Boomerang: Travels In The New Third World Hardcover – Oct 4 2011
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“Michael Lewis possesses the rare storyteller’s ability to make virtually any subject both lucid and compelling. . . . Combining his easy familiarity with finance and the talents of a travel writer, Mr. Lewis sets off in these pages to give the reader a guided tour through some of the disparate places hard hit by the fiscal tsunami of 2008, like Greece, Iceland and Ireland, tracing how very different people for very different reasons gorged on the cheap credit available in the prelude to that disaster. The book — based on articles Mr. Lewis wrote for magazine — is a companion piece of sorts to , his bestselling 2010 book about the fiscal crisis. . . . Mr. Lewis’s ability to find people who can see what is obvious to others only in retrospect or who somehow embody something larger going on in the financial world is uncanny. And in this book he weaves their stories into a sharp-edged narrative that leaves readers with a visceral understanding of the fiscal recklessness that lies behind today’s headlines about Europe’s growing debt problems and the risk of contagion they now pose to the world.” — Michiko Kakutani (New York Times)
“Lewis’s rare gift as a guide through the world of credit default swaps and sovereign debt doesn’t come simply from his deep understanding of how the global financial system works . . . also his skill as a storyteller, his ability to tell the larger tale through fascinating human stories of greed, excess, and self-delusion.” — Chuck Leddy (Boston Globe)
“[Lewis’s] explanations of thorny financial processes are surprisingly compelling, his characters entertaining.” — Jessica Loudis (BookForum)
About the Author
Michael Lewis, is the best-selling author of Liar’s Poker, Moneyball, The Blind Side, and Flash Boys. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife and three children.
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In a nutshell these countries get a hold of cheap foreign credit, and go into a wild financial mania. They also abandon all previous forms of prudent economic management. The details regarding the Greek economy, are beyond anything I have ever heard before. In fact, the Greek situation makes the former Tulip Mania and Dot Com Bubble, seem rather tame and orderly. The Greek debt problems have still not been fully resolved, so this makes the details all the more engaging.
This is a small book, but the message delivers a big impact. The reader will be left with, a much better understanding of the current global financial dilemma. This book was hard to put down, and a very good read. Both general and financially interested readers, will be entertained and astonished.
Lewis travels to the major hot-spots: Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Germany and the US, noting the similarities and the differences in each of their situations, but mostly letting the individual characters who populate his essays tell the stories. Descriptions of people are rich, humorous, playful and cutting, but never mean spirited - the kind of descriptions your friends might use at your roast. Descriptions of countries' national characters and of specific places are equally pithy; 'it's the sort of place bankers stay because they think it's where the artists stay.'
As expected, bank leadership, politicians and regulators fare poorly in Lewis' crosshairs, and although they play small walk-on parts, investment banks such as Merrill Lynch come across as morally bankrupt and duplicitous, far worse than their aforementioned dimwitted but greedy co-conspirators. Lewis is finance literature's equivalent of television's Jon Stewart, calling all out on their motives, their revisionist explanations, and their mistakes. Ultimately, though, Lewis settles on the root cause - it's us; it's human nature and short term thinking. One of his interviewees sums it up best when he says about the virtual bankruptcy of his city, 'I think we've suffered from a series of mass delusions.'
As much as Charles Kindleberger's excellent book Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises offers a deep retrospective of the evidence of our foibles, Boomerang offers finely drawn characters who give insight into the human behaviour that inevitably leads to the crashes. A much different perspective, much more enjoyable to read, but no less effective. (Margaret Atwood's Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth is an equally excellent and alternative take).
As a former bond trader himself, Lewis has an easy grasp of the issues, the interests and the conflicts, and he segues from character to character and setting to setting to weave his story in the most entertaining and engaging of ways. These strengths set Lewis apart from most financial writers who concentrate on a chronological recounting of facts, with character development playing second fiddle. In all of the best ways in these short articles, Lewis is like Charles Dickens with a sketchbook rather than the vast canvas of a full length novel.
You really should read this book. You will be entertained, you will learn something, and whatever your political or economic stripe, you will pause for some self reflection, because in the end the financial crisis boomerangs back to us and to human nature.
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