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A Global Life: My Journey Among Rich and Poor, from Sydney to Wall Street to the World Bank [Kindle Edition]

James D. Wolfensohn
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

As president of the World Bank for a decade, James Wolfensohn tackled world poverty with a passion and energy that made him a uniquely important figure in a fundamental arena of change. Using a lifetime of experience in the banking sector, he carved a distinct path in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe for the institution that serves as the major lender to the world's poor.

In A Global Life, Wolfensohn tells his astonishing life story in his own words. A man of surpassing imagination and drive, he became an Olympic fencer and a prominent banker in London and New York. An Australian, he navigated Wall Street with uncommon skill. Chairman of Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center for many years, he is also an amateur cellist. But it was his tenure at the World Bank that made him an international force. While at the helm of this controversial institution, Wolfensohn motivated, schemed, charmed, and bullied all the constituencies at his command to broaden the distribution of the world's wealth. Now he bluntly assesses his successes and failures, reflecting on the causes of continuing poverty.

Much more than a business story, this is a deeply reflective account of a fascinating career and personality.

Product Description


Kirkus, August 15, 2010 "The author's candor ... is refreshing, as is his frank assessment of his own strengths and shortcomings... An often engaging memoir that is especially strong in its insights into global poverty." Kofi A. Annan "A Global Life is an eloquent and moving memoir of one man's journey to make a difference in the world. In his typically candid and refreshing style, Jim Wolfensohn describes the milestones in his life which led him to believe that unless we tackle the core issues of development and poverty, we will not create a peaceful world for our children. This is a book that will inspire all those who see the need for change in this world, and wish to make a contribution." Michael Beschloss"Jim Wolfensohn is not only a hero to the world's poor, but a preeminent global leader in politics, philanthropy, business and finance, the arts, international security, and even sports. He is a force of nature; there is no one else like him; and this elegant and absorbing book gives us the inside story of how he did it all. Anyone who seeks to understand the global history of the last half-century should be sure to read it." Vartan Gregorian"This is an absorbing memoir written by an extraordinary man who has lived through extraordinary times. The arc of James Wolfensohn's career has spanned the globe, from Australia to England to the U.S., building the Global Life he writes of in these pages with great eloquence and honesty. Wolfensohn's utter commitment to living a life of dignity and to promoting equity and social justice resonate through every page of this volume. It is a must-read." Vernon E. Jordan, Jr."It's a long way from Sydney, Australia to the pinnacle of the world's public and private sectors. Jim Wolfensohn made the journey with courage, confidence and ability. A Global Life is instructive, inspiring, powerful." Strobe Talbott"As Jim Wolfensohn's vivid and powerful story makes clear, he is a rare and in many ways unique citizen of the world-a man for all seasons and all regions. He was a transformative president of the World Bank, and his indefatigable (and hitherto undervalued) efforts on behalf of peace the Middle East could not be more relevant to today's headlines from those troubled lands."


James D. Wolfensohn is one of the business world's most successful and unconventional figures - an expat Aussie and former World Bank President who has gone on to channel his personal success into the struggle against poverty. In this illuminating autobiography, co-written with award-winning journalist Jill Margo, Wolfensohn recounts his early life in Sydney, climbing the ladder as a prominent banker in London and then New York, his pursuits as an Olympic fencer and a skilled cellist, and his astounding ten-year tenure as president of the World Bank from 1995 to 2005. A blunt, incisive and colourful figure, Wolfensohn earned a reputation for brilliant and effective leadership in both the private and non-profit sectors, and here for the first time speaks candidly about the anti-Semitism he faced as a Jew in the UK merchant banking world, what it is like to be an unknown Aussie on the world financial stage, and just how he achieved his dizzying success. Spanning his extraordinary 40-year career, A Global Life is the inspiring story of a truly visionary financier and philanthropist.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 862 KB
  • Print Length: 482 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1586482556
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1 edition (12 Oct. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0042RU4CG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #661,683 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A thought-provoking story of success 23 Jun. 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I found this a very interesting autobiography. For me it shows how the author's early years shaped an understanding of the importance of interpersonal relationships and social interactions in business and finance. The concept of maintaining a personal strategy and action plan, based on sound moral and cultural values and subject to regular reviews,runs through the book and clearly influenced his decisions.
The author shows how appropriate learning from background and experiences, including from the time spent in something of a backwater in post war days, helped him to grow to a position of international responsibility and eminence and taught him never to forget that he is a citizen of the world in common with all of us in all nations.
The author's modesty, might be a little overplayed, but does encourage the reader to feel all of us can strive for success at high level. References and acknowledgements to family, friends and valued associates underline a view that working towards loyal and supportive social, business and political environments enables more success than today's, often-individualistic, target-orientated, naïve, short-term strategies.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Global View 7 Jan. 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
A Global Life: My Journey among the Rich and Poor, from Wall Street to the World Bank by James Wolfensohn. Born in 1933 in Australia to English
immigrants and brought up to achieve, he did just that. He got an Australian law degree,
fenced for Australia in the Olympics, did an MBA at Harvard. Met his American wife, Ellie, had
a family of three kids, made a fortune along the way.

