Ugly Americans: The True Story of the Ivy League Cowboys Who Raided the Asian Markets for Millions
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Ugly Americans: The True Story of the Ivy League Cowboys Who Raided the Asian Markets for Millions

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3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  2,213 ratings  ·  126 reviews
Ben Mezrich, author of the New York Times bestseller Bringing Down the House, returns with an astonishing story of Ivy League hedge-fund cowboys, high stakes, and the Asian underworld.

Ugly Americans is the true story of John Malcolm, a hungry young Princeton grad who traveled halfway around the world in search of the American dream and ultimately pulled off a trade that c...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 26th 2005 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published January 30th 2004)
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Webster Fortyone
Ugly Americans: the title - calls out to anti-heroes and capitalists, and gives a fair hint at what to expect inside. American expats portrayed as cowboy-empire builders but in our own times and in the unique culture of Japan. Modern day Japan itself is described as a heady mix of old and new where instead of clashing the two are complementing each other. Crime and business, lust and family, American and gaijin, rainmaker and barbarian.... Even the image on the cover shows these cowboys in bespo...more
Jesse
This is a just-OK book; I did enjoy it it but it's written (as the author points out) for people who don't read much. It represents a new genre of "guy chick-lit"; thrillers with a focus on getting rich quick and beating the system. If you are interested in Japan, being an "expat", and general risky business: this may a good book for you. If you are looking for character development, a real plot, and intelligent prose: not so much. I probably will not read any more of Mezrich's books, but I'm in...more
Mark
Loved Bringing Down the House, so I picked up Mezrich's follow up book about some Wall Street boys and their adventures in Tokyo.

Interesting book, perfect to eat up time on that flight to Japan.

Worthwhile and surely of interest to those intersted in Asia, finance, a blend of historical personalities included in the story, seedy side of Osaka and a heaping spponful of the yakuza (Japanese mob) thrown in.

Brian Besaw
Another non-fiction adventure from must-read author Ben Mezrich, this time following the adventures of the swashbuckling Ugly Americans as they pillage financial exchanges in the Far East. And once again he latched onto a story full of drama, greed and life and death consequences.

The MIT blackjack books got me started with this author, but Ugly Americans and Rigged The True Story of an Ivy League Grad's Wild Adventures from Wall Street to Dubai were even more engrossing.

From what I've read, a nu...more
Wesley
The Ugly Americans is the story of John Malcolm, an Ivy League graduate who, when a football career does not pan out, decides to work in the finance industry. He begins his career as a Kidder Peabody trader working out of their Osaka, Japan office, but through an accounting glitch, which is not all his fault, he loses the job. After this point, however, he begins making deals in the stock market that define his career and earn him the moniker of the "young American gunslinger".
I really enjoyed t...more
Patrick McCoy
Ugly Americans by Ben Mezrich is billed as “The true story of the ivy league cowboys who raided the Asian markets for millions.” However, it comes across as fiction. I realize that certain details had to be changed to protect sources. I think that he did manage to get a lot of the details right, but from a market perspective I couldn’t tell you what those were really. However, after reading Rogue Trader, the book about Nick Leeson, who brought down Barclay with his trading in Singapore-and he ge...more
kareem
Having run out of books to read, I picked this up in a Positano pharmacy, on the strength of Mezrich's first effort about MIT blackjack card counters, Bringing Down the House.

The book is based on a true story, and is about an American kid--alias John Malcolm--who goes to Japan to work for a hedge fund. Malcolm ends up making millions while living the fast driving, high-flying moneyed, sexed-up lifestyle of rich ex-pats in Japan.

