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

The Fifth Risk

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  15,743 ratings  ·  1,890 reviews
The morning after Trump was elected president, the people who ran the US Department of Energy - an agency that deals with some of the most powerful risks facing humanity - waited to welcome the incoming administration's transition team. Nobody appeared. Across the US government, the same thing happened: nothing.

People don't notice when stuff goes right. That is the stuff g
...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published October 2nd 2018 by Allen Lane
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 The Fifth Risk, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Bleuz00m Paraphrasing from Joe Klein's NYT review of "Fifth Risk,"
"..Lewis asks MacWilliams [ MacWilliams is John J. MacWilliams, a Fellow at the Center on…more
Paraphrasing from Joe Klein's NYT review of "Fifth Risk,"
"..Lewis asks MacWilliams [ MacWilliams is John J. MacWilliams, a Fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy. Prior to joining CGEP, MacWilliams served as Associate Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy after being appointed in August 2015. He also served as DOE's Chief Risk Officer. Link: https://energypolicy.columbia.edu/joh... ] to list the top five risks.

The first four are predictable:
Broken Arrows [missing or damaged nuclear weapons.]
North Korea.
Iran (that is, maintaining the agreement that prevents Iran from building a nuclear bomb).
Protecting the electric grid from cyberterrorism.

But the fifth, most important risk is a stunner: “program management.” Hence, the title of this book. ".. Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/08/bo...
[ Joe Klein continues, ]
Lewis defines it this way: “The risk a society runs when it falls into the habit of responding to long-term risks with short-term solutions. … ‘Program management’ is the existential threat that you never really even imagine as a risk. … It is the innovation that never occurs and the knowledge that is never created, because you have ceased to lay the groundwork for it. It is what you never learned that might have saved you.”(less)
Chris Very little about the book focuses on the 45th administration's bad judgement. The beginning relies on Chris Christie interviews and paints the whole…moreVery little about the book focuses on the 45th administration's bad judgement. The beginning relies on Chris Christie interviews and paints the whole administration and their transition as foolish and ignorant.

The book details the functions of a few departments of the federal government in effort to highlight their complexity as well as unknown benefit to the country. While there is always partisan issues, there is still a transition between presidencies in order to make sure everything functions.

Underlying everything is the problem of spreading very specific, often expert or scientific knowledge, to the community at large. This is also further hampered by profit interests in the private sector as well as populist (for lack of a better term) political movements that focus on the now rather than the future.

These issues are contextualized with Trump. We can wonder if his interests are ignorant or purposefully destructive but the appointments of his administration are attempting to destroy the programs they are hired to run. Ironically while Trump mentions creating a national News source, gag-rules are being placed on scientists in these departments and the sharing of data is being stemmed. (less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.07  · 
Rating details
 ·  15,743 ratings  ·  1,890 reviews


Filter
 | 
Sort order
Diane S ☔
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"What are the consequences if the people given control over our government have no idea how it works?"

This is the opening sentence in the book summary and also the first sentence inside the book jacket. Lewis takes us inside a few Departments of our federal government, talking to those who work there in the past and present. Showing us what these Departments do what they are responsible for, programs and oversights. Have to admit I didn't know all the things they did, but then again I doubt many
...more
Darwin8u
Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, american, nonfiction
"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

description

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 t
...more
Sam Quixote
Didja know the US gov’mint is a complicated beast? Trump didn’t! And now we’s all gonna DIIIIEEEE!

But not really.

Michael Lewis’ The Fifth Risk is the latest in a long line of Trumperature hurriedly bundled together and booted out the door to cater to the surprisingly large audience who can’t read enough Trump-bashing. Except Lewis’ effort is a bit more nuanced in its critique of the Trump administration, focusing instead on what its lackadaisical attitude to the country’s major institutions co
...more
Melki
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Melki by: Steve
Shelves: politics
We don't really celebrate the accomplishments of government employees. They exist in our society to take the blame.

