Don't lie to me, you opened this post (or maybe some people didn't even get that far) and were tempted to just keep on walking. I understand. There aren't many people I know in the blogging world that have any desire at all to read about the financial crisis.
But wait! This is written by Michael Lewis, author of "The Blind Side", "Moneyball" and "Liar's Poker". He is proven when it comes to writing a non-fiction book that appeals to all. So don't go anywhere. Read this for entertainment value if you will.
Combine the Michael Lewis effect with the fact that sadly, the financial crisis that brought Wall Street, the US, and ultimately the world to it's knees in 2006 and onward is a tragedy that we cannot ignore. We are still living in the dung pile that was made by investment banks, mortgage lenders, the bond credit ratings agencies, and the government. The effect has been insidious...homes are worth half of what they were five years ago, every neighborhood has a property or two with knee-high weeds in the yard and are in foreclosure, the unemployment is at an all-time high. This was Armageddon like we've not seen since The Great Depression.
I suppressed a groan when I learned we would be reading this book for the Heathrow Literary Society, but at the same time, I felt that to remain ignorant of the facts was irresponsible. This was going to do me good.
I won't bore you with the details...Michael Lewis does a much better job at explanations. He boils it down the best he can, still it is quite complicated. He describes the massive movement to put higher credit risk people in homes, and the creation of the "sub-prime loan" which was always shaky at best. To spread their risk, investment banks creatively compiled these toxic loans into beautifully wrapped packages that were disguised and rated as a good investment, when really it was a house of cards.
What was just pure, good fun in this book were the personal stories. Lewis profiles various characters that worked in the investment markets...a brilliant neurosurgeon with Asperger's who hid in his office and obsessively mastered the markets and the art of investing, an abrasive, wild hedge fund manager whose mouth had no filters, two unpolished college grads who couldn't get a proper job and started investing out of a garage...all of these larger-than-life individuals SAW what was coming. Long before the professionals did. They were like action heroes in this book. I was in awe.
To read about the chain of events that led to Doomsday is baffling. Mind-blowing. It is like the entire world lost their freaking mind. A non-English-speaking migrant worker with an income of $14,000 who bought a house for $724,000. A Vegas stripper who owned five properties. Something for nothing! Free money for everyone! High octane investment bankers who had created a derivative so complicated, few people understood it. But hey, they were making billions of dollars, so what the hell! Live it up, and sell, sell, sell!
At our book club, those who read the book (most that did had backgrounds in finance), there was emotion and anger. It is hard not to be enraged at the lack of consequences for those executives at the top of the food chain. It is hard not to want to move to Bali when you understand how the political goons used Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to start the whole avalanche in the first place.
But the small attendance at the meeting was telling. Most didn't have the stomach for it. I am the target audience...I am a CPA and my husband is knee-deep in the business. This man I love came home EVERY NIGHT FOR A YEAR AND A HALF raving about this debacle. Reorganizing our debt, moving money around, and damn near burying Mason Jars full of cash in the backyard. I had Wall Street at my dinner table more times than I care to admit. That being said, I had a hard time really grasping the enormity and complexity. After earnestly digging into the book however, I was gripped. I Googled. I watched documentaries. I read articles. I consider myself enlightened and invigorated for having read this book.
Note: I threw my normal review format in the trash for this one. This book was in a league all by itself.
4.5 out of 5 stars