Surowiecki, James (Michael) 1967-

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SUROWIECKI, James (Michael) 1967-


Male. Born April 30, 1967, in Meriden, CT; son of Benjamin Michael and Mary (Marinan) Surowiecki. Education: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, B.A., 1988; Yale University, postgraduate, 1988-95.


Home—245 President St., #2, Brooklyn, NY 11231. Office—c/o New Yorker, 4 Times Square, New York, NY 10021. E-mail—[email protected].


Rogue (magazine), Alexandria, VA, editor-in-chief, 1995-96; Motley Fool, Alexandria, staff writer, 1996-98; finance columnist for Slate, 1997-2000, New York magazine, 1998-99, and New Yorker, 2000—.


(Editor) Best Business Crime Writing of the Year, Anchor Books (New York, NY), 2002.

The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies, and Nations, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor to numerous periodicals, including the New York Times Magazine, Wall Street Journal, Lingua Franca, Wired, Boston Phoenix, and Washington Post. Contributing editor, Talk (magazine), 1999-2000, and Fortune, 1999-2000.


Financial columnist James Surowiecki had, by his mid-thirties, written for some of the most prestigious magazines and newspapers in the United States, including Fortune, Wall Street Journal, New York Times Magazine, and New Yorker. His first book, Best Business Crime Writing of the Year, is an edited collection of articles by top finance columnists about the corporate scandals of the early 2000s, such as the Enron, Arthur Andersen, and WorldCom ordeals; the ImClone insider-trading scandal involving home-design celebrity Martha Stewart; the Adelphia, Tyco, and Qwest debacles; and lesser-known corporate misdealings. The book also includes a section on industry watchdogs, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, stock analysts, and auditors. Through an introduction, notes, and comments, Surowiecki puts all of this into perspective, noting the background and implications for these scandals.

Neil Skene, in an online review of Best Business Crime Writing of the Year for, called Surowiecki "the docent of a corporate rogues' gallery." Skene remarked that the collected pieces "tell us about the failure of integrity, vigilance or basic judgment that afflicted these high-flying execs and toothless watchdogs who were supposed to protect investors." David Siegfried, in Booklist, found it difficult to name "the numerous examples of fine investigative journalism" in the book, but cited an article by David Wessell titled "What's Wrong" for showing how scandals such as these were able to occur.

A Kirkus Reviews contributor complimented P. J. O'Rourke's article in Best Business Crime Writing about the Enron scandal and other pieces, but questioned the inclusion of some of the less-meaty articles. A contributor to the Economist found it "striking" that so many corporate debacles included stories of a rise from humbleness to riches and back again in a short time span. This contributor also commented on a few perceived flaws in the book, such as the absence of articles from outside the United States and "the fragmented picture the book gives of this recent spate of corporate malpractice," leaving readers informed about different perspectives of each case but still wondering in the end, "who dunnit?"

Ellsworth Quarrels, writing for, praised Surowiecki's columns in the New Yorker, saying he is "at his best exploring the strategies of the corporate dumb and the damned. Best of all, he serves it all up in clear, witty prose. His real gift is not just understanding the secret recipes of corporate rogues but putting them in historical perspective." For example, Surowiecki notes in one column that the Enron scandal bears a close resemblance to the Central Pacific Railroad swindle of 1861. As quoted by Quarrels, Surowiecki said writing his column for the New Yorker is "a rigorous, demanding process" in which his pieces are scrutinized by editors Quarrels dubbed "accuracy and clarity cops." The discipline appears to be worth it, though. The Kirkus contributor thought that Surowiecki's writing "glitters most brightly" in the book, even in footnotes, and concluded that readers would wish that "almost all the articles … had been originally written by Surowiecki."



Booklist, December 1, 2002, David Siegfried, review of Best Business Crime Writing of the Year, p. 634.

Economist, November 30, 2002, "Corporate Delicti: Business Crime Writing."

Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2002, review of Best Business Crime Writing of the Year, p. 1758.

ONLINE, (May-June, 2002), Ellsworth Quarrels, "James Surowiecki: Your Trusty Guide to Corporate Shame."

Random House Web site, (May 7, 2003)., (January 8, 2003), Neil Skene, review of Best Business Crime Writing of the Year.*