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Book Review And Discussion Questions: Barbarians At The Gate

barbarians at the gateIf you had come to me waving Barbarians At The Gate, The Fall of RJR Nabisco–a brilliant and meticulous book–by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar–and demanding that I read it because it was so exciting, I probably wouldn’t have paid too much attention. After all, this is a story about the “intrigue” and “drama” surrounding the boring-sounding leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco. Wow…

Wow is right! I absolutely loved this book, which was originally recommended to me by my brother, who has Wall Street Aspirations. He also recommended Liar’s Poker, which I loved (that link goes to my review), so I gave Barbarians a try.

A quick note first: If you get annoyed reading about rich white guys who don’t think they’re rich enough yet, this may not be the book for you. The excesses of Ross Johnson and many of the other characters was hard for me stomach, and I might not have made it through the book if I hadn’t found the story so fascinating.

So what is the story? I’m afraid I can’t make it sound that exciting, but it is.

Plot summary of Barbarians At The Gate

Ross Johnson was the CEO of RJR Nabisco. He decides, for reasons I won’t spoil, to attempt a leveraged buyout of the company, which means in a nutshell (a nutshell is the only grasp I have of this subject, even after reading the massive book) means that he put a bid into play which would allow him to buy out the rest of the Nabisco Shareholders. This results in a bunch of plotting and deceit and page-turning that made me laugh when I realized just how much I was enjoying it.

I’m not lying: this book reads (for people who like it) like the Da Vinci Code was supposed to–meaning, it drags you from one page to the next. Dan Brown’s book dragged me from one page into my bed.


1. What did you like and/or dislike about the book?

2. Who would you recommend it to?

3. Does anything in here, besides the perks, make you want to be a CEO? I can tell I would hate it.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rachel October 4, 2010, 10:18 am

    I really enjoyed the book (although “meticulous” is a good word to describe it). Definitely not a subject matter that I thought I would be interested in, but it captured my attention from the very beginning. The character of Ross Johnson was really interesting and you couldn’t help but root for him and feel sorry for him. I was more sympathetic to him than I thought I would be. I thought it was very wordy and there was a lot of information about wives and other people that were not integral to the main story that could have been left out. I would never, ever, ever want to be a CEO after reading this book.