The Richest Man in Babylon

By George S. Clason

The richest man in Babylon reviewIn 1926, George Clason began writing a series of informational pamphlets offering advice on financial matters. These pamphlets took the format of a series of parables set in ancient Babylon to illustrate the principles at hand. The pamphlets soon grew in popularity and were distributed by various banks and financial institutions. The Richest Man in Babylon is a compilation of the most famous of these pamphlets.

A Unique Approach

This structure makes for a fairly unique, and in my eyes refreshing, style of personal finance book. As the content is delivered in the form of parables, at no point is the author directly addressing the reader, but instead the reader is observing the experience of various characters’ interactions and revelations. This serves to make what can sometimes be a slightly dry subject a little different.

Such a format also means that the insights offered aren’t always immediately obvious, and a certain degree of initiative is required on the part of the reader to pick up on the important matters. This isn’t to say that there aren’t times where Clason makes things blindingly obvious – but there are some little gems tucked away in there that can be easily missed. This is why I have returned for a second listen (I have the audiobook version – acquired with my free emusic trial). I feel I picked up on most of the main points the first time round, but I’m sure there’s more to be garnered so am going over it again and attempting to dig a little more into the finer details. The parable style means this is a far less tedious undertaking than it might be with other books of this genre.

This could be viewed as a good or bad thing. Many people would say they don’t want to have to be trying to decipher morals from stories but want clear communication. I understand this point of view, but I feel that the process of engaging a little more to acquire the information  makes it a little more meaningful and valuable, as it will have more chance of sinking in. Not only that, but the mere process of engaging with the principles in an active way makes the reader more likely to realise a way it is applicable to their circumstances.

Thee, Thou and Thine

Being written nearly one hundred years ago usually means a book will contain slightly different language. Being written nearly one hundred years ago and being set in ancient Babylonia is a guarantee of such. The best way to explain the style is that it shares similarities with biblical wording. Whilst it is nowhere near as difficult to understand as much of the Bible, some of the language is comparable.

I am wary of putting people of simply because of the language. I should make it clear – whilst it is not the most simple of books in this regard, it is perfectly readable and understandable. It’s not a long book and is relatively simple in it’s content. Don’t let me give you the illusion it is the financial equivalent of embarking on a read of War and Peace. It may just take a little getting used to and the use of just a small amount more of the grey matter.

Babylon ruins

The once great city became nothing more than ruins

 Many Levels

Many of the concepts in The Richest Man in Babylon are simple and very easy to see the benefit of. In fact, it is probably possible to read the book and only pick out these very basic but important teachings. In doing this, a person would certainly gain a great deal. However, for those who dig a little deeper into things there are many layers to be explored. I finished the book feeling I had picked up some good points, but I had a niggling feeling I might have only scratched the surface.

Whilst I don’t know for sure – I would assume this is one of the reasons Clason chose to teach through parables. This way the reader gets out the exact amount he or she is prepared for. Great financial principles to one person might be useless to another if they don’t already understand the basic fundamentals attached, such as being free of debt and living within means. This form of teaching serves to cater to each level of understanding individually.

This being said, it does carry a slight downside. The book can at times be simplistic and to a small extent repetitive  This is down to a combination of the layered nature of parables, and the fact this is a compilation of pamphlets that were never originally intended to be published together. This means the principles discussed in one pamphlet were often re-emphasised in another, as when writing them, Clason was treating them as individual entities.

This isn’t to an extent which detracts significantly from the content of the book. There were times where I found myself thinking what was being discussed was a matter of common sense, but this wasn’t overly frequent – and with any book of this type, there are bound to be things each person thinks is obvious, whereas another might find it an eye-opener, and vice-versa.

The Bottom Line:

The Richest Man in Babylon is about the principles and way of thinking and behaving to achieve financial success. It is not a step by step guide to the methods of making money. Anyone who is looking for such a book should keep on searching. This book is about illustrating the simple yet powerful tools to unlocking wealth. Whilst at times it may be slightly simplistic in its ideas and a little repetitive  this is by no means enough to discount it as a worthwhile read. A refreshing and unique way to introduce principles of wealth accumulation make this book one I would certainly recommend.

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