From the #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Big Short, Liar’s Poker and The Blind Side!
The tsunami of cheap credit that rolled across the planet between 2002 and 2008 was more than a simple financial phenomenon: it was temptation, offering entire societies the chance to reveal aspects of their characters they could not normally afford to indulge.
The Greeks wanted to turn their country into a pinata stuffed with cash and allow as many citizens as possible to take a whack at it. The Germans wanted to be even more German; the Irish wanted to stop being Irish.
The trademark of Michael Lewis’s best sellers is to tell an important and complex story through characters so outsized and outrageously weird that you’d think they have to be invented. (You’d be wrong.) In Boomerang, we meet a brilliant monk who has figured out how to game Greek capitalism to save his failing monastery; a cod fisherman who, with three days’ training, becomes a currency trader for an Icelandic bank; and an Irish real estate developer so outraged by the collapse of his business that he drives across the country to attack the Irish Parliament with his earth-moving equipment.
Lewis’s investigation of bubbles beyond our shores is so brilliantly, sadly hilarious that it leads the American listener to a comfortable complacency: Oh, those foolish foreigners. But when Lewis turns a merciless eye on California and Washington DC, we see that the narrative is a trap baited with humor, and we understand the reckoning that awaits the greatest and greediest of debtor nations.
©2011 Michael Lewis (P)2011 Simon & Schuster
“No one writes with more narrative panache about money and finance than Lewis.” (Michiko Kakutani, New York Times)
I’m very happy to have this eye-opening knowledge. The entertainment value is the strange incompetence and stupidity of people. But it is also depressing. Terrible things are happening to ordinary people. I loved hearing it as an audiobook, educating me while I was doing other things. Reading this as a physical book might be less desirable for me. In the book the author describes himself as a “financial disaster tourist.” He travels to and writes about five areas: Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Germany, and California. He’s an excellent writer. He makes nonfiction interesting. An example of his thinking follows. In Ireland homeowners can’t walk away from their homes like in the U.S. If the bank forecloses and takes the property, the homeowner still owes the money. He can’t declare bankruptcy to get away from debt. I liked the author’s phrase “In their rush to freedom, the Irish built their own prisons.”
I would have liked more thoughts about the future - possibly having different experts give opinions. I wanted more about “what might happen.” The Vallejo, California, story was an excellent example of what can happen, but parts of that were not clear enough. For example, he states “the city had 1,013 claimants with half a billion dollars in claims but only $6 million to dole out to them.” “In August 2011, a judge approved the bankruptcy plan for Vallejo. Vallejo’s creditors ended up with 5 cents on the dollar, public employees with something like 20 and 30 cents on the dollar.” I have a question. Assuming Vallejo dispersed all the money at once today (for example the $6 million) how much will go to “retired workers” (police, firefighters, teachers, and others)? Assume a retired person has $30,000 coming to them each year for the rest of their life. Assume that has a present value of $500,000. Do they get $100,000 today (I’m using 20%) and nothing else? Or is the $100,000 put into an annuity somewhere which would pay them $6,000 per year? Or do they get $6,000 every year from the city as long as there is money? I wish the author would have clarified that.
I understand this entire book was published in a series of articles for Vanity Fair magazine. All but the Iceland portion is available to read free online - at this time.
NARRATOR: Dylan Baker was excellent.
GENRE: financial nonfiction.
Unlike many books that have tried, this book does a great job of describing the dept crisis, its causes and its potential to get much worse. Because the format of this book is to go from place to place and describe anew a different crisis, it does not suffer from the problem other dept crisis books do, which is to veer of course after the first chapter into irrelevant topics. What keeps this book entertaining is this in addition to being a text on economics it is also something of a travel memoir. He describes many of the people he meets and places he has been on his tour of failed economies. Lewis, however, seems to have no qualms using blatant racial stereotypes to explain the behavior that led to the crisis in many of the countries. Overall the book was entertaining and informative in a way most debt crisis books are not.
mostly nonfiction listener
Boomerang takes the story global. What happens when entire societies decide to spend money they don't have? You end up with Greece. If you don't think that it is possible to laugh out loud about the European debt crisis then you have not read Lewis' Boomerang.
Lewis takes us on a world tour from Iceland (where the country turned itself into a giant hedge fund), to Greece, Ireland, Germany and back to the U.S. to discover what it is about national cultures that encouraged the financial insanity that delivered us where we are today. Why did the sober Germans keep loaning money to crazy and irresponsible Greeks, Irish and Americans to buy houses we'd never be able to pay for? Why did U.S. municipalities go on spending sprees and enter into contracts with public safety unions that will bankrupt future generations with un-payable pension costs? And what is it about the people of Iceland that convinced them that they should all stop fishing and go instead into investment banking? Michael Lewis has the answers.
I really have enjoyed all of Michael Lewis's books and this one is no exception. Dylan Baker has a voice perfect for reading satirical books. His voice is perfect for encouraging you to laugh at the follies of humankind, including your own.
Reader And Listener
Well written, well read, and scary as hell. I doubt I'd ever have read this in text form but it was a riveting audio.
This was a good explanation of the financial crisis in Europe, Greece and Iceland, with some insight into how it relates to the U.S. economy. It is a typical Michael Lewis book; fairly informal and occasionally crass, which is both appropriate and entertaining. Each chapter covers a different country's financial problems, with a vein of cultural commentary running throughout.
Michael Lewis is a top notch writer. He is at the top of his game. He provides so many witty remarks that I find myself laughing my entire drive listening to this book. It is a serious subject and everyone should read (hear) this to really know what is going on, however, the presentation is top notch and entertaining. The narrator is also excellent and this is now one of my favorite audio books.
I have either read or listened to all of Michael Lewis' books. His latest book, Boomerang,, clearly outlines the problem with international debt and the potential exposure it could have for US banks. If he is right, it will make the mortage crisis look like a petty cash default for the banks.
Michael Lewis has a way of telling a story. Dylan Baker brings it to life so much better than I could have imagined. This is an example of an audiobook far more memorable than the already very good book could have been on its own.
A good follow up to the Big Short whereby the financial meltdown is explained in more depth and detail on a global level. If you are seeking to understand how the complexities of global finance affect economies around the world and how those economies are interdependent then this book takes a look at a large sampling from large to small. It delves into the incompetent money managers thinking and sheds light on the corrupt and morally bankrupt banks that took down governments, and more importantly it illustrates how the tax payers who had the misfortune of having lived in places where the power elites wrote themselves blank checks with other people's money. A great great read!!!
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