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Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco

Barbarians at the Gate is an incredibly detailed recounting of how leveraged buyouts common in the 1980s happened, though the lens of RJR Nabisco. Through the story, I learned a ton about the incentives and behaviors of Corner-Office Executives that are influential in big companies in America. The story itself is interesting in the way the Enron story is interesting — if this sounds like paint drying, there's no way you'll make it through this book. But inside is a story of influence, opulence, manipulation, risk, and deceit. It's not a critique of the system itself, it's showing how the system works.

The normal version is quite long, and I listened to the abridged audiobook. After discussing it closely with a friend who read the long version, I suspect I got most of the story without growing bored.


These are entirely subjective, and roughly try to capture my personal enjoyment and usefulness, and how likely I'd recommend it to others. Don't read too much into this unless you love my judgement. Rough guidelines:

A: Top quartile. Changed the way I think about something.

B: Worthwhile. I took away something useful.

C: Didn't hit, wouldn't directly recommend. Likely won't revisit.

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