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Review: Wonder Boy Chronicles the Life and Death of Former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh

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miniswonderboy | Henry Holt and Co.

Tony Hsieh became a near-billionaire after the online shoe sales company he chaired, Zappos, sold to Amazon in 2009. His vision of a nonhierarchical, decentralized company based on “holocracy” and “market-based dynamics” encouraged all employees to be entrepreneurs. His belief that companies could “deliver happiness” (as per the title of his bestselling book) made him an internet-age celebrity, feted by Oprah Winfrey and Ivanka Trump.

He also plunged into expensive schemes to turn downtown Las Vegas, Nevada, and Park City, Utah, into Burning Man–inspired hubs for business and artistic creativity. He died in 2020 of smoke inhalation after a Connecticut storage shed where he was holed up after a fight with friends caught fire.

Hsieh’s tale is handled with care and respect by Wall Street Journal reporter Angel Au-Yeung and Forbes reporter David Jeans in their new book Wonder Boy. Hsieh likely suffered from what a doctor might have called mania, exacerbated by abuse of ketamine and other drugs.

Wonder Boy does a service to Hsieh and his compatriots by not assuming his sort of experiential edge seeking must end in literal self-destruction, even as they chronicle his sad decline.

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