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)
Entertaining but hardly definitive. Mr. Lewis jumps to very broad conclusions about certain nationalities based on anecdotal evidence. His comments on the excretory hangups of Germans, for instance, are superficial and gratuitous - to say nothing of somewhat disgusting. The ending of the book is parfticularly weak. Despite these flaws, the narration is very good, and it is an entertaining listen overall.
After the Blind Side and the Big Short, I became a Michael Lewis fan. I got Boomerang immediately after finishing Blind Side. Maybe I knew a little too much about the topics included in Boomerang. They aren't as compelling and don't pull together as much of a story as his other books.
Boomerang is still worth the listening time, and I'll try another Michael Lewis book when it comes out.
This was a tedious deconstruction of all things Icelandic, German etc etc. I have always been delighted by Michael Lewis's books in the past. This was tedious, repetitious and petty.
The narrator also was awful.
See above. Go back to his original style and get rid of the awful narrator.
This book should not have been published.
This book, like Moneyball, was an entertaining read. Early in the book, when Lewis claimed that the conversion from euros to dollars was to simply multiply the euro amount by 100 it became difficult to acccept any of the other analysis in the book. This was not just an oversite, the ratio was used throughout the book and lead the reader to some astonishing numbers and conclusions. I continued to read the book, but more for the story and perhaps for the conclusion than for insight. I think Lewis presents himself as a story teller and not a world class economist, but this error was a little over the top.
You really have to like the story. Who would not root for the cod fisherman one day who became an investment banker the next day. Perhaps even better, how the Greek Church scammed the Greek government.
Facts, ratios and analysis aside, the book resembled Moneyball, a few assertions leading to grand conclusions. Look at it as entertaining and little more and you'll have an enjoyable read.
LIke Malcolm Gladwell, this book seemed like a bunch of magazine articles put together. Interesting topics for sure, but much less of a book that it could have been.
This is information that we all need to know.
This was written in a way that follows the money around the world. He interviews with people who influenced it's course and problems with our world wide economy from Subprime - Iceland - Greece, the entire Euro and even Ireland. Engrossing to say the least!
He has a stable voice with an edge of humor.
Following the reason Bass is such reliable a source; I was about sick when he interviews the Texas Hedgefunder and quotes his advice to buy hard assests like gold, nickels by the millions and firearms.
As always Michael Lewis has some interesting observations about societies. Entertaining read. This book, I feel, is definately worth the cost.
Lawyer, Vietnam War draftee, Peace Corps Thailand, fan of the Constitution, Science Fiction lover, work in New York City, like bodysurfing
This book is must reading in my opinion because its account of the almost automatic abuses that seem happen when it's too easy to get money...as in Iceland and Ireland and Greece. In Iceland, fishermen became bankers and ruined the country is record time. In Ireland, easy drove up real estate prices so high that they bore no relationship to true value as measured by rentals. In Greece, its seems everyone from top to bottom was spending money they didn't have. The unaffordable pensions, the universal tax evasion, the false budgets and false statements of tax collections in Greece are unbelievable. In the US, he explores the finanicial condition of municipalities. In Ireland, the Irish government pays off bonds issued by privates banks to private individuals and viritually bankrupts itself. In California, he visits bandrupt towns where the police and fire fighters salaries and pensions that are imposed by a ridiculous system are impossible to pay. What is amazing is how easy the author makes it look to gather this incredible incredible information. He goes almost as a tourist and conducts some interviews. But I dont't think he could not have done this without a lot of preparation.
One master-passion in the br east, like Aaron's serpent, swallows all the rest. A. Pope
It's hard not to be entertained AND enlightened by a Michael Lewis book. His books exploring subjects like Major League Baseball, the NFL left tackle, the stock market and financial shorting are to non-fiction, somewhat like Apple was to personal computing. He has the creative ability to explain in clear and simple terms subjects that are complex or seem otherwise mundane. As Jobs said, "the way we’re running the company, the product design, the advertising, it all comes down to this: Let’s make it simple. Really simple,” noting the Da Vinci quote on Apple's first brochure: "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." As Isaacson's Jobs biography explained, what Jobs meant was that you have to work really hard and creatively on the difficult things to make them simple enough for to enjoy and understand.
Lewis writes with clarity and wit, using his unique creative abilities to render subjects compelling to the average reader. It's only a half-joke to say that if Lewis set his mind to fully understanding organic chemistry, he could deliver a book explaining it to the masses, or to proclaim that Lewis could deliver a best-seller about telephone books
I read BOOMERANG a few years back, lost it in a move and bought the audio version early this year after Greek citizens soundly rejected the terms of a proposed 2d bailout agreement. While published in 2011, the book is still a timely, excellent aid to understanding the basic root causes of the debacles in Greece, Iceland and Ireland, Germany's role in European collapse, as well as giving a view here at home via an abbreviated examination of California's economic and political climate.
