Ruth Ozeki rated it it was amazing
I'm trying to read all the Booker longlist in the next month, and this was the first on my list. Full disclosure: I met Tash last month at a writers conference in Norwich, and he is a wonderful person, but that's not why I'm giving his novel five stars. It's an amazing book and I was drawn so quickly and deeply into the fictional world of these expat Malaysians trying to make it in Shanghai. The plotting is masterful and the narrative voice is so compelling. I couldn't put it down.
Ayelet Waldman
Nov 05, 2015 Ayelet Waldman rated it it was amazing
I adored this.
Jul 29, 2013 Jill rated it really liked it
Shelves: asian-literature
There's something universally appealing about becoming filthy rich. Earlier this year, Mohsin Hamid explored the topic in his book "How To Become Filthy Rich in Rising Asia." Now Tash Aw weighs in with Five Star Billionaire. Interestingly, each of these accomplished authors employ a "how to" self-help book conceit (in this case, How To Achieve Greatness, How To Manage Time and so on).

The problem -- or perhaps the point -- of this novel is, after a while, the strivers and the wannabes begin to bl
Five Star Billionaire was not, unfortunately, a five star book. (Sorry.)

This novel is set in Shanghai, and it deals with five main characters, whose stories are covered in alternating chapters. There is Phoebe, an ambitious young woman who has come from Malaysia to Shanghai to find love and get rich; Justin, the heir to a fortune who becomes a recluse when his family's business fails; Yinghui, a successful entrepreneur; and Gary, a teen pop star who suffers a painful fall from grace. Then there'
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This book was perfection. I was so wrapped up in the second half of it that I forgot to eat dinner!

Five Star Billionaire follows 4-6 characters (depending on how you look at it) in very modern Shanghai as they attempt to survive expectations and pull themselves up economically and socially through plain hard work - or through deception, if needed. It's like the "Protestant Work Ethic" without any time for religion, turbo speed.

I appreciated the portrayal of a very modern China. So much of what I
Aug 17, 2013 Elaine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Another atmosphere driven book, but because I found this one more interesting than Harvest, 4 stars, not 3. The hero/antihero of this book is Shanghai, the epitome of the 21st century megalopolis, ever expanding, ever growing, glittering, energetic, and yet with pockets of an older life, a few remaining "heritage buildings." Aw shows us the incredible wealth that there is to be made in Shanghai, as well as how its poorer citizens live. Most importantly, he shows us a society constantly in motion ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Mar 28, 2014 switterbug (Betsey) rated it it was amazing
Shanghai, the capital of the east, is potent and mythical, like New York or London in the west. Immigrants are attracted to the glitter and hustle, the urbanity and promise of remaking themselves and securing wealth. In Tash Aw's Booker finalist novel, four Malaysians with different stories and backgrounds come to Shanghai to score their dreams. Their interconnected lives are slowly revealed over the course of the story; on the way there, I was immersed in each one as the narrative alternates ba ...more
Sep 09, 2013 Cynthia rated it really liked it
Six Degrees of Separation

There is so much in this book it’s hard to know where to start. On the surface it’s about several unconnected 20 and 30 something year olds who are trying to make a mark in Shanghai, China’s capital city. Along the way Aw has lots to say about the modern day culture of that city and the ethics involved in getting ahead there. Everything seems to come down to appearances which are tricky for these characters since all of them are foreigners having grown up in Taiwan. Bein
Steven Langdon
Aug 12, 2013 Steven Langdon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: super
Tash Aw has written several fine earlier novels. But this book is an especially excellent work on at least three levels.

First it is a dramatic portrait of the energy, dynamism and ferment of China today -- particularly Shanghai, with its rapidity of change and its thrusting growth. The city lives with brazen vividness and fascinating contrasts throughout this novel.

Secondly this book captures with skill and human empathy the lives of those attracted to this new Shanghai frontier from the narro
Katia Nosenko
Jan 08, 2014 Katia Nosenko rated it it was ok
Five Star Billionaire

When i started reading the book I liked nonchalance and easiness with which the author writes. I could see his ambition and I hoped the story itself would develop from the style. But it did not happen for me at all unfortunately.

All the characters, especially the male ones seemed to me morally damaged and emotionally mute. I did not feel sympathy to any of them. Phoebe is the most fake and the most off putting one. Male characters are so similar to each other as if they hav
Apr 06, 2013 Darryl rated it really liked it
Shanghai is a beautiful place, but it is also a harsh place. Life here is not really life, it is a competition.

Shanghai is the world's largest city, with a total population of over 23 million. It can arguably claim to be the city of the 21st century, similar to 19th century London and 20th century New York, as it is a booming financial, commercial and entertainment center that attracts emigrants and visitors from every continent, and it is the leading symbol of the new China and its growing infl
Marwa AlBoeisa
Aug 16, 2016 Marwa AlBoeisa rated it really liked it
The Five Stars Billionaire is a book that speaks of success. How to achieve it, how to not let it be the center of your life, a guide on what success is and how to deal with it, how to not let it consume you and change your world's views, and how to keep the shit going!