Our recent government shutdown, the yugest, most tremendous, and longest shutdown in history, served, if nothing else, to demonstrate just how nice it is to have someone helping our aircraft land, and someone picking up the trash in our national parks. We need qualified people taking care of our nuclear waste, and protecting us against the next pandemic. As a famous Canadian singer
...more
Bill  Kerwin
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 21st-c-amer, politics

Once again Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball and The Big Short, chooses as his protagonists a few ingenious manipulators of data, but this time he does so with a difference: the self-effacing statistical warriors he singles out for praise are bureaucrats of the United States federal government, a class generally overlooked and often despised. These bureaucrats, however, are people not only familiar with the resources of their agencies but also committed to using them to make lives better for th
...more
Athan Tolis
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Was reading The Fifth Risk in the tube. A well-dressed man got in, noticed the American flag Jenga on the cover and immediately exclaimed “The Fifth Risk, what do you think?” Before I had a chance to respond, he added in a polite American accent “I love the guy, I devour his books,” perhaps to allow me to temper my answer.

I’m a Michael Lewis fan. I’ve read enough of him to think I know him. So I wasn’t shy about my assessment.

“Tell you what,” I answered. “You know how half his books are about so
...more
Brad
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lewis is such a remarkable writer that I sometimes find myself envious of his ability to forge a compelling story where there doesn't seem to be anything. It's useful to contrast The Fifth Risk with Bob Woodward's Fear, which I inhaled last month. Woodward's book ferrets out things that happened — crescendos of malevolence and arias of incompetence — unbelievable though they sometimes seem.

In contrast, Lewis' amazing little book — it arrived Tuesday night and I finished it early Thursday morning
...more
David
Mar 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is about three important but little-understood government agencies. And, the book is about the willful ignorance of the Trump administration, and its attempts to dismantle the agencies before even having the slightest idea, what these agencies do.

After the two major political parties nominate a presidential candidate, the candidates form transition teams. These teams are required by law to formulate transitions into government that will be as smooth as possible. The transition teams ar
...more
⚣Michaelle⚣
Holy shit. I read the excerpt at The Guardian and everything that's gone wrong up 'til now (starting just before the election) makes total sense.

Also, if that small bit is any indication, the writing is really engaging. I mean, how in the hell did Michael Lewis manage to make me feel even the slightest bit sorry for what Chris Christie endured trying to head up the transition team? Sure, it was a bit self-serving (the next-best thing to being President), but still...he worked hard to work within
...more
Richard Derus
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed, returned
(view spoiler)

This book explains why there is no hope for reconciliation between decent human beings and Trumpanzees.
Daniel Simmons
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For readers who are cynical about the operations of the U.S. government generally, and even more cynical about the (mis)operations of the current administration specifically, there's a lot in these pages to make even your worst fears about public sector project mismanagement seem tame in comparison to reality. Lewis outlines, in his typically snappy/funny/ironic/incisive style, just how devastating the consequences of government inattention and ineptitude can be. But Lewis's greater achievement ...more
Mehrsa
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

One of the most dangerous things said by a politician in recent memory was Reagan’s quip that went something like this: the most scary sentence is “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” What Lewis has gone here is snow exactly how the government helps us even when we are ignorant of its doings. The story that will forever stay with me from this book is the rural town celebrating a local farmer who just got a big loan that he thinks he earned and that was underwritten by the bank and say
...more
Steve
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
America: please read this book.

In a nutshell, the book asks the question: "What are the consequences if the people given control over our government have no idea how it works?" Not surprisingly, the consequences are, potentially, disastrous.

But the whole point is that too many Americans don't know or appreciate this, and their ignorance (I'm distinguishing actual ignorance from stupidity - I'm giving the benefit of the doubt here - that folks have NO IDEA how important many routine government f
...more
Lee
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'll do a longer review of this at some point. For now, Lewis makes it abundantly clear that the Government roles that Trump has shown zero interest in filling (forgetting all his friends, family and numerous goonish hangers-on who have been given roles they've no intention of even vaguely assuming) are all incredibly important - there are no positions that the likes of Chris Grayling or Dominic Raab could ever fill without being rumbled in days; that the effect of their being lapsed, ignored or ...more
Maru Kun
This looks very interesting based on this excerpt from The Guardian.

