There has been sniping, too, that the author is too cosy with the people he writes about, both in the book and the NYT: Sorkin's account deals with the frenzied few months starting on 17 March , when Lehman Brothers chief Dick Fuld was summoned back by then treasury secretary Hank Paulson from a trip to India because of the collapse of Bear Stearns. It ends in mid-October of that year, with Paulson finally accepting that he had to "cross the Rubicon" with a bailout for the banks.
Sorkin does offer some genuinely telling detail. Fuld, the self-centred, foul-mouthed, but deeply loyal man who took Lehman to its destruction, is summed up in one anecdote: The party met another walker who looked at the year-old boy and commented: Eat shit and die! From a UK perspective, there are fascinating insights into less-than-flattering US views of us. John Varley, the intelligent and decent boss of Barclays, is dismissed by Paulson as a "waffler" and a "weak man".
Paulson declared the British had "grin-fucked us" after the chancellor and the Financial Services Authority declined to allow Barclays to take over Lehmans on the grounds it was too risky — meaning we did the dirty on the Americans while smiling to their faces I had to look it up. Bob Diamond, the American investment banking supremo at Barclays, is equally disparaging about his adopted home, where he can claim his bonuses with non-dom tax privilege: I followed the Street's near disaster in as it happened, so I had some background knowledge of the principal players and events.
But Sorkin blew me away with the fascinating detail he gathered, first as the lead reporter for the New York Times and then a gazillion interviews with the players major and minor. He recreated all the key meetings, phone conversations and even the thinking of the key people. He tells the story event by event, and I found myself staying up late at night to read the next chapter s.
Sorkin is a very good writer and tells his story very well. The only minor quibble I had was the way he described almost every meeting and conversation as "agitated" or "frustrated" or some similar adjective; maybe they all were, but it was repetitive after a while. But this is a minor criticism of a very good book. It now is eight years past the crash, but this is still a fascinating story and tells a lot about the mindset of Wall Street that we should keep in mind as President-elect Trump tries to loosen government regulations and oversight of the Street.
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Click here Would you like to report this content as inappropriate? Click here Do you believe that this item violates a copyright? There's a problem loading this menu right now. Get fast, free shipping with Amazon Prime. Your recently viewed items and featured recommendations. View or edit your browsing history. Get to Know Us. English Choose a language for shopping. Not Enabled Word Wise: A lot of it adds up to this odd dance where nobody seems to know what anything is worth, and the companies in bad shape keep trying to dress up their finances as better than they are, while the companies in better shape send in a wave of lawyers and accountants to try to understand the finances in about two days.
Not surprisingly, nobody can figure out anything. All the while, nobody is getting any sleep. There are lots of calls that happen at 4 a. This goes on and on. The only thing that changes is this slow building pressure in the background. Stock prices are plummeting. And everybody is calling in their collateral, pushing all the financial firms to the brink of bankruptcy.
From the chaos that is reading this book, I was able to re-confirm a few basic assumptions: It felt like Sorkin wunderkind reporter for the NY Times was just trying to cram in all the details he could to show how much reporting he had done. Jan 27, Mehrsa rated it liked it. So I teach banking law and I assign a bunch of articles and documentaries on the crisis and I lived through it so nothing in here was new, but I wanted to read this after 10 years to see how well the narrative has aged and also because I forgot some of the play by play. This hasn't aged all that well because it's more of a financial thriller than an analysis.
It's also so over the top about lionizing some of these big bad macho bankers and policymakers. Sorkin seems to have a big crush on Dimon So I teach banking law and I assign a bunch of articles and documentaries on the crisis and I lived through it so nothing in here was new, but I wanted to read this after 10 years to see how well the narrative has aged and also because I forgot some of the play by play. Sorkin seems to have a big crush on Dimon and Paulson.
He also seems to credit Fuld with a lot more good faith than I remember him exhibiting. Though Sorkin is right that Lehman probably should have been saved too.
I do think it's an important read for those people who don't remember the crisis--for example, my students were in middle school. And many of them believe wholeheartedly in market discipline again. So I guess I will have to assign more and more until they realize how little stomach we had for market discipline on the brink of disaster. Jun 14, Daiv Shorten rated it really liked it. For the lay person looking to learn the basics about the events that unfolded during the subprime mortgage crisis, I actually recommend the HBO original film based on this book ahead of the book itself.
