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Bringing Home the Birkin: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World's Most Coveted Handbag

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  2,555 ratings  ·  389 reviews

For more than twenty years, the Hermés Birkin bag has been the iconic symbol of fashion, luxury, and wealth. With a fabled waiting list of more than two years to purchase one, the average fashionista has a better chance of climbing Mount Everest in Prada pumps than of possessing this coveted carryall. Unless, of course, she happens to know Michael Tonello. . . .

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Paperback, 272 pages
Published July 21st 2009 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published April 22nd 2008)
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Community Reviews

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Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

So are you familiar already with what's known as the Birkin bag? It's the product of Hermés, one of those European "designer boutiques" that exists for no other reason than to severely overcharge rich people with self-esteem issues; you know, one of those places that sells hundred-dollar handkerchiefs
Apr 07, 2008 Michael rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition

Starred Review
In a funny, whip-smart memoir sure to be a sensation among Vogue and W devotees, erstwhile hair and makeup artist Tonello (now a columnist for chronicles a surprising (even to him!) trans-Atlantic move from Provincetown, R.I. to a city he’d fallen in love with on a short trip: Barcelona, where he knows no one and doesn’t speak the language. Tonello’s initial euphoria dissolves when his new job fails to materialize. To stay afloat, Tonello starts
Michael Tonello never planned to start a business selling Hermès on eBay; he stumbled into it when he began offloading his own designer duds to raise cash after he found himself jobless in Barcelona. This memoir about how his personal closet-cleaning lead to a lucrative career procuring and reselling Hermès' elusive Birkin bag is a highly entertaining, funny, and unexpectedly exciting read.

Though the book got off to something of a slow start for me, by the time he got to writing about sticker s
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I assumed it would be poorly written and mildly entertaining (if at all). Instead, it was surprisingly well-written and generally very funny. I read it in five hours on a quiet Saturday afternoon (it's definitely a quick read). Michael Tonello details his adventures as a "re-seller" of Hermes products, namely crocodile Birkin bags (around US$30,000 a piece for those not in the know). The whole story is a little surreal--clearly you need money to make mone ...more
Jul 17, 2008 Paula rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: armchair travellers, fashionistas and people who want a funny, light read
Recommended to Paula by: new title buying
Shelves: 2008-reads
I have an ARC of this and so far (27 chapters in) it's made me giggle at least once per chapter. Some chapters it's been so hilarious I can't help sharing it.

It's light, funny, and the story draws you along. The characterisations are fantastic - it's easy to view people and scenes in your mind's eye (important to me!). Michael Tonello doesn't take himself too seriously and better still, knew when to give it all up.

It's going on the shelf as a re-read. A keeper - for at least a while, and I'm off
I like to dip my toe into shallower literary waters from time to time, so dipping into this frothy literary confection was a treat. I'm a sucker for anyone stumbling into entrepreneurial success, and what's flukier than bringing home a self-employed salary of high-six figures just for finding and marking up overpriced, hard-to-find handbags? I personally think anyone who'd pay $30,000 for a handbag has far too much time and money on their hands. I wouldn't pay that much for a bag made out of the ...more
Dec 30, 2012 Clackamas rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Girly-girls and people who like humorous memoirs
Recommended to Clackamas by: Goodreads
**Reread Dec, 2012. This review still stands but I'm upgrading my rating to 4 stars because it still makes me giggle. I don't know why I was so hard on it the first time.**

This was a cute story (I'm sure the author will cringe at my use of the word "cute", but that's how I felt about it). I'm not one for chick-lit and would not have thought to read this if it hadn't been given to me, but I'm glad I did.

This story was quite anecdotal in parts. It didn't feel forced at all or take itself too seri
Feb 01, 2012 Lisa rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: Mary Reed
This book is a perfect example of how you can live vicariously through someone else by reading their stories. Michael Tonello stumbled onto a career that allowed him to live the high life in Europe while also working from home in his PJs - all in pursuit of this bag called the Birkin. I'd heard of it before, but didn't fully realize the whole Hermes culture. The bags go for thousands of dollars and wait lists are over two years. Can you imagine?!

