’For the Love of Money: a Memoir’ by Sam Polk. Polk recounts how he became the man who left Wall Street.
'For the Love of Money: a Memoir' by Sam Polk. Polk recounts how he became the man who left Wall Street. (The Associated Press)

While working at his dream job as a senior trader on Wall Street, Sam Polk received a bonus of several million dollars. He was enraged: it wasn't enough. "For the Love of Money" chronicles the story of his life leading up to that fateful day.

Born into a working-class family with little emotional stability, a desire for more — more success, recognition — even more food — forms Sam's early years. When his father demands that Sam and his siblings share a dessert and Sam receives one less bite than the others, fury ensues. Weeks later, he scrounges up the money to buy an entire cake, which he eats in solitude until vomiting. This scene repeats itself in varied forms throughout Sam's life, each event seemingly tethered to his longing for his father's approval and an unquenchable craving for wealth.

Fights, drugs and warped relationships litter his high school and college years until he finally maneuvers his way onto the trading floor, where he finds a new playground to fuel and reward his obsessions.

Polk unpacks the multilayered hunger within him with straightforward storytelling and free-flowing admission of his flaws. While he eventually realizes that his need to be the greatest stems from a sense of inadequacy, thus emerging a different person from the first page to the last, readers may grow weary of his dogmatic blaming of much of his faults and struggles on others.

The book dives deep into the origins of Sam's compulsions as he struggles against bulimia, rage, addiction and more. Ironically, these dysfunctional roots are what spur his current endeavors in the nonprofit realm, thus morphing his hardships into help for others.