Whereas the movie had several illuminating scenes that put the events into vernacular for someone like me, I found that the book was a bit too hard to grasp. Not for lack of effort, as Sorkin is not prone to speaking over anyone's head. Rather, the material is so dense, and the factors so similar For the lay person looking to learn the basics about the events that unfolded during the subprime mortgage crisis, I actually recommend the HBO original film based on this book ahead of the book itself. Rather, the material is so dense, and the factors so similar derivatives, credit swaps, etc that the book-format made it tougher to keep track of what actually happened.
In the end, I came out the other end wanting to see the movie again to clarify what I had just read. That said, I do think this is an excellent book in several respects. One of my favorite aspects of the book is Sorkin's obvious fascination with the back-stories of the high-powered executives at these banks.
I was intrigued to learn just how many of the CEOs, CFOs, and COOs were actually blue-collar, non-Ivy Leaguers with a chip on their shoulder, rather than the entitled legacy employees who swell the mid-level ranks and the lesser board positions. I also think that anyone with even an intermediate understanding of finance would greatly benefit from reading this book.
My only complaint is thus something that was out of Sorkin's hands- namely, that the material was tough to grasp. Aug 09, Alan rated it did not like it. This book made me mighty mad, not only at the despicable characters portrayed in it, but at the author for his adoring, fawning approach to them. More than once I slammed the book down, only to force myself back to it a week or two later.
And for that persistence I was rewardedever so slightlyby Sorkin daring to approximate analysis in an afterword. But worse, his journalistic style is so overloaded with trivi This book made me mighty mad, not only at the despicable characters portrayed in it, but at the author for his adoring, fawning approach to them.
But worse, his journalistic style is so overloaded with trivial quotations and careful notations about who made the phone call to whom or what staircase the competing bank execs used to get to their meeting that the reader this reader, anyway comes away thinking Sorkin is desperate to have us believe heSorkinis extraordinarily trusted by these perfumed princes, and, worse, is their soul brother. I felt I HAD to read this book if for no other reason that it chronicled a big moment in American history. Apr 16, Kartik rated it it was amazing.
It has been a while since a book captured my attention so well as this one did. Sorkin is able to cover the 'history' of the financial crisis in a good amount of depth, switch back and forth between the different 'stages' and bring out the personalities of the key players such as the investment bank CEOs, the NY Fed and the Treasury while at the same time providing enough information about the complicate The tag 'Master Storyteller', should be applied to Andrew Ross Sorkin for this piece of work.
Sorkin is able to cover the 'history' of the financial crisis in a good amount of depth, switch back and forth between the different 'stages' and bring out the personalities of the key players such as the investment bank CEOs, the NY Fed and the Treasury while at the same time providing enough information about the complicated financial instruments that were at the center of the crisis. No one is too big to fail - these venerable wall street institutions were regarded as 'rock solid', but they were operating on shaky foundations. Use credit carefully - credit is good when exercised with caution and always prepare for a worst-case scenario.
In fact, re-examine your assumptions of a worst-case scenario on a regular basis. Memorable picture from the book: If any book from the past several years that has emerged to have critical acclaim across the broad swath of American society from that cottage industry of economic doomsday books, it's this one. Andrew Ross Sorkin's Too Big to Fail is the crowning achievement of them all, appearing on several "need-to-read" lists for the controversial economic shindig that eclipsed so much of the last year's of the Bush administration.
Than why does it come off like the economic and political thriller version of If any book from the past several years that has emerged to have critical acclaim across the broad swath of American society from that cottage industry of economic doomsday books, it's this one.
Than why does it come off like the economic and political thriller version of a Dan Brown novel? This book chronicles the "behind the scenes" action during what could be termed Wall Street's annus horriblis, In that year the bubble boom time burst in a big way, and without government intervention, our whole economy would crumble and we'd be living in a Mad-Max capitalist dystopia. Assembled from oral recollections, and a library of primarily documents, Too Big to Fail is a 'who was where, when' of the economic crisis.
