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Publisher's Summary

"Should be required reading for all policy makers." (Warren Buffett)

From the three primary architects of the American policy response to the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression, a magnificent big-picture synthesis - from why it happened to where we are now.

In 2018, Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner, and Hank Paulson came together to reflect on the lessons of the 2008 financial crisis 10 years on. Recognizing that, as Ben put it, "the enemy is forgetting," they examine the causes of the crisis, why it was so damaging, and what it ultimately took to prevent a second Great Depression. And they provide to their successors in the United States and the finance ministers and central bank governors of other countries a valuable playbook for reducing the damage from future financial crises. Firefighting provides a candid and powerful account of the choices they and their teams made during the crisis, working under two presidents and with the leaders of Congress.

©2019 Ben S. Bernanke, Timothy F. Geithner, and Henry M. Paulson, Jr. (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

Long-listed for the Financial Times/McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award

“If what these three men did during the financial crisis had not been done, the world would, in my view, have experienced a second great depression. This makes the story told in this short book fascinating and important.” (Martin Wolf, Financial Times

“A primer on why the crisis was possible (and why, even so, almost nobody saw it coming); a ticktock on how the crisis and the financial rescue unfolded; and a very scary warning about the future.” (Paul Krugman, New York Times

“I'm glad I didn't have to do the job that these three ‘fire chiefs’ did. I learned much from this book I had not previously known. Its cautions for the future should be required reading for all policy makers.” (Warren Buffett)

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What listeners say about Firefighting

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A Gift for the Next Generation

Bernanke, Geithner, and Paulson do a masterful job of hitting the right topics at the right level of depth. The result is an engaging and fast-paced narrative. At times, I found myself hoping for political red meat, but the authors wisely neglected specific criticism -- despite each almost certainly having amusing stories to tell about the ignorance and hubris of this or that member of congress. Not a tell-all, this book provides a straightforward account of what happened and why it happened. The authors do not agree on all matters, and they impressively avoid the least common denominator in favor of a reasonably nuanced presentation. I am a bit of a wonk and thought I knew a lot about this topic; I learned much and gained inspiration regarding the work to be done to prepare for the next major economic challenge. I'll add that this book is so well written that the models presented are easily translated into other professional situations (I borrowed an idea from this book for a wholly unrelated memo I wrote today).

5 people found this helpful

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Best walk-through yet, crisp and lucid

I have read some dozens of books on this, including the memoirs of each of these principals. I did not find completely new vistas of understanding here. I did find terrific phrasings of the story and players, with new little twists and nuances all through, that help sharpen my understanding. Since these authors were the key decision makers, and this is a book for a broad public, as expected I found a certain quotient of self-serving apologias, alongside the well-trodden (and by now refined) mea culpas. The authors must go there, but do not dwell there. Listening to this, I have a substantially improved understanding of what each moment was like, from the inside. The writing is smooth and flows from politics to finance to big events in ways understandable to us regular folks. I feel especially tutored now in the feedback loops these top decision makers face, since each move signals something to markets and the public. Second-order effects must be considered in advance -- this is an art of its own. There are also the political gauntlets to be run. It is an art of vast consequence. What a privilege it must be to reach these heights and do what was done here -- though it is a 24/7 pressure-cooker too.
A sampling of favorite pithy phrases: "Risk, like love, will find a way" (that is, around obstructions like banking regulations). "... a bridge loan to nowhere" (as what would happen with lending into a free-falling Lehman).
The first few hours are a recap of the 2007-2009 (and surrounding) events these authors were key players in. It is essentially a condensed version of the three authors' memoirs, already published. By comparison it benefits, I think, from its relative brevity, and perhaps by the succeeding time in which to compose thoughts and ideas compactly.
The last hour or so is an update mainly focused on the Dodd-Frank framework. I was already familiar with the weak spots identified here, based on intervening readings. The consensus here is that the fire department, so to speak (to build on the firefighting metaphor) has been significantly dismantled. This is cause for great concern especially inasmuch as, in the future, restoring the firefighting equipment via Congress in a time of a raging financial fire with our political divisions now, just might not happen. We may effectively face a 2008-magnitude crisis with several additional hurdles facing the decision makers. This book does not go into it, but my fear alongside all this patchy and purposely-disabled present legal framework, is the presence, at this moment, of incredibly incompetent cronyist hacks proposed to fill the top ranks formerly held by sober adults such as authors Bernanke, Paulson and Geithner. I feel like I am in a bad glue-induced nightmare, with the lurid clowns now elbowing onto the stage. Only luck might save us now.

3 people found this helpful

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intellectually dishonest

I get that they want to look good and keep it short but this book is intellectually dishonest in so many ways. First of all, we know the removal of glass stegal act caused the recession but then they go on to say they didn't want the rule reinstated because it might harm banks profits... yikes.

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concise

concise. and read frangile by design to know more on the origin of house market mania.

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A great look into what happened

This is a non-partisan look at what happened and why actions were taken. What you thought you knew, was only half. Despite written by financial gurus, it isnt dry and easy to follow. Great way to know what happened so we can avoid it in the future.

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Mind, Blown

Mind, Blown Mind, Blown Mind, Blown Mind, Blown Mind, Blown Mind, Blown Mind, Blown Mind, Blown Mind, Blown Mind, Blown world is a interesting place

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Good but nothing new

The book was a good narrative but didn’t really give the reader anything new if you have already read previous memoirs.The way it was written was very digestible therefore if you haven’t read any books on the financial crisis I would recommend you picking this up