To give a sampling of quotes from the book to show Lewis' ability to offer the intriguing with wit:
One problem encountered by “Alcoa, the biggest aluminum company in the country, ...when, in 2004, it set about erecting its giant smelting plant... [was] the so-called hidden people—or, to put it more plainly, elves—in whom some large number of Icelanders, steeped long and thoroughly in their rich folkloric culture, sincerely believe. Before Alcoa could build its smelter it had to defer to a government expert to scour the enclosed plant site and certify that no elves were on or under it. It was a delicate corporate situation, an Alcoa spokesman told me, because they had to pay hard cash to declare the site elf-free...."
Lewis explains the Germans' obsession with human excrement, or scheiße (pronounced "scheisse"), as a way to explain that country's role in the global debt collapse:
“Germans longed to be near [scheiße], but not in it. This, as it turns out, is an excellent description of their role in the current financial crisis.”
"The first thing Gutenberg sought to publish, after the Bible, was a laxative timetable he called a 'Purgation-Calendar.' Then there is the astonishing number of anal German folk sayings. 'As the fish lives in water, so does the [scheiße] stick to the a$ $hole!,' to select but one of the seemingly endless examples.” Another is *you are just as dirty as toilet paper!*
“Individual Greeks are delightful: funny, warm, smart, and good company. I left two dozen interviews saying... 'What great people!' They do not share the sentiment about one another: the hardest thing to do in Greece is to get one Greek to compliment another behind his back. No success of any kind is regarded without suspicion. Everyone is pretty sure everyone is cheating on his taxes, or bribing politicians, or taking bribes, or lying about the value of his real estate. And this total absence of faith in one another is self-reinforcing. The epidemic of lying and cheating and stealing makes any sort of civic life impossible; the collapse of civic life only encourages more lying, cheating, and stealing....”
"The retirement age for Greek jobs classified as 'arduous' is as early as  for men and  for women.... when the state begins to shovel out generous pensions...." Over 600 Greek professions were able to get so classified: "hairdressers, radio announcers, waiters, musicians, and on and on and on."
“The Irish people and their country are like lovers whose passion is heightened by their suspicion that they will probably wind up leaving each other.”
"California had organized itself, not accidentally, into highly partisan legislative districts. It elected highly partisan people to office and then required these people to reach a two-thirds majority to enact any new tax or meddle with big spending decisions. On the off chance that they found some common ground, it could be pulled out from under them by voters through the initiative process. Throw in term limits—no elected official now serves in California government long enough to fully understand it—and you have a recipe for generating maximum contempt for elected officials. Politicians are elected to get things done and are prevented by the system from doing it, leading the people to grow even more disgusted with them. 'The vicious cycle of contempt,' as Mark Paul calls it. California state government was designed mainly to maximize the likelihood that voters will continue to despise the people they elect.'"
I highly recommend this book for both delight and enlightenment.
Family father, neuroscientist, and non-fiction addict.
In Boomerang Michael Lewis tells a number of stories illustrating the folly that was all too common in and around 2008, when the financial crisis hit the world economy. The first scene is Texas, US, where the author meets Kyle Bass, who became famous when he got rich from betting that sub-prime mortgages would go bust, which of course they did in the most spectacular manner. Since then, Bass has moved on to other types of bets, namely bets that nations will go bust. Bas thinks it is an inevitability given the amount of debt nations have accumulated. Indeed, when private businesses such as AIG, and large banks needed bailouts worth hundreds of billions of dollars, nations basically took over the debt. In some countries these bailouts means that the nations, which in the end means the citizens of those nations, have enormous debts. It appears unrealistic that they will ever be able to pay it off, and Kyle Bas bet that they will not.
Following this first encounter which sets the scene, Lewis travels to Iceland, Greece, Ireland, and Germany, before heading back to the state in the US which according to this book is in the most trouble… California. Lewis is a master when it comes to telling stories that are informal and amusing, and yet at the same time illustrates the economic events that lead to the 2008 meltdown of some economies. In Iceland for instance, Lewis meets with a fisherman who, before 2008, realized that he could make more money if they borrowed japanese yen at a 3% interest and used them to buy Icelandic kroner which rose by 16% a year. The resulting wealth of Iceland was insane considering that they only have 300.000 inhabitants. Iceland, via money trickery, became so rich that they were able to buy several of the UKs biggest banks meaning that Iceland had to pay when the bank was in trouble, which of course they could not…
In the last chapter we meet (to my surprise), no other than Mr. Governator i.e., Arnold Schwarzenegger. In describing this encounter, Lewis manages to simultaneously write about Schwarzenegger's maniac style bike rides through intersections with heavy traffic, and California's fiscal policy and potential collapse. After having read this book I see both California and Arnold Schwarzenegger in a new light
While I did learn new things this book did not fundamentally change me or the way I see the world. Still, it is not often you find a book which is as educational and at the same time entertaining, as Boomerang.
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