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)
Michael Lewis takes us on a cool road trip.....visiting selected economic disaster areas. Beginning in Iceland and ending in California, his analysis of each of these self-inflicted financial wounds is factual, with a nice sprinkling of sarcasm and humor.
I'll read just about anything from Michael Lewis and have been a fan since Liar's Poker. In this book, Lewis is informative as ever, but throws in much more humor. Maybe he abuses a few stereotypes but the result is so damn funny that I'll let it go.
Dylan Baker, new to me, is the perfect narrator for this tale. He adds the right touch of sarcasm that fits perfectly with the story. I'll look to him to introduce me to some new authors.
Thinker Meets Explorer
I’ve always found the financial crisis difficult to understand, particularly when it comes to the global level. But Michael Lewis makes it entertaining and easy-to-understand through his firsthand account of the larger-than-life characters from five nations: Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Germany, and (last but not least) the US.
The story of Iceland was especially fascinating – I remember a business acquaintance there who had to fly with thousands in cash shortly after the 2008 meltdown. Lewis not only explains the cause behind the collapse, but also the reasons for the rise of cheap credit in a nation that once made its fortune in fishing.
Dylan Baker’s conversational tone makes it feel like Lewis is talking right to you, and he gets the occasional notes of sarcasm just right too. I’ll definitely be listening to more from him, and Lewis.
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.
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.
I learned a lot listening to this book, but everything I learned felt grossly simplified. Lewis has latched onto these defining aspects of national character as his framework for the book, and I think he very often overplays them. The generalizations and pop-psych cultural studies sometimes fly a little thick and obscure the more interesting points, which I found distracting. But overall, it's worth a listen.
make it The Big Short, not this one. I love Lewis, but I'm giving this 3 stars. If it were someone else, I'd probably give it 4, but this just felt not up to Lewis' standards. When I finished TBS, I was talking about it for days, and by the time I'd convinced my friends to read it, they were complaining that I'd already told them a lot of the best stories because I just couldn't resist. This book was enjoyable, but it just didn't capture my excitement the way other Michael Lewis books have. Uncharacteristically, there were parts that just felt like filler. The story of the Greek monks comes to mind.
My biggest straight complaint is that Lewis really pushes the position that public workers unions are responsible for state and local governments' budget challenges, but he doesn't give much evidence that this is the case. To be sure, he may be right, but all he gives are anecdotes, like California paying a prison psychologist $800,000 a year. Yes, states and cities are in financial trouble, and yes, public workers and pensions are their biggest expense. But it takes more to say that it's the unions' fault. I'm personally disinclined to believe that it's unions' fault, but I respect Lewis, and I was willing to hear him out, he just didn't present much solid evidence. Maybe the story in the US is more technical and involved, or maybe my standards are higher because I'm more connected to it, but I felt like the sections on Greece and Ireland were much more convincing. At the same time, those stories are also pretty well hashed out by this point. The section on Germany was more original, but I'm hard pressed to say exactly what its conclusion was, except that Germans like poop.
So yeah, it's a good listen, but not a must listen, and definitely listen to The Big Short first. If you're a Michael Lewis fan, prepare to be disappointed.
I enjoy Michael Lewis books. They are a lot of fun to listen to, but I think he has a tendency to exaggerate and use some artistic license in his accounts.
This is my third book of his and now that I'm familiar with his schtick I listened more for amusement than factual accounts.
The book takes us to each of the collapsed/collapsing economies around the world and astounds us with the incredible greed, stupidity and chutzpa of those involved.
Pinch of salt, but the essence is right and if you're like me you'll be well entertained
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.
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