The story is compelling, but not particularly enriching. It's a so...more
Karen
This book is a cross between a fish out of water story and hedge fund traders behaving badly. I enjoyed this quick, entertaining read... no fluff, all action.
Owen
Good book, light reading, funny and a great story to tell, yakuza characters and Japanese sex stories, well worth the read. This is not an instructional book about how markets collapse or a Michael Lewis-type book that will be misconstrued as a path to ibanking. It's a story. A bit of hero worship, but a fine story, well told. You do have to wonder how many people read it and thought, 'I wonder if that's still going on.... and where do I apply?' Worth reading for a cultural look at Anglo-Japanes...more
Jarrod Jenkins
Ugly Americans is pop business. It’s entertaining but superficial. Mezrich provides only the broadest outlines of the financial aspects of the deals he discusses. He’s much more interested in the Japanese take on sex, conspiracies surrounding the Japanese mafia (“Yakuza”), and the fact that his characters all attended Ivy League schools.

John Malcolm is the alias of a purportedly real person, or perhaps persons. Mezrich claims his book is a true story based on real characters, but he uses aliases...more
Naurin
Great book for financial read, but as for the fiction about the character, I don't truly beleive it. Turned out to be great for a 24 year old..millions, beautiful wife who he truly loved, great house. Either its all BS or life really is too good for a few chosen once.
Patrick
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jay
Quick read focusing on a young Princeton grad who takes a trading job in Japan, and ends up running the biggest trade in the world, or so it says. The story itself was written to sound like fiction, except for occasional interludes where the author appears to interview someone in the story. These descriptions of interviews were odd -- it felt like the author really wanted to be part of the story. Maybe this was his way to get into the subsequent movie based on this book -- the writing felt very...more
Tung
I read Mezrich’s other novel two years ago (Bringing Down the House) – a “nonfiction” account of Ivy League Whizkids who’d developed a method for winning millions from Vegas by counting cards. Consider Ugly Americans that book’s sequel on speed. Instead of casinos, we have Ivy League Whizkids gaming the Asian markets to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars of profit for a profiteering hedge fund. This somewhat fictionalized account of true events follows John Malcolm (pseudonym), a Princeton...more
Behnam Riahi
The following review has been copied from http://behnamriahi.tumblr.com

Ugly Americans, written by Ben Mezrich and published by Morrow, is a non-fiction excursion into the life of American expatriates buying up stock in Japan, told from the point-of-view of John Malcolm, former college football star gone stockbroker. When John first finds himself in Japan, after his Ivy League All-Star football team romps the Japanese players, he meets Dean Carney, a mysterious savant in the world of high-finance...more
Randy Christopher
This book was really well-written. I have read other books by this author, four total, and he does an excellent job of painting a picture of what is going on with the characters in question. Since these characters are actual people, it is nice to get into the lifestyles in which he depicts. Thought I am sure they are overly dramatized at times, it really does a service of telling the story. This story is no exception.

I did not really understand all of the technical lingo that went along with th...more
Barry
More hype than substance story of ex pats stock trading in Japan. Having spent time living as an ex-pat, although not in Japan, I was not astounding by the amazing story. Guys were doing the same and more on Wall Street at the time. The story is almost an extended magazine article and ends with the American expressing his distrust for a foreign culture which he doesn't really get (or the author doesn't really get.)
The story is supposed to be a true recreation, although the coincidences are just...more
Paul
This is supposed to be a well-researched, nonfiction account of what the western hedge fund cowboys did in Japan during the lat 90's. The book doesn't quite capture the essence of the American expatriate, but if you are one it might incite a little self reflection. It also provides some insight for gaijin who are curious about that lifestyle or pondering working in Asia. However, it provides less insight into Japanese culture and gets some things just plain wrong. Mezrich prides himself on being...more
Alexander Wj
A great financial read about exploiting the Osaka markets using arbitrage. Unfortunately it is more financial than thriller, and even the finance is a bit down to earth. They didn't do anything grand but simply let the Japanese get ripped off on both the buy and sell side due to the fact that in the 1980's Japan didn't have a clue how the financial exchanges worked. Nothing smart, nothing new, just a con game in a different continent exploiting the ignorance of post-war Japan. And the Japanese m...more
George Ilsley
Many movies make the claim "Based on a True Story". This supposedly makes the movie more interesting. While reading this book, I thought that in fact many novels could also make the claim that they are based on true stories. One thinks about these things while reading this book because while it claims to be non-fiction, it uses many literary devices from novels in order to grip the reader.

