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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
I read science, biographies, histories, mysteries, adventures, thrillers, educationals, linguistics but not no way, not no how, romances.
I'm an avid reader of books on economics, such as the masterpieces by Paul Krugman, and I eagerly picked up Boomerrang because it's a topic I care about and I loved reading his famous "Moneyball". I was highly entertained and educated by this book, but I still feel it lacks something.
Let's start with the positve, though. We watch our author travel to Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Germany and California. He examines how the glut of free credit that circled the world in the early 2000s was accepted and used and how those accesses turned into ruin. Each country exhibits a quirky and fascinating quality of him and to you, the reader. He does a nice job at examining how the credit was spent and how the system collapsed. By the end we have seen a collage of images.
But he fails to examine the larger Euro-Zone or to fit these pieces together into a meaningful message or educational point. There is no summation, no understanding of how the crises we witnessed are interrelated or what can be done about it or what policies would prevent it in the future. The books deserves to be longer, more thought proking and more in depth. It's not, and so it doesn't quite feel complete. That said, I still enjoyed it and would recommend it.
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.
May you build a ladder to the stars, and climb on every rung... May your heart always be joyful, and your song always be sung.- RA Zimmerman
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.
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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