Nina Munk

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Nina Munk (born 1967) is a Canadian-American journalist and non-fiction author. She is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair,[1] where she writes about finance and business, and is the author, most recently, of The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty[2] and Fools Rush In: Jerry Levin, Steve Case, and the Unmaking of Time Warner.[3] As well, she is the editor of the 2018 English translation of How It Happened: Documenting the Tragedy of Hungarian Jewry, an influential account of the Holocaust in Hungary written by Erno Munkacsi in 1947.[4]


Munk was born in Canada to the entrepreneur and philanthropist Peter Munk and University of Toronto professor Linda Munk.[5] She spent her childhood in Switzerland's Berner Oberland before moving to Toronto for high school. She received a B.A. in comparative literature from Smith College[6] in 1988, an M.A. in French literature and language from Middlebury College in 1989, and, in 1992, an M.S. with honors from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism where she was awarded the Philip Greer Memorial Scholarship for outstanding business and financial journalism. Munk is married to the artist Peter Soriano, with whom she owns a townhouse in New York City.[7]


Munk's work has appeared in Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Forbes, and Fortune. Before joining Vanity Fair as a Contributing Editor, she was a Senior Writer at Fortune and a Senior Editor at Forbes. Among other honors, she has won three Business Journalist of the Year Awards and three Front Page Awards. Her article "Rich Harvard, Poor Harvard," published in the August 2009 issue of Vanity Fair, was nominated for the 2010 Gerald Loeb Award and was included in two published collections, The Great Hangover: 21 Tales of the New Recession from the Pages of Vanity Fair and Schools for Scandal: The Inside Dramas at 16 of America's Most Elite Campuses.[8]

Munk's book The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty received a great deal of attention[9] for its critical exploration of our "well-intentioned, but ultimately naive theories about ending poverty in Africa,"[10] to quote Publishers Weekly. Even before it was published, the book, inspired by a profile of the economist Jeffrey Sachs that Munk wrote for Vanity Fair,[11] was the subject of Joe Nocera's New York Times column in which he noted that Munk's reporting "caused her to become disillusioned, and humbled, by the difficulties that any Western aid effort is likely to encounter."[12]

The Idealist has been named a finalist for the National Business Book Award and the 2013 Governor General's Awards, and longlisted for the Lionel Gelber Prize. It was selected as a "Book of the Year" by The Spectator,[13] Forbes,[14] Bloomberg,[15] and,[16] and has received overwhelmingly positive reviews. In his review, Bill Gates remarks: "I’ve told everyone at our foundation that I think it is worth taking the time to read it. It’s a valuable—and, at times, heartbreaking—cautionary tale." [17] Foreign Policy magazine recognized The Idealist with a 2013 Albie Award, remarking: "Writing accessibly about development economics is a high-wire act, but Munk accomplishes it brilliantly."[18] In the Wall Street Journal, James Traub refers to Munk's "impressive persistence, unflagging empathy and journalistic derring-do," citing the depth of her on-the-ground reporting in rural Africa.[19] The economist William Easterly, reviewing the book for Barron's, calls it "one of the most readable and evocative accounts of foreign aid ever written,"[20] while Howard W. French describes The Idealist as "a devastating portrait of hubris and its consequences."[21] However, some reviewers, while complimenting Munk's "lively and at times, quite funny book," have argued that her portrayal of Sachs is overly critical—she is, to quote Erika Fry's review in Fortune, "a bit hard on Sachs."[22] Sachs himself has reportedly been dismissive of the book.[23] On his WNYC radio show, Brian Lehrer suggests that Ms. Munk is perhaps overreaching when she concludes that foreign aid has been more harmful than good.[24]

Munk's book about the merger of AOL and Time Warner, Fools Rush In: Jerry Levin, Steve Case, and the Unmaking of AOL Time Warner, was published by HarperCollins in 2004, one of several books that year about the ill-fated business deal. The New York Times Review of Books called it "the best [book] so far" on the subject of AOL Time Warner, noting Munk's "exemplary reporting" and "lively, lucid writing",[25] and Publishers Weekly said it "provides a thorough recap of the debacle" but "for those who are already well versed on the subject, Munk adds little new information."[26]

In 2008, Munk co-wrote The Art of Clairtone: The Making of Design Icon, a coffee-table book about the celebrated Canadian stereo manufacturer Clairtone Sound Corporation, a company co-founded by her father in 1958.[27] Archival photographs, documents, and artifacts gathered for and used in The Art of Clairtone were displayed in an exhibition about Clairtone at the Design Exchange museum in 2008.[28]

