First-Year Text: How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid

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Study Guide

  1. Why do you think the author chose to write this novel not only in the second person but also in the form of a self–help book? What effect did these choices have on your experience as a reader?
  2. How does the transition from rural to urban life affect the family? What challenges does it alleviate for them, both individually and as a unit, and what new challenges does it create? Do you see similarities with your own life experiences?
  3. What first intrigues the hero about the pretty girl? In what ways does her rise parallel—and diverge from—his? Why do you think the author chose to give it this form rather than craft a more conventional romance? What do you think is the book’s ultimate message about love?
  4. What happens to morality—for the hero, his father, and the pretty girl—in the pursuit of ambition? What happens to love?
  5. Apart from continents, no place is named in the book and all of the characters are anonymous. Why do you think the author chose to forgo names? What effect does this anonymity have on the telling of the story and on your experience reading it?
  6. The story spans the hero's entire life, from early childhood to death. What insights about mortality does the story offer?
  7. The book is set against a backdrop of massive and often brutal economic and social change. In what ways does this context limit the hero's life choices? In what ways does it liberate him? What might this story look like played out elsewhere in the world?
  8. At one point the hero becomes affiliated with a group of “idealists,” and at other points his father's faith and his wife's religious–minded activism are discussed. What do you think the novelist's attitude toward religion is?
  9. After finishing the book, what do you think of the title? In what sense does the novel ultimately offer “self–help”? How does it blur the boundaries between genres—fiction, nonfiction, self–help, and even sci–fi?
  10. What did you think of the ending of the book? Was it surprising, given the title? Satisfying? Where did it leave you as a reader, and where do you think the author intended it to leave you?

Adapted from the discussion questions issued by the publisher (Penguin Random House)