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Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World Hardcover – October 3, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 672 customer reviews

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Michael Lewis possesses the rare storyteller 's ability to make virtually any subject both lucid and compelling. In his new book, Boomerang, he actually makes topics like European sovereign debt, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank not only comprehensible but also fascinating The book could not be more timely given the worries about Europe 's deepening debt crisis and the recent warning issued by Christine Lagarde, managing director of the I.M.F., that 'the current economic situation is entering a dangerous phase.' Combining his easy familiarity with finance and the talents of a travel writer, Mr. Lewis sets off in these pages to give the reader a guided tour through some of the disparate places hard hit by the fiscal tsunami of 2008, like Greece, Iceland and Ireland, tracing how very different people for very different reasons gorged on the cheap credit available in the prelude to that disaster. The book based on articles Mr. Lewis wrote for Vanity Fair magazine is a companion piece of sorts to The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, his bestselling 2010 book about the fiscal crisis. Like that earlier book its focus is narrow. It doesn t aspire to provide a broad overview of the debt crisis but instead hands the reader a small but sparkling prism by which to view the problem, this time from a global perspective. At times Mr. Lewis can sound a lot like Evelyn Waugh: shrewd, observant and savagely judgmental, dispensing crude generalizations about other countries, even as he pokes fun at himself as a disaster tourist. Mr. Lewis 's ability to find people who can see what is obvious to others only in retrospect or who somehow embody something larger going on in the financial world is uncanny. And in this book he weaves their stories into a sharp-edged narrative that leaves readers with a visceral understanding of the fiscal recklessness that lies behind today 's headlines about Europe 's growing debt problems and the risk of contagion they

Michael Lewis possesses the rare storyteller s ability to make virtually any subject both lucid and compelling. In his new book, Boomerang, he actually makes topics like European sovereign debt, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank not only comprehensible but also fascinating The book could not be more timely given the worries about Europe s deepening debt crisis and the recent warning issued by Christine Lagarde, managing director of the I.M.F., that 'the current economic situation is entering a dangerous phase.' Combining his easy familiarity with finance and the talents of a travel writer, Mr. Lewis sets off in these pages to give the reader a guided tour through some of the disparate places hard hit by the fiscal tsunami of 2008, like Greece, Iceland and Ireland, tracing how very different people for very different reasons gorged on the cheap credit available in the prelude to that disaster. The book based on articles Mr. Lewis wrote for Vanity Fair magazine is a companion piece of sorts to The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, his bestselling 2010 book about the fiscal crisis. Like that earlier book its focus is narrow. It doesn t aspire to provide a broad overview of the debt crisis but instead hands the reader a small but sparkling prism by which to view the problem, this time from a global perspective. At times Mr. Lewis can sound a lot like Evelyn Waugh: shrewd, observant and savagely judgmental, dispensing crude generalizations about other countries, even as he pokes fun at himself as a disaster tourist. Mr. Lewis s ability to find people who can see what is obvious to others only in retrospect or who somehow embody something larger going on in the financial world is uncanny. And in this book he weaves their stories into a sharp-edged narrative that leaves readers with a visceral understanding of the fiscal recklessness that lies behind today s headlines about Europe s growing debt problems and the risk of contagion they now pose to the world. "

About the Author

Michael Lewis, the best-selling author of The Undoing Project, Liar’s Poker, Moneyball, The Blind Side, and The Big Short, among other works, lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife and three children.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (October 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393081818
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393081817
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (672 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #87,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I admit to being a fan of Michael Lewis' books, so take that into consideration as you read this review. Lewis earned a masters degree in economics from the London School of Economics and went to work as a bond trader for Salomon Brothers before its scandals. His education and investment experience qualified him to write "Liar's Poker" in 1989, though I have no idea what qualified him to write such an entertaining and lucid description of the Wall Street culture of that time. Subsequently, I have read Lewis' "Moneyball" (in 2003), "The Blind Side" (in 2006), and "The Big Short" (in 2010). All of these books are very easy to read and hard to put down. They tell well-researched, interesting stories. In the case of "The Big Short" it helps to illuminate the origins of the financial crisis that broke starting in 2007.

