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Publisher's Summary

The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System - and Themselves

A real-life thriller about the most tumultuous period in America's financial history by an acclaimed New York Times reporter. Andrew Ross Sorkin delivers the first true, behind-the-scenes, moment-by-moment account of how the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression developed into a global tsunami.

From inside the corner office at Lehman Brothers to secret meetings in South Korea and the corridors of Washington, Too Big to Fail is the definitive story of the most powerful men and women in finance and politics grappling with success and failure, ego and greed, and, ultimately, the fate of the world's economy.

"We've got to get some foam down on the runway!" a sleepless Timothy Geithner, the then-president of the Federal Reserve of New York, would tell Henry M. Paulson, the Treasury secretary, about the catastrophic crash the world's financial system would experience. Through unprecedented access to the players involved, Too Big to Fail re-creates all the drama and turmoil, revealing neverdisclosed details and elucidating how decisions made on Wall Street over the past decade sowed the seeds of the debacle.

This true story is not just a look at banks that were "too big to fail"; it is a real-life thriller with a cast of bold-faced names who themselves thought they were too big to fail.

©2009 Andrew Ross Sorkin (P)2009 Penguin Audiobooks

Critic Reviews

"Andrew Ross Sorkin pens what may be the definitive history of the banking crisis." ( The Atlantic Monthly)"Andrew Ross Sorkin has written a fascinating, scene-by-scene saga of the eyeless trying to march the clueless through Great Depression II." (Tom Wolfe)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
  • Laura
  • Greenwood Village, CO, USA
  • 01-11-10

Surprisingly Revealing

Initially, I didn't even consider listening to this book since I'm well aware of current events, and I thought it would be repetitive. After all, didn't we get enough of the daily harping on the factors contributing to our economic crisis? But The Economist listed it as one of the best books of the year, so I thought I would give it a try. In fact, Too Big to Fail is not a dull chronology of the events leading up to Lehman's failure and the creation of TARP; rather, it exposes the sentiments, conversations, decisions, and intentions of every major player and government figure involved with Wall Street's financial rescue. It reads like a suspense novel and is full of gossipy, fascinating tidbits which one would never hear on the news.

Sorkin's awareness of private conversations and correspondence between government regulators and the investment banking firms' staff is absolutely incredible. Since there haven't been any lawsuits accusing Sorkin of slander, I can only assume that they are truthful portrayals. He must have convinced friends, spouses, government staffers and high-level figures alike to recount everything they had witnessed, heard, or said. I don't know how he managed to do all of that and publish the book in such a short amount of time, but it's pretty impressive.

26 of 26 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Chuck
  • Southborough, MA, United States
  • 12-08-09

Best Book About Meltdown

This is the 4th book I have listened to on the market meltdown of 2008 and this is by far the best. The others focused on the downturn from the perspective of a particular firm while this one gave detailed descriptions of the events that led to it. Clearly, Sorkin has gotten incredible access to the big players both in the government and the private sector to put together an absoltuely riveting book. I have listened to a long list of books on the economy and finance and this is by far my favorite. It's a great listen.

25 of 25 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Tremendous book!

Excellent book! It is an informative as one could hope, but as exciting as a great movie. Well done!

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Roy
  • Beaumont, TX, United States
  • 12-14-09

We Got to Get Some Foam on the Runway

Too Big to Fail is Sorkin's telling of the global economic meltdown and the formation of TARP. This is some fine journalism and wonderful writing. Even if you don't follow all of the characters (which you probably will), just listening along with give you a feel and understanding of what was at stake and what was accomplished. Certainly, I found the characters humanized and now appreciate the struggles that Timothy Geithner and Henry Paulson faced. I appreciate what these men and others did to bring stability to the economy.

This book is well written and read. The research is great. If you are old enough you may see the Keystone cops running the streets. Lets just hope that the outcomes benefit us as much as the book informs and entertains.

18 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Well written, performed and fascinating

This makes our recent financial history something between a spy novel and paulson biography. If you are interesting in contemporary issues and how our world is currently being formed READ THIS.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Better than Dune

While the title of this review may be seen as heresy by the hardcore Sci-Fi fans out there, this is one instance where the drama of real events surpasses even the greatest drama fiction can muster. The English language lacks sufficient adjectives to properly extol the writing and events of Too Big Too Fail. In addition to the superb recounting of the events leading to the collapse, William Hughes does an excellent narration. I have already recommended Too Big Too Fail to my friends and family, and I would recommend it to anyone with the slightest interest in the economic events of 2008.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Too Important to Ignore

For those that are interested in gaining an understanding of what really happened and how close our economy came to collapsing this is a must read. It goes way past the headlines and populist rantings to the facts and does it in a very interesting format. You do feel like you were there.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Well Worth a Read

What distinguishes this book from others about the 2008 financial meltdown is the author's extraordinary access to the high-level government and industry players who were at the center of the drama. The writing style is easy to follow (once you have the names clearly in mind) and flows very well. The picture that emerges is a group of executives and officials trying to improvise remedies for a devastating and unprecedented financial collapse on the fly, under intense time pressures, and with no assurance they would be successful. In the circumstances we can be fortunate things did not go into complete meltdown. It is also abundantly clear that sensible financial reform is a must so that the country does not face a similar crisis in the future.

The book is mainly useful for understanding the course of events, policy decisions, and mergers that occurred once the scope of the financial meltdown became apparent at the highest levels of the government. It is less useful as a source for understanding the background and business practices that led to the enormous build-up of irresponsible investments in subprime mortgages and their derivatives that were the prime cause of the crisis. For that background, I would suggest Gillian Tett's book (Fool's Gold); A Colossal Failure of Common Sense (dealing with the Lehman collapse); and articles by Michael Lewis.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


Wow! No wonder we are in such a mess. What a great accounting of the situation. A great read/listen.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Howard
  • Scottsdale, AZ, United States
  • 04-04-10

Don't Listen to this Book---Read It

"Too Big to Fail" is a masterpiece of reporting and as exciting as an adventure novel. It deserves to win the Pulitzer Prize. The print edition contains an eight-page list of characters and it's not possible to follow the complex narrative without reference to it. Aside from the newsmakers (Paulson, Geithner, Bernacke) many of the key players are unknown and some of them appear only briefly or after long absenses. Without the "who-is-who" reference guide in the print edition, the reader is sure to lose some of the important trends and actions in this fascinating story. I could seldom remember which player was associated with which entity. Why can't audio book publishes make the author's list of characters availble for download? I'm sorry I listened to this book; reading it would have given me a better understanding of the events and characters.

21 of 26 people found this review helpful