The Art of Money Getting
By Phineas Taylor Barnum
Published by LibriVox
Read by Jill Preston
When P.T. Barnum wrote this book, he was following a great tradition of self-help books that include, Thomas Mace’s The Lute Made Easy (Part of his magnum opus, Music’s Monument), Ovid’s tips for how to pick up girls at the Circus Maximus (Ars Amatoria), The Maxims if Ptahotep from roughly 2800 BCE in ancient Egypt and Gilgamesh’s “Guided Tour of Uruk’s Fleshpots for the Aspiring Young Savage.” Yeah, okay I made up that last one, sort of… However, self-help books were really coming into popularity (in some quarters at least) when Barnum chose to share his wisdom concerning a subject he knew well; how to make money.
Barnum presents in a fairly slim volume a collection of obvious, but none-the-less valid philosophies on how to be a successful businessman. He states from the outset that most readers will nod and agree this is obvious, but that they will then go ahead and show they really don’t get it and why. If you listen to his advice, illustrated with anecdotes form his own experience, though it all makes a lot of sense.
As far as I know, P.T. Barnum never actually said, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” and this book demonstrates why not. In one chapter he points out that no matter how rude a customer might be, he has paid for the privilege. You might not like it, but to tell him off and insult him in turn will only lose him as a customer and is likely to lose other customers as he spreads his story of discontent with your services. His final chapter points out that it is far easier to make money honestly than it is to do so dishonestly. With the plethora of conmen in the world, currently bolstered by the invention of email and spam, this might seem hard to believe, but Barnum makes his case and while perhaps there are some exceptions to his arguments, he is right that most eventually fail or are caught.
I had expected this to be an amusing book, and in that I was a little disappointed, but it was still an enjoyable experience filled with good solid advice to businesspeople that while written in a day of horses and buggies, still applies in the modern world.
Jill Preston is another example of a reader whose talents I did not appreciate at first hearing. This happens a lot, especially when you listen to as many audiobooks as I do. Her voice is somewhat nasal and perhaps a bit sharp, but as with any truly good reader, I soon acclimated to the sound of her voice and listened to what she was actually saying. And to my surprise, I actually started to enjoy her vocal style.
Ms Preston seems to have really enjoyed what she was doing and it came out in her reading making what could have been a dull collection of homilies and personal anecdotes into an interesting experience to listen to. And more amazingly, she does it by using her own voice and not some bad Hollywood style imitation of P T Barnum. It demonstrates that sometimes simply reading makes a book more enjoyable than a slick performance. Well done.