The characters, true to the title, are repulsive. Reading this book, one can see the greed and recklessness...more
Kelly Such
I did not know any of this existed. A real eye opening book into foreign trading and how people made millions.
Threepwood
Enjoyed the book and having lived in Japan through that period I could recognise the archetypes, the foreigners in Tokyo in the late 90's really could be a bit OTT. The story moves along at a good pace and I really got involved in all the little side elements of the story and that (unfortunately) is what let me down in the end. Just as I feel the book is coming to a climax it ended, leaving me with a handful of unanswered questions. In all though, a good read, and would recommend it if you have...more
Anthony
It's a fast read. But I could have done with more finance and less sex. It also makes use of lots of "composite characters" and fake names, which makes you wonder what is actually real/actually happened.

[potential spoiler] Also, it could have used a little more research. At the end, the author mentions a few rumors about what happened to one of the main characters. Really? You are an author and you can't actually do the research/journalism to find out what happened to the guy?
Scott
I wanted to take a step out of the primarly business drive books I have been reading lately and read a book that contains all the excietment of mobs, money and women. This book does it, but wasn't earth shattering. I thought overall the book was entertaining and somewhat enlightening as it delved into the Japanes markets as well as the peculiar characteristics of the Japanese society as a whole. Certainly invokes a strong urge to get on a plane and got to Japan.
Kristen
This book was very exciting. I read it on a plane ride to the east coast. It was a 5 hour flight and I didn't put the book down once - not even to grab a bag of peanuts. Now, I don't read all that much so, that says a lot.
It wasn't so much about the writing as the true story of these young, impressionable, filthy rich boys who were immersed into a culture they could hardly grasp.
If you have any interest in the stock exchange, I suggest this book.
Bethany
This would be an interesting read right now as the house of cards that is Wall Street crashes around our ears. I have been listening to This American Life and Planet Money on the American financial crisis and can't help but thinking of this book. It is appalling and frightening how the system rewards people taking giant risks with other people's money, and the kind of jerks that are out there and only too happy to profit off of it.
Jen


Mezrich never disappoints. He has this uncanny ability to find the most interesting and compelling subjects and people. This book sucks you in to the criminal underbelly of the Japanese yakuza and various business dealings with young Americans. He, Mezrich that is, is a literary genius. He introduces the everyday person to fascinating worlds of intrigue and keeps you wanting more and more and more.
Jeremy Raper
A rollicking tale about the experience of some American hedge fund traders in Tokyo during the late 1990s (likely Evolution Capital Management). Held particular interest for me as I used to live in Japan and know many of the supposed hangouts mentioned. The accuracy of the reporting is questionable but the tale told is highly entertaining. I'm surprised they haven't made a movie out of it yet.
Kyle
Even though it hasn't been turned into a movie, this is definitely Ben Mezrich's best book. I also think this is the second best book about the finance profession (behind, of course, Liars Poker).
Darren
Mezrich (Bringing Down the House) tells another story about smart kids gaming the system to get rich and live the high life. This time it's the Japanese stock markets rather than the Vegas casinos. A bit choppy because it was the abridged version, but worth a listen if you liked his Vegas stories. Looking forward to his Facebook book.
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2850
Ben Mezrich has created his own highly addictive genre of nonfiction, chronicling the amazing stories of young geniuses making tons of money on the edge of impossibility, ethics, and morality.

His upcoming book, SEVEN WONDERS, is a departure of sorts--a high stakes epic thriller that Publishers Weekly calls "An Indiana Jones for the 21st Century." Brett Ratner’s imprint with Running Press, RatPac P...more
More about Ben Mezrich...
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