Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing” as Want to Read:
Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  231 ratings  ·  38 reviews
The co-host of the popular NPR podcast "Planet Money" provides a well-researched, entertaining, somewhat irreverent look at how money is a made-up thing that has evolved over time to suit humanity's changing needs.
Money only works because we all agree to believe in it. In Money, Jacob Goldstein shows how money is a useful fiction that has shaped societies for thousands
Kindle Edition
Published September 8th 2020
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 Money, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Money

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.22  · 
Rating details
 ·  231 ratings  ·  38 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing
Oct 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fast and interesting treatment of the history of money and the controversies surrounding it. It's a planet money treatment though so not very deep. For a more thorough history, I'd recommend Felix Martin's book or Christine Desan's Making Money or Debt by Graeber
Sep 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Money only works because we all agree to believe in it; that's the reality of one of humanity's strangest inventions. In Money, economics columnist, Jacob Goldstein shows how money is a useful fiction that has shaped societies for thousands of years, from the rise of coins in ancient Greece to the first stock market in Amsterdam to the emergence of shadow banking in the 21st century. At the heart of the story are the fringe thinkers and world leaders who reimagined money. Kublai Khan, the Mongol ...more
Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Gave up at about the halfway point.

The very thing that made me excited for this book - the fact the author is a co-host of the NPR podcast Planet Money, one of my favorite shows - caused its downfall. This didn't read like a book: it read like a transcript of a bunch of Planet Money episodes. Rather than presenting one overarching, unifying idea and then weaving a larger narrative around it, this book is a bunch of small, disconnected vignettes that are completely isolated from one another. The
May 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On nice, I'm the first one to review this. Woohoo. Behold all the good things I've got to say about this book.
Money is a loaded subject. That’s probably my best pun on this thing, but no guarantees I won’t try again. At any rate, it’s a fascinating subject. The made up thing of the most realistic proportions. Proverbially, it’s either (erroneously, it’s the love of…) connected to evil or makes the world go around. Presumably it can’t buy you love or make you happy, but it can buy or make you jus
I marked this as "magazine-article-as-book" but I really mean "podcast transcript as book." I bought this as a Kindle book minutes after hearing the author interviewed on Morning Edition, only to find that the most interesting tidbits had already been revealed in the interview. It was pleasant to read throughout but I'm not sure how much I took away from it that I didn't already know from being a newspaper reader and even occasionally listening to Planet Money.

This book is a jaunty, informal ret
Matthew Ochal
Sep 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting and well written.

Money is one of those strange things that seems to make a lot of sense while simultaneously making no sense whatsoever. Unsurprisingly, this book talks exactly about that. Would recommend.
Sep 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A short and sweet book on the shared illusion of money. It summarized t the history and justifications in simple language for the rest of us without a PhD in Economics or Financial Engineering.
Oct 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I generally don’t read much non-fiction. And when I do it usually feels like a chore. Like taking my medicine. This book was definitely not a chore. It was an interesting and in some ways exciting look at the history of money and the many forms it takes.

Written by a Planet Money contributor, it has a similar fun informal style. Humorous and enlightening.
Abu Nurullah
Oct 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Discusses the idea of money - from past to present. I found it quite insightful.
Sep 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This mostly clear to understand story of the invention and uses of money was informative and entertaining. I will go back and reread a few parts where I got lost in the logic. The only big take away is what we already knew, money is smoke. It works only if we have trust that it works.
Two contemporary thoughts: This boom in the stock market circa Sept 2020, given the well documented lack of trust in DumptyTrumpty, will definitely lead to a massive crash. Today, with his announcement that he has
Sep 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was predisposed to like this because I'm a long time Planet Money listener, but enjoyed it even more than I expected. Goldstein gives an entertaining account of key shifts in money's history and his story telling craft has been honed fine by this time.

The book covers all the way up to crypto currency, and gives an excellent layperson's explanation of blockchain, and proof of work and what they are useful for.

This was also the best explanation of fractional reserve banking and where new money c
Sep 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thoroughly recommended!
Sep 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Like an extended version of Planet Money. Very informative and very easy to read.
J. Corbett
Oct 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’m not sure if I would have flown through this book without the rich background “Planet Money” (the decade-long economics podcast Goldstein contributes to) provided. This is essentially a deep dive on the one topic: money – trying to de-abstract the concept, in the same rational, friendly, easy to understand voice that Planet Money fans know.

Most of us take for granted what a truly strange thing money is as it is subject to the will of human confidence more than anything. The book traces early
MIKE Watkins Jr.
Basically you're typical "history of a thing" book but poorly executed.

I did learn a lot about banks, and the history of money though. But the book was all over the place and annoying to try and follow sometimes.

I learned some new concepts, and about historic events and figures I wasn't familiar with before reading this though.

Moreover, the author also did a good job of showcasing why banks by nature flawed and tend to lead to a crisis (which ultimately causes some kinda shift in the way money
Michelle Kim
Jul 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
NetGalley review.

I really enjoyed this book because I love learning about a topic from its origin so I can get a grasp of its history and full scope. Money is especially an interesting topic because it's so central to our lives today, so I was really interested to know about where it came from at all. I felt that the book did a good job of going through the history in a simple way. However, I still found many concepts/explanations confusing having gone to a highly ranked business school and int
Jefferson Nunn
Sep 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Great summary of how money is created and used

The author has done a great job researching the history of money from the earliest of times through the most recent 2008 recession. It is even slightly updated for the 2020 pandemic bank runs. It is fascinating to learn the details of how money was used to replace a barter system. Later, prior to the civil war there was more than 8000 forms of money!