The book has a lot going for it actually, and it's easy to see where the lauded praise comes from. The prose is immensely readable, aside from some problem sentences in several areas, Sorkin has an excellent style. He is not boring, he's positively entertaining. That's not something you can say about most books like this. It's a bit lengthy, clocking in at over pages, but those pages will just fly by. He rarely talks about the ever-burning question of "why? There is little to no explanation of the economic forces at work during those times.
Sorkin, at best, will give two sentences of description to what is actually going on. For the most part, the economic calamity crashing down around Wall Street is portrayed as some kind of economic natural disaster, brought on my mysterious god-like forces whom the CEOs and executives have no control or agency over.
I find it hard to believe this is an innocent mistake on the part of a high-profile business reporter like Sorkin.
When the executives go to their favorite restaurant, San Pietro, we find out what they ate. Set up a giveaway. Credit crunch Goldman Sachs Lehman Brothers reviews. Kindle Edition Verified Purchase. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required. The other thing that made me scratch my head was that these companies kept going back to billionaire Warren Buffet to try and get him to invest so they could raise capital. Or at least what the crisis looked like from the top:
Instead what you actually get is the literary equivalent of being roofied and Sorkin pushing the back of your head ever so slowly into a large pile of excrement. If you read nearly any other book on the crisis, it reveals those big investment banks had a heavy hand in setting up their very own demise. I mean, throughout the book, those same banks had all these bad and toxic assets dragging them down, or cooked their books, or did a number of incredibly unethical and sketchy things to make a couple of hundred million bucks.
But in the narrative Sorkin is loathe to make this connection. In fact, the closest thing the narrative has to a big bad is the hedge fund short-sellers the CEOs bemoan is running them out of business. Which belies the core problem of the book. Those turbulent days of is constantly referenced as an actual natural disaster.
The crisis is referred to as a cancer, a tsunami, an earthquake, a disease, among other adjectives that belong in some tawdry, tepid action thriller. Couple this with the complete lack of context and explanation of where this all originated from and it just comes off trying to hard to absolve those of actions.
Then there's the fact the book is filled with entirely irrelevant information. The personal feelings of some execs towards other, the high school drama involved in running a high-stakes, high-profit investment bank, what restaurants they dine at, what cares they drive, etc etc. The entire book is filled with enough details you could've sworn Sorkin was writing the HBO movie adaptation at the same time. Or that Tim Geitner has a six pack? No, but like the Wall Street version of People magazine or Seventeen magazine, Sorkin dutifully chronicles it and not the economic train wreck some of those same people put us in.
It doesn't help Sorkin sets this book up like a thriller too. There's no table of contents and chapters are titled numerically. It looks and reads like a novel as well. There are settings, scenes and we often following characters about their day. There's also a distressingly high number of quotes and conversations. Sorkin takes pains to say he's reconstructed these conversations to the sources' best recollections. I find this suspect for a few reasons. No one remembers everything perfectly and we often reconstruct our memories to paint ourselves in the best possible light.
The dialogue reads too much like a novel or too cinematic to have actually happened accurately. This accounts for the readability of the book, but it loses a sense of accuracy and reportage. People talk first draft after all. Plus, Sorkin makes section or chapter breaks on an overly dramatic cliffhanger. This is a writing technique one of my old English teachers would called the "Dan Brown School of Writing. A year where the bankers and government officials were about as popular as a witch in old-timey Puritan Salem.
I sincerely doubt any oral recollections are as truthful as it claims. In all honesty there are a slew of better books explaining the financial crisis of And all of them do a better job of it than someone who is, to borrow a phrase from Taibbi, a "shameless, ball-gargling prostitute of Wall Street. May 02, Scott Rhee rated it liked it Shelves: Andrew Ross Sorkin's "Too Big to Fail" should frighten and enrage readers, and, for some, it probably will, but for a majority of readers, it will fall into that "grand systemic changes need to be made, but I an average person can't do anything to change it" mentality that cripples many of us into petrification and denial.
Our heads go back in the sand, and we go about our daily lives as if we didn't have this looming storm over our shoulders. Unfortunately, if history has taught us anything Andrew Ross Sorkin's "Too Big to Fail" should frighten and enrage readers, and, for some, it probably will, but for a majority of readers, it will fall into that "grand systemic changes need to be made, but I an average person can't do anything to change it" mentality that cripples many of us into petrification and denial.
