How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid
(Riverhead, 2013 - also Penguin Audio, 2013)
Format: audio CDs via library (narrated by the author)
From Goodreads: "The astonishing and riveting tale of a man’s journey from impoverished rural boy to corporate tycoon, it steals its shape from the business self-help books devoured by ambitious youths all over “rising Asia.” It follows its nameless hero to the sprawling metropolis where he begins to amass an empire built on that most fluid, and increasingly scarce, of goods: water. Yet his heart remains set on something else, on the pretty girl whose star rises along with his, their paths crossing and recrossing, a lifelong affair sparked and snuffed and sparked again by the forces that careen their fates along.
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is a striking slice of contemporary life at a time of crushing upheaval. Romantic without being sentimental, political without being didactic, and spiritual without being religious, it brings an unflinching gaze to the violence and hope it depicts. And it creates two unforgettable characters who find moments of transcendent intimacy in the midst of shattering change."
I've seen Hamid's name bantered about, but this is my first time reading him. Oh, he's a charmer of a writer. This short but expansive novel parodies self-help books with each new chapter, trying to keep the "you" of the supposed audience on track to filthy richness, despite obstacles such as a poor rural childhood, power and gas outages in the burgeoning business, mafia-friendly competitors, corrupt government officials, etc. And most importantly, by keeping "you" away from the alluring "pretty girl" (another very real but nameless character) who keeps popping up and stealing your thoughts from the path to success. It's all fun, and a fantastic depiction of modern life in parts of Asia.
Hamid narrated the audiobook with great flair and with his tongue firmly in his cheek (as it should be) with the self-help portion of each chapter. His energy didn't flag even when the story did a couple of times (the "pretty girl" was so much more interesting in her teens and middle age than she was in her early adulthood), which kept me engaged. It's only 5 CDs long, so if you're interested in audios but don't want to commit to something that'll take over a month of your commute, this is a good one to check out.