Book Review: The Accidental Millionaire by Gary Fong

Have you ever read a book or seen a movie and said to yourself: “This is so unbelievable, it must be true!” Well, this book: The Accidental Millionaire: How to Succeed in Life Without Really Trying, by Gary Fong (BenBella Books), contains quite a few “scenes” that fit that description quite well. If you are not familiar with the book’s author, Gary Fong is a well-known photographer, inventor and entrepreneur who has become one of the most recognized names in the photo industry. I really enjoy biographies of people who have gone through great lengths to achieve success, and this autobiography is an excellent example of that.


The book starts with Fong’s early childhood–much of it spent in a haze of hairspray due to his mother’s wig business. When he wasn’t in school or helping his parents with their work (including prepping and delivering newspapers from about 3:30-6:30AM every day of the week during high school), it seems as though young Gary was always contemplating how he could do things a bit better (or just survive). For example, he worked out in his mind how he would survive if his family became homeless, and he tested the theory by spending a whole night until dawn outside his home without his parents’ knowledge…at age 12! He also worked out elaborate ways in his mind and on paper which he could protect his family from potential burglars during the time when they ran a retail store in Los Angeles. When Fong talks about many of the experiences he has had, he gives the reader a good sense of what it was like to be in his shoes at specific times in his life. He also reminds us that there are many who do very difficult jobs every day for very low wages.

Once I started reading the book, I found myself always looking forward to getting back to it, and I was frequently amused and/or stunned by the situations in which Fong found himself–including a shocking story of how one of his mentors helped a bride deal with wedding jitters. And that brings me to the many female heroines in the book. I must admit, I sometimes felt like I was getting a little TMI (too much information), but that didn’t stop me from reading all that Fong had to say about his dealings with girlfriends, assistants and online women with whom he found himself involved in one way or another. Let me sum it up by saying that “As the World of Gary Fong Turns” might be a good title for the 8-part TV mini series!

The book has a small number of black and white photos to help illustrate the events and information Fong covers in the book. One of the photos is of a tiny room in his parents’ home where he started and built his wedding photography business. Another shows a photo layout from 1986 illustrating his Storyboard approach to wedding photography and album layout.

I don’t know Gary Fong very well, but we’ve met on a few occasions over the years, and one event that sticks in my head was a photography trade show in San Diego, CA in 2004 or 2005. He was doing a photo lecture and the room was filled. People appeared to be listening intently at his every word. At the end, he took orders for some of his products, and people could not hand over their cash and credit cards fast enough! I think that Fong has a great sense of knowing what people want and need based on his struggles and experiences throughout his life.

I’m a bit of a garage inventor/product developer (GalleryPouchâ„¢ is one example), and I’m also a longtime portrait and still-life photographer, so I found Fong’s advice regarding how his ideas for software, photo albums and camera gadgets like his popular LightSphere products came to be. While reading the book, I felt almost as though we were having a few drinks and chatting about stories from his life. You don’t need to be a professional photographer or play one on TV to be entertained and learn a lot from the content in this book. I believe that anyone who is building a business or who wants one person’s perspective about how to be successful should seriously consider reading it.

For more information about the book, visit the publisher’s site: benbellabooks.com.

The book is also available here on Amazon.com. Purchasing through our Amazon.com link helps support our publishing efforts.


Mark Holmes - November 18, 2010

Thanks for a well-crafted review. I have mixed feelings about the efficacy of some of Mr. Fong\’s products, but there\’s no doubt he is an excellent businessman. I look forward to reading the book.

Eric OConnor - November 19, 2010

Thank for the review. I’m definitely going to have to check Gary’s book out.

Jonathan Owen Photography - February 5, 2011

great book!

Chris - March 5, 2011

Just read the book after your review. Thanks for the tip, great read!

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