He has spent the last 15 years of his life in public service, ten of them as President of the
World Bank. He travelled the world and met the people adressing many issues: poverty and corruption to name two. He set goals for his tenure
at the World Bank. In the end, he could tick most of them on the list !

A lifetime habit he had was to sit by himself and dream up impossible accomplishments.
Then he would try to reach the goals ! He tried to become a Rhodes scholar and got
icely turned down. He dreamed of making a difference and became President of the World Bank at the age of 61.

Why should you read this book? If you want to see what one person setting goals can achieve in a lifetime, it's a good read. If you want to see how big one little boy can grow in
a lifetime, here's an answer.

Quote from Sir James "I think the important thing is to get people to recognize that although we live in the United States and we think of Europe and Japan, a good half the world is in the developing countries. And as we see a move in the global economy, it's a move to China and to India and to Asia. And we need to wake up to that move and we need to wake up to the move that there are billions of people left behind."
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.6 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars James D. Wolfensohn's Global Life: A Rebel Without a Pause 7 Oct. 2010
By G. Gregory Boyd - Published on
Before the reader sits down with Mr. Wolfensohn's book he is best advised to be well-rested because in addition to a fascinating autobiography they are also receiving a forum on international development and global relations, a primer on business, and an introduction to the personal and professional psychological machinations of interpersonal/organizational relationships. Jeffrey Goldstein, one of Wolfensohn's first hires at his investment firm in the 1980s, described Wolfensohn as being "a sponge" during the time they were building Jim's business but judging from his humble childhood in Sydney, Australia to his movement into the highest echelons of power, Wolfensohn also has to be viewed as a laser guided torpedo constantly locking onto new targets be they in business, development, or in the arts. The book paints a picture of a self-assured almost cocky young boy who finds himself, at the outset, getting his head "dunked" by a farmhand into a bucket of lime and who later upon making the Australian Olympic team as a fencer is dismissed by a young autograph seeker who states, "Oh don't worry about him, he's only a fencer." This pattern of challenge and personal reassessment is sprinkled throughout his life. After applying to Oxford (rejected) and failing to receive an appointment as a Rhodes Scholar, Wolfensohn took what was behind door number three, Harvard Business School, and that to paraphrase Frost, "Made all the difference." After that Wolfensohn slammed down onto a personal gas pedal that led to Europe, Wall Street, two terms as the president of the World Bank, an appointment as the Special Envoy to the Gaza Disengagement in addition to numerous corporate boards and the chairmanship of both Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. At four-hundred and forty-four pages the reader's time is well spent and he will come away feeling about this book in much the same way that one of his mentors, Julius Stone, wrote on his Harvard application that Wolfensohn possessed, "Indefinable attributes."
4.0 out of 5 stars A Global Life James Wolfensohn 10 July 2012
By Geodean01 - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A Global Life: My Journey Among Rich and Poor, from Sydney to Wall Street to the World Bank

I found this an intriguing volume expecially in the early chapters. My eyes tended to glaze in some of later chapters when references were made to his association with financial corporations and the famous names dropped (some of whom I have also known personally). This may have gender specific appeal although I really enjoyed the personal insights into his relationships with his parents and immediate family later in his career. It was a long read and because I tend to read in sessions had to continually reread the preceding paragraphs to maintain the continuity of my interest.

It is a book I shall re-read at a later date - having the Kindle edition makes it an extremely easy "carry-on" when travelling.
4.0 out of 5 stars Global Life 18 Nov. 2011
By Nicholas Koshiw - Published on
A very interesting autobiography from one of the most fascinating bankers/statesmen who made a lasting mark upon the latter half of the 20th century. This book starts with Wolfensohn's early life in Australia and chronicles his experiences as a child, undergraduate student, lawyer, investment banker and head of the World Bank. The story also delves into the author's passion for music (how many other financiers can say they played the cello with Yo Yo Ma onstage at Carnegie Hall?), philanthropy and family. Unlike most autobiographies penned by Type-A elites, this piece comes with a dose of humility and praise for others, which is a breath of fresh air compared to some other hubris-filled autiobios. All in all, a great tale from a colorful character who successfully navigated to the top levels of finance, philanthropy and public service.
7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A pity... 12 Oct. 2010
By JayB - Published on
Jim Wolfensohn is an interesting person who has lived an interesting life and who has written a crushingly boring book. (The Economist description as "plodding" is kind...) As suggested by another reviewer, to learn about Wolfensohn and the World Bank, read Sebastian Mallaby's "The World's Banker".
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This book is a whitewash. Most of the material ... 3 Nov. 2014
By banksterone - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a whitewash. Most of the material in the book about the author's personal and family life is not accurate. For example, those close to the family freely let people know that the Wolfensohn suffered from depression for years and that his oldest daughter was addicted to anti-depressants for many years. In addition, Wolfensohn almost went bankrupt when a deal he did with Australian billionaire Keri Packer went south, sending him into another round of depression. His friends say he had many mistresses and was close friends with DSK and all that implies. At one point in time he introduced one of his mistresses to his daughter and said he would kill himself rather than stay with his wife. The family has been riven by conflict for years.
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