New book: What The Rich Don’t Tell The Poor

“I’d never heard of this bloody place Guatemala until I was in my 79th year” – Winston Churchill

If you don’t know much about Guatemala, then you’re not alone. But if you’d like to find out more about this country of extraordinary beauty and tragedy, then I invite you have a look at my new book What The Rich Don’t Tell The Poor: Conversations With Guatemalan Oligarchs.

You probably signed up to this blog because of your interest in the topics of my previous books, like empathy, long-term thinking or seizing the day. But long before I began writing on those issues, I was doing academic research on Guatemalan politics. Back in the early 2000s, I spent seven years interviewing members of the country’s economic elite or ‘oligarchy’ to discover how they think about poverty, violence, race and power, and how they have maintained their privileges in the face of change. What The Rich Don’t Tell The Poor reveals all that I learned, with the oligarchs speaking candidly in their own words.

We hear about Russian oligarchs and other superwealthy business elites in the media every day. But how much do we really know about them? Who are they behind a bland quote in the Wall Street Journal? My hope is that this book isn’t just revealing about Guatemala’s oligarchs, but offers insights into understanding and challenging elite power everywhere.

The book has an unusual publication history. It was originally written in 2006 – based on research in my PhD thesis – and I’ve now published it for the first time in its original version. As I write in a new 2022 Preface, although much has changed in Guatemala in the intervening years, it is staggering just how much has stayed the same. The oligarchs remain a formidable and largely unchallenged force.

Writing this book was actually my introduction to the topic of empathy – the art of stepping into the shoes of other people and looking at the world through their eyes – which I subsequently wrote about in several other books. Speaking to the oligarchs forced me to try to see the world from the perspective of people whose views and actions I deeply disagreed with, from their racism with respect to Guatemala’s Indigenous Mayan population to their support for paramilitary death squads in the long civil war. It was confronting. But also an extraordinary learning experience.

You can find out more about the book and get yourself a copy at my website and also read a sample here.

I would also hugely appreciate if you were able to spread word about the book on social media, and share details of it with friends, activists, scholars, journalists and policymakers with an interest in politics and economic power in Latin America and beyond.

Thanks for all your support.


PS. And if you’re wondering about the cover photo, it’s by the renowned Guatemalan photographer Daniel Hernández-Salazar and is called ‘Para que todos lo sepan’ (‘So That All Shall Know’). It depicts an angel created from two negatives: a young mestizo man and the shoulder blades of a murder victim from Guatemala’s civil war, found in a clandestine grave.

What The Rich Don't Tell The Poor book cover.

It’s time to invent the ‘Buy Later’ button!

My adventures with my new book The Good Ancestor continue apace.

The US edition has just been been released (please support your local bookstore!) and there will be editions coming out soon in Dutch, Chinese and other languages.

If you haven’t yet read the book, you can get a taste of it in this 7-minute TED talk I did for their recent Countdown event on the climate crisis (it received over half a million views in its first 48 hours). From the same event I can really recommend the talks by David Lammy, Severn Cullis-Suzuki and Andri Snaer Magnason.

If you want a deeper dive into the book, the Long Now Foundation has produced a fantastic cinematic version of a 45-minute talk I did for them, full of photos and video footage, and followed by Q&A with long-term gurus Stewart Brand and Kevin Kelly.

There are clearly a lot of people out there intrigued by how to be a good ancestor: I’ve found myself giving talks about the book to government ministers, direct action climate campaigners, activist school kids, radical architects, staff at Google and much more.

And I love what can come out these events. In one of them I was speaking about how we need to invent a Buy Later Button to replace the ultra-short-term Buy Now Button. This new button would offer a dropdown menu where you can buy the item immediately, but also have options to buy in week, buy in a month, buy in a year or borrow from a friend. So if you click ‘buy in a year’ you would get an email in a year asking if you really want to buy that third yoga mat.

Anyway, I then discover that someone at the talk has picked up on the idea and created a website called, with the strapline ‘Long Term Thinking, Slow Down Shopping’. Clever. They are now in the process of creating the app to do the job of the Buy Later Button.

