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In Defense of Elitism: Why I'm Better Than You and You are Better Than Someone Who Didn't Buy This Book

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  769 ratings  ·  155 reviews
From Thurber finalist and former star Time columnist Joel Stein comes a " brilliant exploration" (Walter Isaacson) of America's political culture war and a hilarious call to arms for the elite.

"I can think of no one more suited to defend elitism than Stein, a funny man with hands as delicate as a baby full of soft-boiled eggs." -- Jimmy Kimmel, host of Jimmy Kimmel Live
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published October 22nd 2019 by Grand Central Publishing
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-books
I'm not sure how well I'd get along with most anyone in this book, the author included. Most of them seem all right enough though, despite some big disagreements.

My biggest problem with the book is the idea that populism = Donald Trump and going with your gut, and that elitism = treasuring facts and trusting experts. There is an absurd amount of gray in between those two (in my opinion, contrived) absolutes. I have no desire to live in a small racist town, yet the idea of a security company hir
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Twenty-nineteen America: some of the country wonders what the hell happened, and how the hell we got to this point. Others wonder what took so damn long. ‘The real struggle for America is not between Democrats and Republicans, but between the mainstream American… populists and the ruling political elites,’ argues humorist and journalist Joel Stein in his new book, In Defense of Elitism: Why I’m Better Than You and You’re Better Than Someone Who Didn’t Buy This Book. It is a smart, incisive, and ...more
John Lamb
Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
For a self-claimed elite, Joel Stein lacks insight or even a good acerbic wit. He's like the Jimmy Fallon of humor: I grin slightly out of politeness but won't remember anything tomorrow. Or maybe Stein is like a Subway sandwich. Will I eat a Subway sandwich? Sure. Do I ever desire a Subway sandwich? Not really. Is a Subway sandwich someone I would go to for important critiques of American political discourse? Definitely not. Is there a Subway restaurant on the Stanford University campus, which ...more
Joshua Gans
Nov 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
About a decade ago, I received an email from Joel Stein. It was suspicious as it was from a Yahoo address but he sold himself as "The" Joel Stein so I read on.

The first thing "Joel" did was point out that we overlapped at Stanford (he had done some research). Of course, he was an undergraduate and I was a graduate student so, despite his intention to form a connection, I took it as a sign of his inferiority. You see, graduate students have nothing to do with undergraduate students at Stanford as
Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
I've been a big fan of Joel Stein's for decades and will read anything he publishes. I found this book equal parts hilarious and horrifying. I straddle the worlds he analyzes in the book: I grew up in rural Iowa, the daughter of an ultra-conservative Baptist minister, farmer and truck driver, and now I live in a city and identify more with the elite POV. Most of what Stein describes of Miami, Texas, wasn’t a surprise to me, and I appreciate the way he carefully notes the genuine hospitality and ...more
Tom Walsh
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Faith Williams
Apr 06, 2020 rated it liked it
After finding out Waco-McLennan County Public Library doesn't have a copy of "Capital" by Karl Marx in circulation, I settled for "The Communist Manifesto." And I saw this book on the same shelf of economic, political, and social commentaries. So I grabbed it, thinking it was a satire. This book isn't satire. Stein is genuine in his smug elitism. I use the word "smug" because that is his self-descriptor. The last page of the book he waxes poetic about tamping down his smugness and trying to list ...more
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
The high rating is for the laughs. I LOL'd throughout the entire book and more than a few times needed to take a moment to get myself together. Hilarity always gets high praise from me and in that regard, it's five-star stuff.

Underlying the humor are some really good points, and some are made poignantly within the context of his meetings with various dullards (albeit, very hospitable ones).

However, I took some issue with some of where he went after some of the good points were made. For example
Apr 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is hilarious, from introduction to acknowledgments. It's droll, and witty, and its best quality is that the author is ruthless (and right) in making fun of himself and people like him (read: you). By the end, he makes a case that's nearly lynch-worthy in today's world: to have empathy for people on both sides of the political spectrum, and LISTEN to them and their concerns and experiences. And yet, he still believes in science, in making decisions based on evidence not feelings, in vac ...more
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not super substantive and I disagree strongly with the thesis that the likes Bill Kristol and other elites like him should team up with elites on the left to make all the decisions. However, this book was laugh out loud funny at parts and I do appreciate that he does make a full-throated defense of the elite. I think it's an important counter to all the people that go out to non-elite places and come back to tell the elite how "real Americans" think and how we should listen to them. No thanks.

Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book. I listened to it on audio as read by the author which was a great choice. There were many points at which I appreciated hearing the joke delivered as the author intended. It was so interesting to hear about the different politics, socioeconomic subgroups, and other variables that define an elite—not just education or income as I had thought. Stein both defends and takes down elitism and does it all with a sense of humor. I highly recommend this to everyone.
Dec 01, 2019 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book. I got it from the library so I conclude, per the subheading, I’m not an elite. It was funny and thoughtful. As a Christian I was laughing and intrigued by all of the author’s thoughts about Christianity and the people of Miami, Texas. Some of the ideas and quotes were over my middlebrow head but overall I come away supporting intellectual elites who know what they’re doing being in charge.
Mar 11, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think Joel Stein may have finally gotten it right, but he's likely still wrong. So long as elites continue to maintain that they are better than the rest of us there will be calls for Trump - for which we all likely ought be thankful. There was quite a bit here that was entertaining, and made it worth the listen even if I thought some of his conclusions were a bit off.
Rick Wilson
Jul 12, 2020 rated it did not like it
It’s hard to imagine that you could write a book I would disagree with more. It seems possible this is really really good satire and I just ate the trollbait hook, line, and sinker.

