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February 5, 2009

One Red Paperclip: The Story of How One Man Changed his Life One Swap at a Time

by Kyle MacDonald

I ummed and arred for some time before buying this one. Having read through mixed reviews on Amazon (some even describing the author as increasingly irritating, moralistic, patronising and the book as ploddingly written), I clicked the “Place order” button anyway.

And I’m so glad I did. What a thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring read! You may argue that I’m easily impressed and a bit of a divvy, but the concept of trading up, up and up until finally trading up to a house I thought truly imaginative and inspiring. Based on a game the author played as a kid called Bigger and Better, the idea being to swap whatever you have for something – ahem – bigger and better, he takes the game a step further and aspires to a house – starting with the red paperclip holding the pages of his CV together.

Penniless and jobless, and following an overwhelming response to his internet advert, the adventure had begun. Meeting numerous fascinating characters along the way, sifting through hundreds of potential traders and attracting a lot of media attention in the process, his entrepreneurial journey is an inspirational one. Written with good humour, this is an easy read which captures the imagination. I only wish we’d played games like that as a kid; I don’t think playing Starsky and Hutch or Kiss-catch is going to get me anywhere.

James’ out-of-five star rating: ****

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