Compared to "Too Big to Fail", I found "On the Brink" a superficial recounting of the financial markets meltdown of 2008. It has none of the color and context of TBTF, none of the behind the scenes flavor. Paulson criticizes no one and walks on eggshells when discussing the actions of others. Even if you sensed some disagreement, his words carefully pulled punches: "Sheila understandably defended her agency." Read TBTF to know what the players *really* thought of other players.
I am glad I read this, though. It confirmed what I felt from reading the press accounts and TBTF: The Lehman bankruptcy was not the root cause of the financial meltdown, but avoiding it would certainly have mitigated the impact on the world markets. And it *could* have been avoided. Paulson to this day says it couldn't have been avoided, but it's clear even in this book that Geitner and Paulson expected early in the crisis that the government would have to rescue/bail out (depending on your political persuasion) Lehman. At the end, though, Paulson had so publicly said the government would *not*, that he painted himself into a corner, and he *could* not. At the time I felt we were lucky to have Paulson at Treasury. I think history will confirm that is not true. He worked hard, tried hard, but in the end, because (I believe) Dick Fuld was running Lehman, Hank Paulson let it go under. That wreaked havoc around the world. Too bad.
The book did have interesting insights into Paulson's interactions with both Obama and McCain, as well as the House and Senate leaders. Again, no insight into how he really felt about most of them, but interesting, matter-of-fact retelling of those interactions.
And I found the Afterword to be the best part of the book. Paulson thoughfully outlines the key issues facing the smooth operation of global financial markets.
In short, listen to this. But to get the "real" story of what was going on behind the scenes, listen to "Too Big to Fail."
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