The author essentially creates an ideal of what elitism is. it’s not close to what most would understand elitism to actually be. The he talks about how we need elitism with mediocre examples and generalizations.

The intellectually honest approach when describing a group of people is to acknowledge that you are genera
Aug 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: humor
laugh out loud funny, with a target market of elites, duh. 3.5 stars because there were enough typos to bother me and the book has its limitations. like his social circle and the few groups we went to interview. if you're seeking straight up content about how elites must adapt to get more people on board, joel stein himself quotes him enough to know that you should just listen to reid hoffmann, who pretty much has this shit figured out and we just need to get on board. basically, be humble, list ...more
Ben Rogers
Not very good
Nov 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
I agree with parts of the author's arguments, but I wish it were more back by statistical evidence. Don't get me wrong I would much rather listen to an elite over a non-elite in an area I know nothing about and an area they are supposed to be the expert.

The author makes a lot of arguments against populism because people backing populism tend to operate off how they feel. Despite making this argument though, the author doesn't have a lot of objective evidence to support his arguments that the el
Jan 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Review of the Audiobook

Published in October of 2019 by Grand Central Publishing.
Read by the author, Joel Stein.
Duration: 7 hours, 18 minutes.

Joel Stein's In Defense of Elitism: Why I'm Better Than You and You're Better Than Someone Who Didn't Buy This Book is an interesting book. The title suggests that it is a tongue-in-cheek look at politics, but it is much more than that. To be sure, there are plenty of jokes, wisecracks, puns and witty observations of varying quality through
Jay Storey
Jun 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Say you had to undergo life-saving brain surgery. And say you had two choices of people to perform that surgery:

1. A guy with advanced degrees in brain surgery, decades of experience performing brain surgeries, and recognition as a world expert on brain surgery.

2. One of the guys from Duck Dynasty.

Which would you choose?

I know which I would choose, which is why I find the anti-intellectual populism movement incomprehensible. Especially since virtually everything in our modern world, from compu
Nov 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
As the title suggests, this book is a funny look at the current populist movement in America. In spite of the tone of the title, I think the book hits on two key areas that I hadn't really thought about that can help to explain what feels like an ever-growing divide in our country:

1) He divides the "elite" into two categories: the Boat Elite (i.e., the rich) and the Intellectual Elite (i.e., the academics, writers, philosophers, think tankers, etc.). Those two categories of "elites" are definite
Dec 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
With In Defense of Elitism, Joel Stein goes where few elites would dare step foot, intellectually or literally - to the panhandle, bible-thumping, gun-toting town of Miami, Texas. At this first stop on his tour of populist and elite hotspots of America, Stein elucidates a no-brainer: nobody is always right all the time about everybody else. That includes we elites.

What is my takeaway from this marvelous book, besides the fact that Stein is completely hilarious? That elites need a crash course in
Shoshanah Marohn
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a very funny, very insightful book about politics in America right now. In spite of that, it's a page turner. Also, I now have ideas for making things by taking a band saw Readers Digest Condensed books.
Carlton Duff
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
I initially gave this 5 stars, then had to backpedal a ire and fire got the best of me as I had finished this book on the same day that Trump pardoned a list of corrupt my mindset was Fuck Trump and his shitheaded cultists (IK I have that mantra in my head everyday anyway) the book might not be perfect, but the timing of reading Stein’s book was.
Avtar Ram Singh
Easiest five stars. Joel Stein's style and humour is at times unparalleled. Even the Acknowledgements section was a hoot and worth a read. Aside from all of that however, this is an incredibly important book.
Lukas Evan
Feb 22, 2020 rated it did not like it
Wasn't even fun to hate read. It's like if David Brooks thought he was funny.
Bryan Hovey
Jul 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wickedly smart and funny. Joel Stein brilliantly reflects on our current life and times and is able to look in the mirror and laugh (and occasionally cry) at himself as well. So glad I read it.
Sep 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
I would describe this genre as "humorous political observation" with a touch of satire and a lot of tongue in cheek, even though his explorations of differences in our polarized nation are fundamentally in earnest. While limited in scope as the book is presented as case studies with several individuals, I appreciated the observations and insights Stein conveys. And lots of very funny moments, especially as delivered by the author in the audiobook version.
Jan 28, 2020 rated it liked it
The parts of the book about Christian populists was pretty good. The author rambled quite about when writing about the “elites”. There are some lessons learned worth considering.
Nayana Renukumar
Aug 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Uproariously funny, delightfully quirky and somewhat introspective. Every liberal should read it if they don’t want to go under the figurative guillotine at one point or other :)
Bill Shannon
Nov 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
In Defense of Elitism is an immensely enjoyable one-man referendum on why striving for elitism is a virtue, rather than a vice. Elitism in this case is directly antithetical to populism, and trumpets the advantages of doing things like: reading books, eating interesting foods, tolerating people with different skin colors, etc.

It's a very funny book, simultaneously arrogant and self-deprecating, and illustrates the difference between simply wealthy people and elite people, as well as the differen
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