The author really does a good job on those areas and in 2008 to detail out the creation and use of mon
Michael Gaudet
Oct 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like the Planet Money podcast, so I had a feeling I’d like this too. I wasn’t disappointed. Jacob has a great way of explaining complex financial concepts in simple terms.

In a lot of ways, this felt like a compressed version of David Graeber’s “Debt: the first 5000 years” which covers a lot of the same topics in similar ways; notably the debunking of the “double coincidence” theory of barter that pervades teaching materials and textbooks even today. But, of course, this book focuses less on h
Date reviewed: September 5, 2020

When life for the entire universe and planet turns on its end and like everyone else you "have nothing to do" while your place of work is closed and you are continuing to be in #COVID19 #socialisolation, superspeed readers like me can read 250+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. And it is way too hot to go outside, so why not sit in from of the blasting a/c and read and review books??

I requested and received a temporary digital Advanc
Eric Grunder
Money is one of the most ubiquitous things in any civilization. Various forms of money have been around for thousands of years. People have demonstrated an obsessive attachment to money that sometimes causes them to do anything, including great evil, to get it. But what is money? Asked that, most of us flash on what’s in our wallet or purse, or maybe how we use a credit card. That’s an answer but not very complete or, for that matter satisfying. Defining money is what Jacob Goldstein ponders in ...more
Oct 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very insightful book about the concept and history of money. It reads like a narrative, starting at the very start of money and ends on what the future of money entail. In between you’ll find clear and well written antidotes about its evolution. If you have no interest in money or economics, this is still an incredible read.

There is a lot in this book that can be directly applied to modern day money. It will give you insights into why our current system is the way it is, how it is reminiscent o
Frederick Bingham
Sep 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a short and breezy book about the origin and nature of money. It asks the important question about money: what is it? The book gives the sensible answer: "it's what you pay your taxes with". Ultimately money is based on trust. As long as everyone agrees on the value of, say, a dollar or a euro we can use it to buy stuff. The book goes into a lot of topics surrounding money: the origins of the Great Depression, how banks came to be, what a bank is, the gold standard, John Law the the crea ...more
Ned Frederick
Sep 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Money gives new meaning to the phrase "funny money". Indeed, Money, the book, is quite funny, and actual money, it turns out, is all funny money. This breezy account of the history and future of money is informative, punctuated by some hilarious parenthetical asides. But there are also long stretches consisting of bland recountings of the major screwups in the history of monetary policy, occasionally spiced up with delightful if sometimes horrifying anecdotes, but numbingly bland nonetheless. Th ...more
Sep 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Clocking in around 12 to 18 Planet Money episodes long, Money is like a longer version of the Podcast with similar themes ranging from the first recorded use of coins and later paper money to the dawn of the bitcoin era.  The chapter on John Law was personally my favorite - Goldstein covered him in a breezy and easily digestible manner.  This is definitely not a rigid economics tome or a how-to investment guide but it does cover the gamut of money and finance related topics over the ages in an e ...more
Oct 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This makes for a good audiobook, as I knew it would if you think about it as a super-long episode of Planet Money. It turns out, money is always simple and abstracting, requiring the faith of almost everybody all the time, but it both simple and abstract. I would have a bit of a tough time summarizing some of these more abstract concepts, but I think I understand more about it in the abstract. It is hard not to talk about the concept of money and not make it seem academic, but Goldman very much ...more
Oct 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
It’s worth the money

I have always enjoyed a good podcast and Planet Money is a great one. Jacob has found a way to bottle up the narrative style of the audio files and make them work in print. There are certain things in life that seem so obvious and apparent that you kind of forget to look deep into why they exist at all. Money is one of those things and this book helped me understand why we have it, why we use it the way we do, and how it is likely to change into the future.
Peter Tillman
Probably not: read the negative reviews first. Kate's is particularly good: "this book is a bunch of small, disconnected vignettes that are completely isolated from one another."

NY Times review is worth reading:
That's likely all you need for a take-home -- rather than actually reading the thing. Up to you....

Oct 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really interesting book on the history of money from its origins to bitcoin. It’s told in a very accessible and engaging way, and the only thing that stops it being a five star book for me is that at times I thought it strayed slightly into childrens’ book territory - this author loves an exclamation point! One to keep and refer to.
Christopher Mann
This was a very intriguing summery of money over time. I wish there was more time spent on modern monetary theory. It seems to make since but also like a bad idea. I liked the exploration of bit coin and how money has change over time.
Verity W
Oct 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
***Copy from NetGalley in return for an honest review****

This is an engaging and easy to understand history of money, which has done possibly the best job I've found so far of explaining things like bitcoin, blockchain and what happened with the 2008 crash.
The stuff further back in history is also fascinating, although I find the idea that the next big collapse of money is inevitable at some point slightly terrifying. If you're not a person who thinks of themselves as business or money minded,
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Before the Coffee Gets Cold
  • Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb #1)
  • The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
  • The Sun and Her Flowers
  • The Power
  • The Last Emperox (The Interdependency, #3)
  • Clean: The New Science of Skin
  • The Lying Life of Adults
  • The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking)
  • The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea
  • The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People's Economy
  • The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket
  • For One More Day
  • Eat a Peach
  • Einstein's Dreams
  • When Humans Nearly Vanished: The Catastrophic Explosion of the Toba Volcano
  • Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World
See similar books…

News & Interviews

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
12 likes · 10 comments
“Saving is about moving resources from the present into the future; financing is about moving resources from the future back into the present.” 0 likes
More quotes…