Tonello, however, came up with a "formula" to byp
The biggest surprise in this book is not that some people have too much money and spend it on stupid crap like insanely overpriced purses - it's how enthralling the author's story was! I really didn't think I'd enjoy this as much as I ultimately did. The author can be a little irritating from time to time - for example, he keeps trying to point out how much he's not like "them" (his customers), but catalogues each and every luxury meal and makes sure we know he ordered the right wine etc. - but ...more
May 02, 2008 Erik rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fashionistas, arm chair travelers and anyone looking for a fun book to read
Shelves: nonfiction-shelf
If the sight of orange Hermes boxes makes your heart go pitter-patter, this will be a page turner. Even if you're not familiar with the Parisian luxury goods maker, it's still a fun (and funny!) sneak peak into that world. The author, Michael Tonnello, is openly gay and writes with an acerbic, gay man's humor that is quite enjoyable without being overly campy.

I'd also recommend it if you're interested in traveling to Europe just because it gives an American's insight into being dumped into land
This is a book with truly humorous moments. Mr. Tonello strikes the reader as being witty, resourceful, generous, competent and above all a man not to let life’s little vicissitudes get him down. He learns to mingle with the wealthy with an ease that makes you think he was born to the purple. True, he does get caught up in the mad whirl of pursuing the Birkin (and even after all his details, it’s tough to see what’s so special about it—it’s only a bag, after all). However, as with any travel boo ...more
Mar 18, 2008 Jennifer rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone loving the fashion chicl-lit genre.
Loved this book. Honestly, when I first picked it up I had no idea 1. it was written by a man and 2. it was considered non-fiction! Both of these revelations made me enjoy this book even more. Reads like a chick-lit Bergdorf Blonde behind the scenes delicious tell all! Who knew? So sorry Hermès, you lose.
Aku mengenal Hermes pertama kali lewat film Le Divorce. Di film itu, tokoh yang diperankan oleh Kate Hudson diberi hadiah, oleh pacarnya yang om-om, sebuah croc Kelly bag warna merah. Dan di akhir film, tas super mahal itu dilempar begitu saja dari menara Eiffel ke bawah. Mungkin akan lebih dramatis kalau tas itu adalah Hermes Birkin bag, yang croc juga. Harganya bisa jauh lebih mahal :D.
Buku ini menceritakan petualangan penulis berburu Birkin bag. Dengan cara coba-coba penulis akhirnya menemuka
A light, good-hearted read about the craziness that comes with wanting a Birkin bag. The book is wonderfully descriptive and will make you want to grab your passport and travel to a wide array of European cities. I finished this book in a day and it was an enjoyable read. Although the Birkin will always be out of my price range (unless I win the lottery), it is still one silly luxury I would love to own (orange box and all).
Carrie Golden
Oct 16, 2008 Carrie Golden rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like fashion
Recommended to Carrie by: My friend Cyndi
This was a lighthearted read, quick read. Nothing too deep here. The author recounts his high-flying days as a reseller of Hermes accessories, especially the ridiculously expensive and hard to get Birkin handbag.

This is coming from someone with a strong handbag fetish...I cannot believe people pay such ridiculous amounts of money for a status handbag. Thousands of dollars! You could buy a car instead...and a NICE one. But apparently some rich ladies (and men) collect them like some the rest of
Julia  Holden
Jun 29, 2008 Julia Holden rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Julia by: Barnes and Noble
Michael Tonello made a life changing decision and moves to Barcelona, Spain, with the promise of a job from a friend. The job falls through and he's ensconced in a five-year apartment lease. Enter Ebay. Tonello begins auctioning off some gently worn cashmere (not as much call for that in Spain) and discovers a Hermes scarf, only worn once. The active bidding and subsequent contacts he makes through emails begins a wild journey through Hermes stores across Europe, as he makes a living procuring a ...more
Diane Vallere
I loved this book the first time I read it (when it first came out) and I loved it the second time I read it (today). I found myself putting it down only because I knew that would take me longer to finish. For someone who loves the luxe goods industry from afar, this is a fun, insider peek at a crazy side of it.
Jul 19, 2009 Chana rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chana by: book crossing
This was a much better book than I expected, I really liked it. Michael is funny and makes business success seem like that much common sense and keeping up with your email. He obviously has great personal charm and energy. The whole Hermes/Birkin scene is outrageous. I can hardly believe that a bag could possibly cost so much. But I love the way Michael works his magic, buying and selling, making mind-boggling amounts of money. And he can write as well. I actually found myself all teary when Jua ...more
Chris Robertson
This is a good beach read. I really enjoyed the first 100 pages or so while the author was more on a personal journey. After that, it started to become a bit drab. It picked up at the very end because the focus turned to a transformative event in the author's life which set him on a new journey of sorts. This book really makes you think about how much money some people have and the ridiculous things they waste it on. I will never have $30,000 to spend on a bag, let alone a full closet full of Bi ...more
Wasn't sure I was gonna like it at the beginning because there was so much talk about fashion, food, etc. Okay, it's a book about a guy who sets up a business selling Birkins so talk about fashion is to be expected, but still the style was kind of annoying at the beginning until...I got farther into it. I really liked it in the end. Recommended for people who are into travel, adventure, business, food, fashion, in particular France and Spain. His experiences in Italy made me laugh, because they ...more
I was looking for something light to read in the Providence airport, and as soon as I realized this story had an eBay tie I felt a kinship with this book. The fact that I read it in a day and a half speaks well of the story, but while I respected the author's decision to be himself and tell his story (meaning his whole life, not just the Birkin bag quest), I wasn't that fond of his personal style, his affectations or his tendency toward quips. It's still very good plane reading, though, and the ...more
Donna Lehtonen
Apr 28, 2008 Donna Lehtonen rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone wanting a fun and light hearted book to escape into.
I loved this book! I could not put it down,and stayed up way past my bedtime to finish it.

