Book Review | Mob Rules: What the Mafia Can Teach the Legitimate Businessman by Louis Ferrante

mobI received Mob Rules: What the Mafia Can Teach the Legitimate Business via the Goodreads First Reads program. While there were a few interesting / amusing anecdotes, overall I don’t think this book quite accomplished what it could have.

Mr. Ferrante is a former member of the Mob who spent years in prison, during which he read hundreds of books and taught himself to write. While the grammar is impeccable and the sentence structure sound, Mr. Ferrante doesn’t appear to have learned to write with any flare. The book was extremely straight forward and there was basically no nuance to the writing.

As far as the content goes, well, most of it was pretty much common sense. Don’t burn bridges, don’t gossip about your co-workers, plan ahead. He repeated some of the tips a few times and some of them directly contradicted other tips.

For example, one chapter was called:“Give the Spic Bastard a Call!: Hiring the Best Person, Regardless of Race, Creed, or Sexual Orientation.” Then a few chapters later we read: “The mafia bans gays from membership. As far as I know, they’re not about to implement the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. However, the Mob will deal with anyone, without prejudice.” One of these things is not like the other…

It felt like he was basically trying to get as many tips in as possible. It also didn’t seem that most of the tips had a specific connection from the Mob to business. I think they could have easily been written from the perspective of a dog walker. Though there were a few that did directly relate Mob information, such as:

 “Being a mobster awakened me to the dangers of a telephone. No one is immune. While a mobster’s conversation might be played in court, a businessperson’s conversation can be played in court, on prime time news, YouTube, pasted all over the internet or kept secret and used as blackmail.”

He also used many, many quotes throughout the books. Some were from Mobsters, some were from movies and others were from books. I typically enjoy quotes in books like these, but in this case I didn’t feel they were used effectively. They were inserted awkwardly. He’d be in the middle of talking about something and then there’d be a quote and then he’d just go back to talking about whatever he was talking about. Most of the time the quotes either weren’t particularly applicable or they were just really, really generic.

That said, I did find some of the content to be interesting and relevant. I think if I’d read these a few tips at a time I would likely have gotten more out of it. As it was, I read it in less than 24 hours and it’s just not really a book that’s set up to be read in that way.

There were also a few times that Mr. Ferrante’s humor showed through. For example:

 “As a loan shark, I never increased the interest rate on someone’s loan. If anything, I dropped the rate as a reward for timely payments. Credit card companies increase your rate, regardless of your history, and do so without your knowledgeable consent. How about all those hidden fees? “It’s in the small print,” one customer service rep told me. “You should have read it.” That’s like me increasing someone’s vig on a loan, and saying to him,” When I gave you the money, I whispered that part. You should have heard me.”

This book also made me think about a few things in new ways.

 “If you’re aware of shady business practices and either look the other way or say to yourself, “I’m just following orders,” tell me, “What the fuck’s the difference?” You’re as guilty as the people you work for.”

At one point he discusses his experience in prison and learning to read/write with so many interruptions. I’ve always been someone who gets unnecessarily upset when I’m interrupted and have had trouble re-focusing when I get back to work. Mr. Ferrante pointed out how these interruptions actually gave him a change to clear his head and let in fresh ideas.

 “If I was in the middle of writing something when a con poked his head in, I’d put my pen down to talk with him. When he left, I’d return to my paper and find that my mind was filled with fresh ideas. If I was struggling with a problem when interrupted, I found, after speaking to someone, that I’d return to that problem with a solution in mind.”

At the end of the book I was left wishing I’d read a different book by Mr. Ferrante. He obviously has some interesting stories to tell and a unique perspective, but I don’t think this book was successful.

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