“Lewis shows again why he is the leading journalist of his generation.”—Kyle Smith, Forbes
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.
Icelanders wanted to stop fishing and become investment bankers. 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.
Michael Lewis's investigation of bubbles beyond our shores is so brilliantly, sadly hilarious that it leads the American reader to a comfortable complacency: oh, those foolish foreigners. But when he 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.
Essentially an offbeat travelogue, Lewis's latest examines the recent global financial crisis by visiting the locales that have faltered beyond reasonable expectation. Though journalistic, there is a distinctly anthropological approach to vivid depictions of how particular cultural values contributed to such a bizarre, devastating series of events. In his dynamic narrative, Lewis simplifies complex financial systems without condescension, applies a degree of rationality to absurd decisions, and presents key individuals' profiles without denigration. Dark, deadpan humor is injected throughout: Iceland as a nation of fishermen-cum-hedge fund managers with "no idea what they were doing ; Greece's "fantastic mess of scandalous monasteries, tax-evasion and top-down corruption; Ireland's busted banks and stratospheric losses debilitating a now "distinctly third world country. Germany is singled-out for its "preternatural love of rules and naivet regarding the so-called "riskless asset while California tops the list of "America's scariest financial places following their ratings downgrade and piling debts. Easily devoured in one sitting, Lewis (Moneyball) manages to gracefully explain what happened with a unique regard for both the strengths and weaknesses of humankind.
Fun, but not great
Liked it, but not mind blowing.
Excellent book - a must read!
Folks, if you want to understand what went down in Europe and how the obvious wasn't obvious enough to prevent a meltdown, well this is a book you must read! Easy read and not technical at all! Very inspirational from a strategy standpoint.
Michael Lewis gives a very readable and clear account of how the current financial crisis unfolded, not as a sudden collapse, but rather as a series of events in many different countries over a period of time. Each country gets its own chapter, and this works great until he comes to Germany. Lewis then gets sidetracked into a character assassination of the German psyche, using well-known expressions involving certain bodily functions to support his thesis, expressions all of which have counterparts in our own (American) language, BTW. This section seems unfounded and unsupported and it undermines the credibility of the rest of the narrative, which seemed so clear up to that point.
Still, it is a good read and I came away feeling that I had a much better understanding of how it all developed, that it didn't start with gross misconduct by our own bankers (who got off Scott-free compared to the Germans, who paid a price) but that it went back at least to the financial debacle in Iceland (remember that one?) and that cheating the system is apparently endemic in some cultures who deceived their way into the EU and even now seem to be clueless as to how they got there.