As a sideline to her journalism career, Munk founded, a website for dog owners, in 2000.[29] The website led to two spin-off books: Urbanhound: The New York City Dog's Ultimate Survival Guide, co-authored by Munk in 2001;[30] and The Complete Healthy Dog Handbook, written by veterinarian Betsy Brevitz in 2009. But while was a critical success, Munk conceded to the New York Times[31] that it never made much money. In November 2009, FetchDog, an e-commerce and catalog company based in Maine, acquired from Munk for an undisclosed sum.[32]

Selected Bibliography[edit]

  • The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty. (Doubleday, 2013. ISBN 978-0-385-52581-7)
  • Fools Rush In: Jerry Levin, Steve Case, and the Unmaking of AOL Time Warner. (HarperCollins, 2004. ISBN 0-06-054034-6)
  • The Art of Clairtone: The Making of Design Icon, 1958-1971. (McClelland & Stewart, 2008. ISBN 978-0-7710-6507-1)
  • The Great Hangover: 21 Tales of the New Recession from the Pages of Vanity Fair Magazine. (Harper Perennial, 2010. ISBN 978-0-06-196442-8)
  • How It Happened: Documenting the Tragedy of Hungarian Jewry. (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2018. ISBN 978-0-77-355512-9)


  1. ^ Vanity Fair contributor's bio for Nina Munk
  2. ^ Amazon page for The Idealist
  3. ^ Harper Collins page for Fools Rush In
  4. ^ Amazon page for How It Happened
  5. ^ Patricia Best, "Tight with Titans," the Globe & Mail, 2006-03-26
  6. ^ "An Author's Voice," Alumnae Association of Smith College
  7. ^ "VF Writer Nina Munk and Artist Peter Soriano Buy P.R. Queen’s Six-Story Townhouse," New York Observer, 03-20-12
  8. ^ "Schools for Scandal: The Inside Dramas at 16 of America's Most Elite Campuses," Kirkus Review, 2017-07-12
  9. ^ Eliza Villarino, "Nina Munk: Charity Works But it's Not Development," Devex, 2013-10-10
  10. ^ "The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty," Publishers Weekly, 2013-04-29
  11. ^ Patricia Best, "Another Munk Makes Good". The Globe and Mail, 2009-04-09.
  12. ^ Joe Nocera, "Fighting Poverty, and Critics," The New York Times, 2013-09-02
  13. ^ "Spectator Writers Pick Their Books of the Year," The Spectator, 2013-11-16
  14. ^ "The Best Books of 2013," Forbes, 2013-12-16
  15. ^ "Buffett, Slim, Greenspan, El-Erian, Lew Pick Best Books of 2013," Bloomberg, 2013-12-13
  16. ^ "Best Books of 2013,", 2013-11-12
  17. ^ Bill Gates, "A Cautionary Tale From Africa," Gates Notes, 2014-05-21
  18. ^ "Presenting the Albies of 2013," Foreign Policy, 2013-12-31
  19. ^ James Traub, "Book Review: 'The Idealist'," The Wall Street Journal, 2013-09-06
  20. ^ William Easterly, "The Arrogance of Good Intentions," Barron's, 2013-10-05
  21. ^ Howard W. French, "The Not-So-Great Professor: Jeffrey Sachs' Incredible Failure to Eradicate Poverty in Africa," Pacific Standard, 2013-09-17
  22. ^ Ericka Fry, "Jeffrey Sachs's failed experiment in Africa,", 2013-10-11
  23. ^ Terence Corcoran, "Jeffrey Sachs Meet Hayek", National Post, 2013-09-18
  24. ^ The Brian Lehrer Show, "Has Jeffrey Sachs Actually Helped Ease Poverty?"
  25. ^ Adam Liptak, "You've Got Travail," the New York Times Review of Books, 2004-01-18
  26. ^ Publishers Weekly, 2004-01-05
  27. ^ Gordon Pitts, "Peter Munk: The Lesson from the Clairtone Story," The Globe and Mail, 2008-03-30
  28. ^ Clairtone Exhibition website, Design Exchange
  29. ^ David Carr, "A Sideline That Competes with a Byline," the New York Times, 2006-07-26
  30. ^ "Celebrating the Urban Hound," Columbia Magazine, Spring 2002
  31. ^ "Web Site for Dog Lovers Has Had Its Day, Creator Decides,", 2009-09-24
  32. ^ " is Back: The Beloved On-line Resource for City Dogs Announces It Has Joined Forces with FetchDog," PR Web, 2009-11-27

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