In Lewis' latest book, "Boomerang," the subtitle is, "Travels in the New Third World." Lewis is not referring to Asian or Latin American countries here. He's talking about European countries that drank the elixir of seemingly endless and cheap credit prior to the bursting of the recent financial bubble. To say that cheap credit transformed the economies in Greece, Ireland and Iceland, for example, is to understate the impact of the financial bubble on these countries. Talk about a timely book--I am writing this during September 2011, and yet this book refers to the recent downgrade of U.S. debt, which occured only last month, beginning on page 171.

As in many of Lewis' books, there's a new person who you probably never heard of before to meet. In "Moneyball" it was Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team, and in "The Big Short" it was Steve Eisman, Michael Burry and others.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The entire book with the exception of a short introduction is available for free online. I knew the book was based off articles in Vanity Fair, but I did not realize that there was no new content. I just wanted to warn anyone that subscribes to VF that they are paying for the content twice if they purchase this book.If you feel like saving money, you can find the articles that comprise the book on VF's website.

Update: Since I wrote this review, VF has placed the Iceland article behind their pay wall. You can still find it for free by searching for "Vanity Fair Iceland." All other articles can be found for free on VF's website; just search for "Michael Lewis Vanity Fair" and then click on the index of his articles.
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Instead of reading the articles in Vanity Fair, I bought the book and found it a completely comfortable ride through the the countryside of some unbelievable places. You don't get any detailed view of things, sort of like having lightning flashes as you ride along, but the scenes are startling and make you reflect in ways that I would have wanted Lewis to do. Instead you just see his grotesque mask - like smile reflected in the windows. His analyses are fun, but misleadingly shallow. These three countries' slide into bankruptcy - Iceland, Ireland, Greekland - are amazing stories that seem completely unreal, even science fiction at times; but Lewis provides no real understanding for what went on and what will happen in the future. AS he points out, Germany seems the key to which direction the bailout of Greece will take, and whether or not the international economy will take another post-Lehman-like dive; but instead of giving us the real dirt on Germany's intentions, he diverts us with entertaining but highly irrelevant side trip into their fascination with feces and coprophilia. After all, what really distinguishes the fleissig hard working Germans from the Greek and Irish seems to have more to do with their determined trust and cooperation with each other, more like the other scandinavians, than with prurient coprophilia. How did they become so trusting - was it the utter devastation of WWII and the enormous hangover of guilt from the Nazi era? What taught them to be so rulebound that they demand ubiquitous order in all things?Was it the utter devastation and disorder of the black market?Read more ›
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By frogster on September 30, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is basically just a collection of 5 pieces done for vanity fair and available for free on their homepage.
While the articles are great i read all the original ones and somehow expected more content for my money.
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Lewis' Odyssey takes him through Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Germany and California. Although none of them yet qualify for Third World status, Lewis chronicles the diligence with which they are working at it. The stupid things that people did in pursuit of money almost make the Wall Street characters of "The Big Short" look smart and foresighted.

Lewis really is a storyteller. Finance is merely his theme. As with all of his books this one is easy to read, hard to put down. Yesterday I noticed that my copy had been delivered to my Kindle a couple of days early, and I read it straight through.

As always, he picks out some especially picturesque characters to illustrate his story point. In "The Big Short" it included a trio of countercultural types in Berkeley who decided that they would rather get rich than work, and figured out how to do it. That rang true - I grew up in Berkeley and went to school there, and was able to identify with the mindset and the surroundings. This time it is a bit more of a stretch. I lived in Germany for four years, certainly much longer than the time Lewis spent there doing his research, and I did not encounter half of the scatological vocabulary that he reports or the fascination with all things excremental. I read his story with a smile, and might buy the books he cites on the subject, but I have to say it's hyperbole - exaggeration to make a good story. I like the story.

I think he also exaggerates the governator's recklessness bicycling through the streets of Los Angeles, but once again it makes a good story about how ungovernable California is. This tale relates well to the issues of the day, as other states such as Michigan and New Jersey are following California's lead in attempting to rein in public sector salaries and benefits.
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