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Lunch » Tags » Untagged » Follow the Money: A Month in the Life of a Ten-Dollar Bill » User review

Money talks, Boggan walks

  • Jul 31, 2013
Teetering between funny, abrasive, and poignant, Follow the Money ends up somewhere in the middle.  The idea is so simple that the execution depends on the writer, and Boggan is a cynical Brit with the dry humor that is easy to love and hate at the same time.

Repeating a prank he documented for a UK magazine with a 10-pound note, Boggan journeys to the geographic center (roughly speaking, the subject of an amusing diversion by Boggan) of the US with a $10 bill which he had marked with a sharpie for visibility, vowing to follow it from recipient to recipient for 30 days.  While I thought at first that this book might be more about currency, credit, and microeconomics in 21st century economies, it is really about the people who receive and spend the bill than not about the cash economy, although Boggan does spend a few pages on the topic (in the US transactions with debit and credit cards surpassed cash transactions several years ago; in a very few years Boggan's journey will be hard to duplicate).

So while this book is identified on the back cover as belonging in the Travel category, it is more about the people Boggan meets on his journey.  He starts in a small Kansas farming community, and winds his way east to St. Louis. south to Hot Springs, Arkansas, and north to Chicago and beyond.  He bonds with farmers, missionaries, musicians, investment advisers, and lots of waitresses, hotel clerks, and cashiers who think he might just be daft or dangerous when he explains why he is hanging around watching people spend the bill and waiting to see who receives it.

In the end, while Americans and our unBritish ways are easy targets for his cynicism and barbed humor, Boggan has grown to a respect and even admiration for the generosity, sincerity, spirituality, and hospitality he has experienced at almost every stop and relationship on his journey.  This is an inconsequential but ultimately friendly little book that is worth a few hours light reading.

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July 31, 2013
Thanks for sharing.
About the reviewer
Todd Stockslager ()
Ranked #36
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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"It would be easy enough to say that Boggan just got lucky, that his $10 bill was touched by a certain magic that led him to good places and away from bad ones. Perhaps so. But at a moment in our history when so many Americans are troubled by what they see as anger and hostility among their fellow citizens, it is rather nice to be given a bit of evidence that this may not be entirely true." - The Washington Post

In 2006, British journalist Boggan wrote an article about following a single 10-pound note for a week, tracking its movements from hand to hand. This highly entertaining book expands on the theme. Making his way to the U.S., Boggan sent a marked $10 bill on its way, vowing to follow its progress for a full month. His journey—or, rather the bill’s journey—took him from his starting point of Lebanon, Kansas (popularly if inaccurately known as the geographical center of the U.S.) to Detroit, Michigan, a distance of more than 3,000 miles. The rules were simple: he had to be present at every transaction, he couldn’t influence how the 10 bucks was spent, and he couldn’t influence where the bill went (there was a tense moment when a guy said he was going to mail the bill to a place 406 miles away). Like Bill Bryson, whose travel books are as much about the people he meets as they are about the places he visits, Boggan writes entertainingly about the characters he encountered along the way—most of whom were, somewhat surprisingly, ...
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