What people are saying

A Highlights Reel.

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“Having spent decades reporting and writing books in this field, I admire Michael Mechanic’s book. His writing is elegant, his storytelling sublime. Well worth the time of anyone who wants to understand the effects of our make-the-rich-richer policies.” —David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist/author, unsolicited Amazon review

“It really is great. The book is first-class therapy for anyone who was ever jealous of the rich. Veblen would be proud!” James K. Galbraith, economist, University of Texas

“[A]s this readable book progressed, I appreciated his attempt to pull off a delicate balancing act: serving up the digestible morality tale of people spoiling themselves truly rotten before he digs into the fibrous, sociological knot of the system as a whole...Mechanic offers such a fluent survey of the vast literature on historical inequality—indicating that he’s not only read that literature but understood its implications—that I was surprised by his upbeat ending, when he suggests that transformative change could happen if only more rich people had a change of heart.” —Jen Szalai, New York Times review

“Anyone interested in the relationship between economic inequality and higher education will likely enjoy reading Jackpot….Progressive journalist Michael Mechanic analyzes issues of wealth and inequality from a refreshingly creative angle.” —Joshua Kim, Inside Higher Ed

“The tinsel tree hides the forest in camouflage. Michael Mechanic, a journalist from the magazine Mother Jones who has just published Jackpot, a fascinating book on super-rich Americans, explains: ‘I could never park a Bentley outside my house in Oakland. Everyone would think I’m an asshole. But the very rich live in places where they can display these cars because their neighbors have one too.'” —Translated from “‘Vivons heureux, vivons caché: le mantra des milliardaires américains” by Philippe Boulet-Gercourt, L’Obs

Mechanic “peels back the layers of what it means to be mega-rich—from the windfalls that rocketed them into the one percent to what their mere existence says about inequality in the United States. Following a year of reckoning with material and racial inequalities, Jackpot’s timing is ideal. If there were ever a moment to interrogate our collective attitude toward extreme wealth, it’s now.” —Lauren Sarazen, Los Angeles Review of Books

“Mechanic spent years exploring the world of the super-wealthy. He’s a bit like the host of a National Geographic special or Robin Leach from the 1990s Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, chronicling the well-off in their natural habitats: the luxury car dealership, the wealth management office, the ultra-lovely home, the personal security company. On this fascinating journey, he discovers they are not happier than the rest of us; some even suffer from ‘wealth anxiety.’ Poor guys. … Mechanic offers much more than voyeurism—the vacations! the mansions!—he deftly shows the many ways the system is rigged in their favor so that wealth perpetuates greater wealth.” David Corn, Washington Bureau Chief, Mother Jones

A “wake-up call” for “millions of American dreamers who still believe that…having obscene wealth will change their lives for the better…The author is a personable guide” who “provides a cautionary tale about the myriad headaches that unbridled wealth can bring. … A scathing but fair indictment of how the mindless worship of wealth makes us all poorer.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Mechanic explains what the wealthy and super-rich understand about money that other people do not. He shares how the lives of the wealthy and super-rich are indeed very much outside the lived experiences and reality of all other human beings. Mechanic also explains how the wealthy engage in sociopathic or antisocial behaviors, while suffering few consequences—other than their own rootlessness and unhappiness. He warns that no society with such extreme levels of wealth and income inequality is stable and that a healthy democracy needs a more balanced economy with a flourishing middle class.” —Chauncey DeVega, Salon

“Throughout Mechanic’s book, you notice that extremely wealthy people’s heaviest indulgence might be paranoia. Many travel with a security detail. There’s also a service that trains nannies in combat and surveillance and, among other things, encourages staff not to post about their employers’ luxury vacations, for fear of tracking. Mechanic meets a contractor who builds luxury safe rooms with ‘bomb-resistant doors, electromagnetic locks, communications gear, redundant power sources, and blast-proof Kevlar plating that can stop a barrage of AK-47 fire.’ These safe rooms, he finds, are common, though if you are really wealthy, you might opt for a safe room within a safe room with a hidden gun port within a walk-in closet to return fire. ‘Some of the weaponry I’ve seen in people’s houses matched what I’ve seen in Iraq,’ says the contractor. The extremely wealthy feel besieged from all sides. A private-equity titan tells Mechanic, ‘I’m starting to think more about income and equality. I’m thinking they could come and burn my house down. They could come for us with pitchforks.'” Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein, The New Republic

“Have you done your part to rail against capitalism today? If you haven’t, pick up Jackpot, Mechanic’s meticulously reported guide to the opulent world of the ultra-rich, and you’ll be seeing red in no time. Mechanic pulls back the velvet curtain on how our highest earners make, build, and hide their staggering wealth, while also taking aim at the commonly-held fantasy that hitting the jackpot would turn our lives to gold. With palpable glee, Mechanic lays out the lived reality behind the age-old truism that money can’t buy happiness—just ask the bored, miserable, and spiritually bankrupt .01%. Character-driven and far more rollicking fun than it should be, this riveting guide to how the other half lives illuminates how economic inequality leaves everyone worse off.” —Esquire, “The 10 Best Nonfiction Books of 2021 (So Far)” and “The 20 Best Books of Spring 2021”

“We see it on TV, in movies, and on social media. There’s a way the lives of the rich and powerful are supposed to look. But what are they actually like, behind the closed doors and away from the ring-light glare of Instagram? In his observant, funny, and discomfiting book Jackpot, Michael Mechanic interviews one percenters (and the people who orbit around them) about their experience with wealth and steps back to look at how the way they live echoes far beyond the world they inhabit.” —Town & Country, “The 42 Must-Read Books of Spring 2021”

Mechanic “gives us character studies rather than caricatures, and he has done a wealth of research on wealth…[His] book is nothing less than a challenge to the rich to give up some of their privilege in the cause of patriotism, to love their fellow Americans more than their money.” —Michael Millensen, former investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune

Mother Jones senior editor Mechanic debuts with a unique look at the ‘social, psychological, and societal complications that come with great affluence and the reality that so few possess it.'” … He “takes a skeptical view of ‘grand philanthropic gestures’ made by billionaires who avoid taxes and underpay their workers, discusses the influence of money on politics, and sketches the origins of the ‘wealth’ in American culture. Mechanic’s nuanced perspective on wealth accumulation offers fresh insights…This is an intriguing look at the boons and burdens of wealth.” —Publishers Weekly

“Jackpot literally ‘follows the money’ to tell the story of the astronomical gap between the super-wealthy and the rest of us through data-analysis, first-person observations and damning testimony. The recent rise of the call that Earth has no place for billionaires, and the immeasurable harm their continued existence does to the delicate balance of our planet, is confirmed in Mechanic’s book. A must-read for current times.” —D. Scot Miller, East Bay Express

What with the pandemic, BLM, and a liberal government in power, the times seem right for significant cultural change. But, says Mechanic in the book, “our situation depends on a broader cultural ethos that conflates marketplace success with self-worth, and insists that whatever our circumstances, anyone with smarts and moxie can one day drive that Bentley, fly in that Gulfstream, and live in that mansion. This is the myth that keeps the pitchforks at bay.” —Lewis Beale, The Daily Beast