I love the authors writing style and storytelling talent. This book is fun and funny, interesting and international.

This is a book that only comes around once in a lifetime!

Michael Tonello went where no man had dared to go. He was the first and the last maverick
in the history of Hermes;to round up such a herd of hides.

Oh, and the cover of the book is too wonderful to hide on a shelf!
As a self admitted handbag addict I saw this book on Jen Lancaster's blog of summer reads and instantly added it to my ever expanding list of "to reads".

A great quick read filled with humor and enviable (and sometimes not so enviable) tales of great handbag pursuit.

The Birkin will still remain elusive and mythological to me but it was a great read to hear Michael's adventures. I couldn't imagine having all that Hermes merchandise passing through my hands!

Quick, fun and fabulous!
This was a fun read, something I picked up and put down most of the year. Tonello has a light, colloquial tone that pretty well suits his subject matter--the clandestine buying and selling of $20,000 Hermes handbags to the world's richest, most sadly conformist and image-conscious people.

The appeal of this one, for me, was the peek it offered into the unbelievable world of the ultra-rich Hermes clientele. Most folks don't have $20K to drop on a car or a house down payment, let alone a handbag.
My handbag obsession went full throttle after the death of my mother - it was and is still a way for me to feel close to her since looking at beautiful creations and at times purchasing them together was a special delight. Tonello's handbag obessions ended upon the death of his mother - and his involvement in the Birkin Quest wasn't really due to anything more than making a (rather good) living off of Hermes. I found this story a pleasure eventhough I at times disagreed with the writers opinion ...more
I read this book on the recommendation of an author I really enjoy. It was a read I did not expect and was a venture into territory I had never entered before (nor will I enter it again) but it was interesting and I learned more about the lives of the rich and the ridiculous things people will do to get an item they covet. I enjoyed the life lesson the author learned by the end of the book, which for me, made the book well worth reading.
Jun 13, 2008 Hope rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who shops (whether they like to or not!)
Read the whole thing in one sitting- really couldn't put it down. A very amusing story, and I laughed and cheered the author on his quests. The descriptions of the cities he stayed in and his travels were a wonderful counterpoint to the business driven plot. This was so great to read, with a surprising amount of heart. It wasn't just about a brand-name; far from it. Highly entertaining, made more so by the fact that the events actually happened.
I stumbled across a review of this book and thought it might be fun. Not being in any way a fashionista I was completely surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. It was absolutely fun, and endearing, and playful, and the author kept me interested in his successes both business and personal. Michael Tonello has a real knack for writing and I hope he may find something else to write about in the future.
You know a book is good when the premise is selling Birkins, and you really have no idea what a Birkin is, yet are riveted to the storyline from the very first chapter. This book is very entertaining, well-written, and has some depth to it...Loved it. Definitely a great vacation or beach read. And I even searched for Birkins on eBay to capture the thrill of it all, lol. Really fun.
This book was a really fun and quick read! Totally entertaining. However, I now have a potentially very expensive problem. I WANT a Birkin bag. And thanks to this book, I now know how to easily get one...from the author's best customer, Sarah. God help me, I cannot spend that kind of money on a purse, unless I win the lottery. If that every happens, I'll take two! :o)
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I grew up in Massachusetts. I traveled the world as a makeup artist and hairdresser until a chance job assignment in Spain proved fateful, and I resettled in Barcelona. Pressed to find a profession that did not necessitate working papers, I became a lucrative eBay luxury reseller of all things Hermes. I am a columnist for and live in Barcelona with my partner, Juan, and our two ...more
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