The book’s subtitle — Why Some People Can Make Money and Other People Can’t — may suggest that Leith was aiming for a self-help manual; what he has produced is an observation of his struggles to write one. Not that it isn’t entertaining. The confessional parts are almost too much. There is something childlike about their rawness and intensity. Leith tells us that he is “abused by secured and unsecured loans, unpaid bills and taxes, fines, penalty fees, pending court cases, and cases I have already lost, or not contested, or forgotten about”.
Leith has, over three decades as a magazine journalist, done more than his fair share of profiles of the rich and the super-rich. It is not, therefore, as though he has not seen them in action, questioned their motivations, studied their life choices – why have none of those traits of success rubbed off? If he is so good at understanding what makes his subjects tick, why can he not apply that wisdom to his own bank balance?... And the more we watch him listen, the closer he gets to the trick itself. This being Leith, he boils it down a few times to the kind of wisdom that always sounds too simple to be true. “You’ll find the right path by taking lots of wrong paths.” “Be the brain surgeon and the mad axeman”. Even as he writes them, he knows he will never learn them – he thinks too much – but it is, nevertheless hugely enjoyable watching him try.