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

by
3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,807 Ratings  ·  410 Reviews
An insider's hilarious, whirlwind account of his years spent globe-trotting in search of the holy grail of handbags: the BirkinFor more than twenty years, the Hermes Birkin bag has been the iconic symbol of fashion, luxury, and wealth. Though the bag is often seen dangling from the arms of celebrities, there is a fabled waiting list of more than two years to buy one from H ...more
ebook, 272 pages
Published April 22nd 2008 by HarperCollins Publishers
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. 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
...more
Michael
Apr 07, 2008 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

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 HuffingtonPost.com) 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
...more
Lena
Jun 20, 2008 Lena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
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
...more
Felicity
Aug 14, 2008 Felicity rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Paula
Jul 17, 2008 Paula rated it really liked it  ·  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
...more
Yvonne
Jul 09, 2008 Yvonne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Clackamas
Dec 30, 2012 Clackamas rated it really liked it  ·  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
...more
Lisa
Feb 01, 2012 Lisa rated it liked it  ·  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
...more
Kim
Jul 14, 2009 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Erik
May 02, 2008 Erik rated it really liked it  ·  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
...more
Marsha
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
Jennifer
Mar 18, 2008 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  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.
Karen
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.
...more
Sri
May 27, 2009 Sri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Lucy
Apr 12, 2015 Lucy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 it was ok  ·  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
...more
Julia
Jun 29, 2008 Julia rated it liked it  ·  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
Jun 18, 2015 Diane Vallere rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fict, fashion
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.
Chana
Jul 19, 2009 Chana rated it really liked it  ·  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
Icha Bilal
May 06, 2016 Icha Bilal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this is a very funny and entertaining book! I am very curious about how people can get the Hermes bag and he answered it all! he wrote it very well, with not-too-serious words but it describes all of the meaning of an Hermes bag.
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
Michele
Feb 07, 2015 Michele rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Autumn
Jun 26, 2008 Autumn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 it was amazing  ·  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!
Laura
Mar 18, 2016 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book was like eating ice cream straight from the carton. You know you shouldn't dig in because once you get started you're probably going to finish the whole thing. But, you know, if books give you a chance to live another life, well this gave me the chance to live several lives I will never live. I know *nothing* about high end fashion, so this was an interesting lesson! It was exactly the binge-eating experience I expected it to be.

What really struck me at the end is that Michael
...more
Julie
Oct 11, 2008 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Firstpella
Mar 16, 2015 Firstpella rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Hannah
Apr 02, 2016 Hannah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
This book was hilarious. Michael Tonello chronicles his adventures reselling Birkins and other Hermès products, which he usually has to buy in order to be able to obtain a notoriously hard to get Birkin. Michael travels around the globe hitting different Hermès stores and working his "formula" to get a Birkin, which are extremely profitable to resell. He even recruits some people in other countries to buy Birkins for him to resell, for a percentage of the profit. One of these people, Luc, first ...more
Sarah
May 16, 2010 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Hope
Jun 13, 2008 Hope rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
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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 HuffingtonPost.com and live in Barcelona with my partner, Juan, and our two ...more
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