The review from The New York Times suggests that this will be very interesting as well.
Mac
Oct 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm enough of a Michael Lewis fan to have ordered The Fifth Risk months ago without knowing what it's about. At that time, I assumed the title was Lewis's typical, enigmatic key to the book's meaning (think Lewis titles like Moneyball, The Blind Side, and Flash Boys). Having now read the book, the title does deliver on its promise of encapsulating the book's intention.

But that's about all The Fifth Risk delivers for me. Though it opens with a dramatic insight into the story to come (think the b
...more
Scott Rhee
The cover photo of Michael Lewis’s latest book, “The Fifth Risk”, is the game of Jenga, painted to look like the American flag. For those not familiar with the game, it is an alternating set of three wooden rectangular bricks, roughly eight or nine rows high. The point of the game is to safely remove lower bricks and stack them on top without toppling the entire structure.

It’s a pretty straightforward metaphor when related to the Trump Administration. Trump’s lack of any viable strategy or tran
...more
Kent Winward
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the most disturbing account of the Trump presidency I have read. Lewis simply writes about how the current administration has dealt with vital parts of our government which we all benefit from each day. I've watched it happen in my legal practice with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Lewis details the horror in the Department of Agriculture, the DOE, and data science. It is simply awful.
Peter Mcloughlin
Government agencies with boring titles like the department of energy, the department of agriculture, the department of commerce that hide their vital functions for US citizens and even the basics of what they do. The department of energy keeps track of spent reactor fuel and nuclear warheads and is vital to enforcing treaties on non-proliferation and tries its best to make sure terrorists or other actors don't build a nuclear bomb (dirty or otherwise) to attack an American city. It also is one o ...more
Mal Warwick
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
What does government do for us? Do we really need it? What happens if government ceases to do those things? These are the questions Michael Lewis comes to grip with in his powerful little book, The Fifth Risk. By drilling down into the day-to-day realities in a handful of little-recognized federal agencies, Lewis convincingly demonstrates how government protects us from some of "the most alarming risks facing humanity." By extension, he relates the dangers we (and the world as a whole) now face ...more
Steve
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read many, many books on disasters--both natural and man-made--and I don't think any of those have scared me more than what I read in this book. My first thought after reading about the non-existent transition team for President Trump's new administration was, "Surely this can't be true." But the author presents example after example of a leadership team that has no idea of what the organizations do that they are supposed to be leading, and don't care that they have no idea. I guess this sh ...more
Julie
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a must read. It's only a little over 200 pages but is so so important if one wants a glimpse, told by those who truly know, of our current administration dismantling our democracy and parting out the federal government. The willful ignorance and lack of care is staggering. I know everyone is focused on the Russia scandel, but I'm here to tell you that Russia is not what we should be giving all our attention to. This administration is putting us in real danger by putting people in ch ...more
Jan Rice
The United States employed two million people, 70 percent of them one way or another in national security. It managed a portfolio of risks that no private person or corporation was able to manage. Some of the risks were easy to imagine: a financial crisis, a hurricane, a terrorist attack. Most weren't: the risk, say, that some prescription drug proves to be both so addictive and so accessible that each year it kills more Americans that were killed in action by the peak of the Vietnam War. Many
...more
Jim Cooper
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
By taking a dive into the Commerce, Agriculture, and Energy departments, this is a love letter to big government - the behind-the-scenes federal employees who keep our nuclear weapons safe, feed the poor, help farmers grow their crops, and feed our weather apps with data. I generally think of myself as a small-government libertarian, but Lewis makes the case that on the whole, our tax dollars are being spent by smart, hard-working men and women (when elected officials aren't getting in their way ...more
Lis Carey
What happens when the people responsible for running our government have no idea how it works--and don't really care?

This is a look at how complex the actual workings of our government really are, what the federal agencies actually do, why it matters, and how completely unprepared and indifferent the Trump team was.