Unfortunately, if history has taught us anything not that we're listening , there will be a day of reckoning, and it won't be pretty. Ever since mankind developed a system of brokering goods and services and created a monetary system, there have been the haves and the have-nots.
Of course, the cycle simply starts anew, and what has happened before will happen again. President Barack Obama, quoted in the afterword, sums it up nicely: They don't get it. Why is it that people are mad at the banks? You guys are drawing down ten-, twenty-million-dollar bonuses after America went through the worst economic year that it's gone through in decades, and you guys caused the problem. And we've got ten percent unemployment. Why do you think people might be a little frustrated? Maybe it's because many of these people in Washington find themselves in the pockets of these Wall Streeters the haves , and they don't want to solve the problem for fear of losing the pocket, while the rest of us the have-nots continue to struggle daily to make ends meet.
In one poignant scene in the book, President George W. Sorkin attempts to answer that loaded question somewhat successfully in "Too Big to Fail", an in-depth reportage of the banking collapse, starting with the failed attempt to save Lehman Bros. Basing his book on thousands of interviews, memorandum, transcripts, e-mails, audio and video recordings, news articles, and public records, Sorkin has written a non-fiction account that, at times, reads like fiction.
By that I mean it's almost too unbelievable at times, but it actually happened. Sorkin attempts to answer the question, "How did we get here? Even former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, a guy with dozens of important letters after his name and is considered the Stephen Hawking of economics, doesn't fully understand them: I didn't understand what they were doing And I figured if I didn't understand it and I had access to a couple hundred PhDs, how the rest of the world is going to understand it sort of bewildered me.
And that's exactly what happened, but not all at once. As Sorkin describes, it was down to the wire as Paulson and Timothy Geitnerat the time, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New Yorkpuppeteered the strings of Wall Street and government to get things done. If there are any "heroes" in this disturbing story of greed and corruption, I suppose Paulson and Geitner would be the best choice. As someone who does not know much about the inner workings of Wall Street or even economics in general, I still found "Too Big to Fail" fascinating.
I would have liked some more explanation of things mentioned hell, a glossary might have even been handy , but I don't think it hurt my understanding of the main points Sorkin was trying to make. Dec 30, Brendan rated it liked it Shelves: This book is a great feat of reporting - Sorkin conducted thousands of hours of interviews and obviously put a lot of research into reconstructing all the events surrounding the meltdown on wallstreet in So, the book effectively reads like: For all its exhaustive reporting, the book is incredibly light on analysis.
The book reports pretty much everything that happened, while saying remarkably little about why it happened, what it means, how we go here, and where we might go next. I suppose the book is meant to be more reporting and less analysis, but the book is so heavily weighted towards the former that it really detracts from the gravity of the final product. I guess we'll have to wait a few years for some meaningful works of analysis to emerge. Mar 15, Ci rated it it was amazing. An excellent chronicle of the fiasco of This is a sympathetic group portrait of the major players in the financial crisis.
Their failures and success are not as important as their desperate efforts to avert something catastrophic. One should always be reminded of the excellent quote in the end of the book by Theodore Roosevelt's speech in Sorbonne in The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
May 22, BookSweetie rated it liked it Shelves: This book is not too big to read, or even too big to enjoy, provided that you are a reader who wants to be reading the book that is, rather than a long list of possible alternative books about the severest financial crisis since our Great Depression. This book is a reportorial non-fiction style book with a dash of fiction-like drama that is low on the "why" and heavy on the "who" and "who said and did what when. First, there is a very lengthy cast of characters and organizations to keep straight, even with both the essential comprehensive chart at the front of the book and also the helpful photo pages that appear mid-book.
Secondly, there is no glossary to help the uninitiated with the finance style vocabulary peppered throughout the text. Nevertheless, the research for this account was clearly extensive, the details convey the emotional turmoil, and Sorkin's daunting effort will almost certainly become a treasure for future historians. Feb 24, Youghourta rated it liked it. Oct 17, Bob Adamcik rated it it was amazing Shelves: This was a very long and at times, tedious read, but in fact informative and worthwhile.