I’ve also had the privilege of working with many inspiring and creative people, amongst them a group of cartoonists from magazines such as The New Yorker and Esquire. In a project with the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, the cartoonists read The Good Ancestor and created original cartoons in response to its themes. Below is one of my favourites (you can view the whole collection here).

And just to finish, if you don’t know it, let me introduce you to one of the most powerful poems I’ve encountered on being a good ancestor: Hieroglypic Stairway by Drew Dellinger. Listen to him read it here. And here is an excerpt to mull over:

it’s 3:23 in the morning

and I can’t sleep

because my great great grandchildren

ask me in dreams

what did you do while the earth was unravelling?

Six Ways to Think Long Term (new book out today!)

So here it is, after more than three years of toil. My new book, The Good Ancestor: How to Think Long Term in a Short-Term World, is published today.

The book explores six different ways we can learn to think long term and overcome the pathological short-termism of the modern world, and celebrates the ‘time rebels’ who are reinventing democracy, economics and culture to create a better tomorrow. Ultimately it is an attempt to answer what I consider the most urgent question of our times as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis: How can we be good ancestors?

You can get yourself a copy from places including Hive, Amazon and Waterstones (20% discount code: ANCESTOR20).

I’ve launched a new microsite which contains graphics, data and other goodies from the book. There are plenty of free online events you can join too.

Today I’m also launching a new animation based on the book called The Marshmallow and the Acorn. You may have already seen my other animation, The Legacies We Leave. I would hugely appreciate if you could share whichever video resonates most with you.

Please let me know what you think of the book, and thank you for all your support!

Best wishes, Roman

“This is the book our children’s children will thank us for reading.” The Edge, U2

“Beautiful to read, heartfelt and persuasive, The Good Ancestor is one of those landmark books with the power to shift a mindset.” Isabella Tree, author of Wilding

How Can We Be Good Ancestors? New video and new book!

WH Allen logo. Penguin Books logo.

Out now

“This is the book our children’s children will thank us for reading.”
The Edge, U2
“Beautiful to read, heartfelt and persuasive. One of those landmark books with the power to shift a mindset.”
Isabella Tree, author of Wilding

Black and white photo of Roman Krznaric by Kate Raworth.Roman Krznaric’s new book, The Good Ancestor: How to Think Long Term in a Short-Term World, explores six ways we can expand our time horizons to confront the great long-term challenges of our age, from the climate crisis to threats from new technologies and the next pandemic coming our way. Do we have what it takes to become the good ancestors that future generations deserve?

It’s been more than a year since my last blogpost – but I can explain my absence…I’ve been finalising my latest book, The Good Ancestor: How to Think Long Term in a Short-Term World, which will be published in the UK on July 16 by Penguin Random House.

The book has a simple question at its heart: How can we be good ancestors? It explores how we can overcome the frenetic short-termism of the modern world and become long-term ‘cathedral thinkers’, so we can tackle the challenges of our age, from the climate crisis to threats from AI and the next pandemic on the horizon.

To give you a taste of the book, today I’m launching a new animated video based on its ideas called The Legacies We Leave (created by the brilliant Tom Lee at

Please do share the video, especially with organisations and individuals (maybe your local MP!) who could do with a healthy dose of long-term thinking.

If you’d like to pre-order the book, you can do so from outlets including Hive, Amazon and Waterstones (20% discount code: ANCESTOR20).

Also look out for upcoming speaking events I’ll be doing. These include a free online event with Salon London on July 23 where I’ll be in conversation about the book with author of Doughnut Economics Kate Raworth and musician Brian Eno.

Hope to see you at one of the events!

Best wishes, Roman

Have We Colonised The Future?

‘We treat the future like a distant colonial outpost devoid of people, where we can freely dump ecological degradation, technological risk, nuclear waste and public debt.’

This is a quote from an article I’ve just published on the BBC Futures website called Why We Need To Reinvent Democracy for the Long-Term.