This is not a partisan work. Not at all--unless you count caring about government working properly as "partisan." But in that case, the "parties" you're talking about aren't Democrat
...more
Brian
Oct 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: grbpp, on-kindle
(4.0) Really enjoyed this, more for the eye-opening look at what various pieces of the executive branch actually do

Yes, there are several episodes of Trump transition teams never showing up, showing contempt for the government employees welcoming them and eager to teach them what they need to know to keep the country safe, fed and afloat. It’s frightening to learn both how critical some of their work is and how likely it is that Trump’s representatives will intentionally or ignorantly foul it al
...more
Richard
This book is kind of maddening. I'm giving it 3 stars. One could make a case for 2, 4, or (if I had a different worldview) 5 stars. In my view, parts of this book seem right on and really important. Other parts belie the author's bias, therefore, makes me question how much of this book can be trusted. The book isn't traditionally sourced. It is unclear how he knows what was spoken where he wasn't present. For example, he says Chris Christie said this, thought that, or did the other, but he doesn ...more
Debbie Notkin
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Michael Lewis is an astonishingly good writer, with a particular talent for making complex or seemingly boring topics human and exciting. The Fifth Risk is no exception. The premise of the book is basically that the Trump administration, aside from all of its active depredations of the government, is ignoring thousands of potential problems, tragedies, and catastrophes by not taking the things the cabinet departments do seriously--in fact, by not believing that any of these things are remotely i ...more
Dax
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-stars, nonfiction
Insightful and informative. Lewis' new book sheds light on the goings-on inside numerous government departments and agencies, particularly the DOE, DOA, and Commerce Department. I confess to ignorance on many of these departments, so there was value to me in that regard alone. But "The Fifth Risk" doesn't just highlight the services provided by these departments, it also reveals the risk associated with mismanagement of these assets. And herein lies the concern. Trump's appointees (and lack of a ...more
Lorna
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Fifth Risk is the latest book by Michael Lewis, basically exploring the events that transpired after the 2016 election and outlines how the Obama administration prepared to ease the transition of leadership as the Trump administration came into power. It outlines the resistance that was met, and the total lack of even a fundamental knowledge as to how the government runs. I have read a lot of these books recently and, I must say, this book frightened me in ways that no other has yet done. Le ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Combine Editions - The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis 2 16 Nov 20, 2018 05:18PM  
Family Book Club: Let's Begin! 2 8 Oct 21, 2018 05:00AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Combine Editions 2 18 Oct 12, 2018 06:22AM  
  • The Red and the Blue: The 1990s and the Birth of Political Tribalism
  • It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America
  • Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic
  • The Apprentice
  • Beautiful Country Burn Again: Democracy, Rebellion, and Revolution
  • Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars (Even When They Lose Elections): The Battles That Define America from Jefferson's Heresies to Gay Marriage
  • Snowden
  • The Common Good
  • The Second Amendment
  • Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism--From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond
  • Prius or Pickup?: How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America’s Great Divide
  • Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country
  • The Despot's Apprentice: Donald Trump's Attack on Democracy
  • Power Game: How Washington Works
  • Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency
  • It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the Politics of Extremism
  • Mr. Trump's Wild Ride: The Thrills, Chills, Screams, and Occasional Blackouts of an Extraordinary Presidency
  • The Captured Economy: How the Powerful Enrich Themselves, Slow Down Growth, and Increase Inequality
6,981 followers
Michael Lewis, the best-selling author of Liar’s Poker, The Money Culture, The New New Thing, Moneyball, The Blind Side, Panic, Home Game, The Big Short, and Boomerang, among other works, lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife and three children.
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“There was a rift in American life that was now coursing through American government. It wasn’t between Democrats and Republicans. It was between the people who were in it for the mission, and the people who were in it for the money.” 15 likes
“If your ambition is to maximize short-term gain without regard to the long-term cost, you are better off not knowing the cost. If you want to preserve your personal immunity to the hard problems, it’s better never to really understand those problems. There is an upside to ignorance, and a 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.” 9 likes
More quotes…