What I've been told most by people when they see this book in my hand is: pre-explanation "why are you reading a self-help book?" Post-explanation "so.. Why are you reading a self-help book?" And they are correct in a way. No boo
Dec 30, 2014 Randee rated it liked it
Shelves: asian-books
Gulp...I am disappointed. It was long listed for the Booker prize in 2013 plus it sounded so interesting. But, I found myself the opposite of interested for most of the read. The story concentrates on 5 different individuals of different backgrounds living in Shanghai. They all have dark fates to say the least and the author keeps reminding us that Shanghai is a hard city. As if Shanghai, itself, is to blame for the miseries experienced by these five people. My biggest hurdle that I never quite ...more
Andy Baker
Mar 03, 2014 Andy Baker rated it it was ok

This book plods a depressing route towards a rushed conclusion.

Does not deserve the praise it receives in my opinion.

Rishi Prakash
Jun 29, 2016 Rishi Prakash rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a real thought-out gift by a friend of mine who knows that i have been going to China regularly lately. The book and the story has been set-up in Shanghai- the city of dreams in China with a huge migratory population not only from China but also abroad. Taking place in autumn 2008 in Shanghai, the novel traces the lives of five ethnically Chinese characters who have arrived in the city from Malaysia for various reasons. Each of them unique in their own way with their own set of issues! ...more
Kathy Stone
Jan 13, 2015 Kathy Stone rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-thing
I loved this book through the first three quarters. I liked that the different characters stories were starting to come together and the reader was going to find out how five different people were connected in the large city of Shanghai, China. This did not happen as this is a sad story of revenge. Revenge may be a great motive to move a plot though, in the case of this book it falls a little flat. The ending is not satisfactory and leaves the reader wondering what the purpose was anyway.

The ce
Aug 05, 2013 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This exceptional and thought provoking novel intertwines the stories of five Malay emigrants to Shanghai, with all their different stories and experiences. There is Phoebe Chen Aiping, a recently arrived country girl longing to 'better' herself with a fulfilling job and, hopefully, a rich man. From a poor and remote region she relies on self-help manuals for advice about how to fit in and become upwardly mobile. Justin CK Lim is heir to LKH Holdings, a family insurance firm and a successful prop ...more
Linda Lingard
Feb 26, 2013 Linda Lingard rated it liked it
I gave this book 3 stars because I found the story rather depressing. At the end, we are left to guess what will happen to the five key characters in the book. I hope it will be less depressing. Shanghai in this book is portrayed as fast paced, ruthless and always changing. I have not been to Shanghai but I would have liked to get a better feel for the city and its link to its history or maybe there really is none and it's all about faking it and making it. The author is Malaysian and he chose f ...more
Aug 18, 2013 Judy rated it really liked it
The best part of Five Star Billionaire is the end because of a surprise plot twist I did not see coming at all. Getting to the end took a while but the slow build involved five complete life stories and skillful character development.

Most other reviews I have read are heavy on the five main characters as is the front cover blurb, so I won't spend my time retelling what you can find anywhere. The most brilliant character is a city: modern Shanghai with its frenetic rate of change and its contras
You know how you can really like a book even though you don't necessarily really "like" any of the characters? That's sort of how I felt about this book. It centers around about 4 different individuals and their lives in Shanghai. Each chapter covers one person, and gradually as the book goes on you see how the characters intersect. But probably the best thing about this book is the setting - Shanghai itself seems to be one of the main characters and the central focus on the book. Each of the ot ...more
Sep 04, 2013 Ajay rated it it was amazing
Five Star Billionaire has a lot going for it. It has a very intriguing title. It is about contemporary China - Shanghai to be precise. Shanghai is this beautiful flower that seems to attracts bees from all over - in this case from Malaysia. The book follows the path of 5 immigrants from Malaysia to China and the turns that their life takes.

Tash Aw is a very capable writer. It is to his credit that he spins an intriguing tale of hope and disappointment in this rather humane tale. He uses multiple
Mar 26, 2013 Liz rated it liked it
This is a well written novel about characters who I found hard to like. The stories of each character revolve around one man and around Shanghai. In fact I think Shanghai should be considered a character as it plays such an important part in the lives of the actual human characters. I found the book not as compelling as I thought it might be but that may be my fault as there are definitely cultural aspects that I do not fully understand. I am looking forward to reading it again (slower) and hope ...more
Jan 25, 2015 Patrick rated it liked it
For some reason, reading this I was put in mind of the film Magnolia and wonder if it might make the basis for a good television drama. Like Moshim Hamid's How to Become Filthy Rich in Rising Asia or Aravind Adiga's White Tiger, it's a book set in east Asia against a backdrop of rapid social and technological change - parts of the world which are rapidly becoming part of the First World.