I’d hugely appreciate if you had a chance to read it, share it, and post any thoughts you have in the comments section below. It contains some of the ideas I’ve been developing for a new book I’m writing on the power of long-term thinking (which explains why I haven’t written a blog post for eight months). At the centre of the book is a simple – yet I believe vital – question: How can we be good ancestors?

For those of you who subscribed to this blog due an interest in the subject of empathy, the book explores the great challenge of how we can empathise with future generations. It’s a tough one – any answers, please let me know!

Got 3 minutes to think about death?

One of the great tragedies of modern culture is death denial. The advertising industry tells us that we are forever young. Death is a topic as taboo as sex was in the Victorian era.

Yet engaging with death is one of the best ways we know to seize the day: it helps us recognise that life is short and the clock is ticking. If you’ve got 3 minutes up your sleeve, have a read of my new ‘click essay’ Dancing With Death, where I explore the issue.

The click essay, based on my new book Carpe Diem Regained: The Vanishing Art of Seizing the Day, is a new digital format for exploring philosophical ideas. Try it out!

And if you’re in London, I’d love to invite you to a book talk I’m doing on Tuesday 2nd May in Brick Lane for the London Talks @ Night series.


Two Days Left: Support the World’s First Empathy Museum

‘Sewerman’ Gari Pattison tells his story at the Empathy Museum

We’ve got just two days left to fund the launch of the Empathy Museum. If you’ve been pondering giving support, or haven’t yet got around to it, now is the time! We’ve nearly hit £10,000 – just a little more and we’ll be there.


Our launch exhibit, A Mile in My Shoes, is going to be fabulous. You’ll step into the shoes of people like ‘sewerman’ Gari Pattison, as well as others including a refugee, a sea captain, a drag queen and a dog walker. I’ve just been listening to one extraordinary contribution from a man sentenced to 14 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Just imagine having the chance to walk in his actual shoes as you listen to his story.

I realise that there are a lot of good causes out there that you could be contributing to, so why give to the Empathy Museum?

  • It’s absolutely unique. It’s the world’s first exhibition dedicated specifically to promoting empathic understanding, and based on the latest neuroscience and psychology research.
  • This is an urgent issue. Empathy is on the decline: we see the spectre of rising racism around immigration issues, an escalation of online abuse, and a plague of hyperindividualism fuelled by an overdose of consumer culture.
  • Be part of a global movement. We’re taking the Empathy Museum around the world, starting with the UK and Australia, and we’ve had invitations to bring it to cities including Paris, Beirut and Calgary. This is going to be big.
  • Your contribution will make a tangible difference. All donations will go directly to fund our exhibit – helping us collect more stories and shoes for our shoe shop and take the Empathy Museum into communities where it’s really needed.

Most crowd-funding campaigns receive the majority of their donations in the last 48 hours. So please prove the statistics right by making your donation here.

Thank you, and I hope you can make it to our opening exhibit in September.


Roman Krznaric, Founder, Empathy Museum


Photo of Gari Pattison by Rachel Simpson

Time to swap introspection for outrospection

Thomas Cook, the lay Baptist preacher who was the unlikely inventor of the package holiday.

Here’s an an opinion piece I wrote for The Scotsman newspaper last week.

Walk into a travel agency today and you will be offered the usual array of bargain trips to beach resorts, luxury cruise vacations and weekend getaways to romantic cities. But the founder of the most successful travel company of the nineteenth century had a very different idea of what a holiday should be all about. He was a lay Baptist preacher named Thomas Cook, who organised his first package tour in 1841, taking five hundred working people on a twenty-two mile train trip from Leicester to Loughborough to attend a temperance meeting, where pious ministers called on them to abstain from the demon drink.

Although this may not be your idea of the perfect holiday break, Cook believed that travel should not just offer leisurely respite from a routine job, but give you a chance to question your values and how you live. ‘To travel is to dispel the mists of fable and clear the mind of prejudice taught from babyhood, and facilitate perfectness of seeing eye to eye,’ he said.

If we want to embrace Cook’s original vision, we need to invent a new kind of travel which provides an adventurous and inspiring approach to the art of living…

Read the rest of the article here.