This time Shanghai and Kuala Lumpur substitute for India and Pakistan. The book tells five loosely interlinke
Noor Hanis
DNF @ 23%

I don't have the right to rate this book as I barely reached half of the book. I can't finish the book because the due date is nearing and I can't read novels as frequent as I used to. SPM is just around the corner!!! I'll continue reading for the sake of my english essay but not for boredom killer anymore.

If I had plenty of times, this book will be finished in no time.

I conclude the story is about 5 people who went through the most difficult period on their life. Nothing goes as they
Jan 11, 2014 Julie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: solid-fiction
This is a very good book and I'd really recommend it. It's an intricately constructed story set in modern (mostly, there are some flashbacks) Shanghai. It's an interesting view of a rapidly changing Asian capital. There are four main characters--all young people, all emigrants--who are trying to make their ways in the brave new world they inhabit. Their paths cross in various ways. There's also a fifth character--who serves almost as a guide--who encounters each of the other four. The characters ...more
Ben Dutton
Sep 08, 2013 Ben Dutton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tash Aw’s first novel, The Harmony Silk Factory, was longlisted for the 2005 Man Booker Prize and won the 2005 Whitbread Book Awards First Novel Award as well as the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Novel (Asia Pacific region). It also made it to the long-list of the 2007 International Impac Dublin Award and the Guardian First Book Prize. His second novel, Map of the Invisible World, was more divisive, with some critics stating that, while it showed promise, it was not a patch on h ...more
Dec 28, 2013 Kai rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Five Star Billionaire is a story about four characters whose lives have been influenced by a shadowy figure of Walter Chao. Phoebe has came to Shanghai with a promise of a job from her friend Yanyan. When she has arrived in Shanghai, there was no job for her since Yanyan has been fired. Yanyan needed Phoebe to be her roommate to help her pay half of the rent. Phoebe was influenced when she started noticing how the Shanghai women were carrying themselves and when she stumbled upon a book Secrets ...more
Apr 16, 2013 Lesley rated it liked it
Five Star Billionaire barely gets only three stars from me.

This is an ambitious book that left me absolutely cold. If I hadn’t received an advance reader’s copy I would have quit less than halfway through.

The story revolves around five characters, mostly immigrants from Malaysia looking for a better life in present day Shanghai. Each chapter is about a different character and eventually they do connect. There are also sections that make little sense until you realize they are flashbacks. The cha
May 14, 2013 JoV rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
There is a bitter sweet feeling of reading about these sad characters. Filled with advice, formulas of success and Chinese idioms, the sound of literally translated sentences appears comical. “A Strong Fighting Spirit Swallows Mountains and Rivers”. Phoebe reads self-help books with titles such as “Sophistify Yourself”. Tash Aw also make use of social media and chat conversation to relate how embroil and affected one could get by harbouring strong feelings to someone you meet online but never me ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Capitol Hill Reads!: Books for January, February, March 2016 1 7 Nov 18, 2015 12:09PM  
Was there anyone honest in the novel? 3 27 Jun 08, 2014 08:11PM  
  • Unexploded
  • Almost English
  • The Marrying of Chani Kaufman
  • The Kills (The Kills, #1-4)
  • The Spinning Heart
  • Harvest
  • We Need New Names
  • Pale Horses (Jade de Jong, #4)
  • Notown
  • The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China's Secret Solution to Its Dissident Problem
  • The Tenth Circle (Blaine McCracken #11)
  • Compliments of a Friend
  • The Deal
  • The Testament of Mary
  • Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-first Century
  • Beijing Coma
  • Foreign Gods, Inc.
  • Boy in the Twilight: Stories of the Hidden China
Born in Taiwan to Malaysian parents, Tash Aw grew up in Kuala Lumpur before moving to England in his teens. He studied law at the University of Cambridge and University of Warwick, then moved to London to write. After graduating he worked at a number of jobs, including as a lawyer for four years whilst writing his debut novel, which he completed during the creative writing course at the University ...more
More about Tash Aw...

Share This Book

“Time — how it expands to fill the spaces you create; how it makes meagre experiences seem never-ending. Whenever he heard people talk about the ravages of time, about how it robbed and deprived, Justin always smiled; because for him, time was an accomplice, plugging the gaps and fleshing out morsels of memory so he would have something substantial to hang on to. That way, however little he had seen or felt, he would always feel as if he had more: a life far richer than the truth.” 5 likes
“about “closure” and how worthless it was—why was it that everyone these days needed resolution, why couldn’t they just accept that life was messy, that it never ended neatly?” 2 likes
More quotes…