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Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World Hardcover – October 3, 2011
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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 now pose to the world. "
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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.Read more ›
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.
While the articles are great i read all the original ones and somehow expected more content for my money.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What makes most of Lewis' books great is that he follows quirky characters at the center of an important event to drive both an interesting personal story and an informative global... Read morePublished 2 days ago by Rick
It took me until almost the end of the book to understand the reason for the title. One wonders what Iceland, Ireland, Japan. Germany and Greece have in common. Read morePublished 21 days ago by Judith Clancy
Introduces the concept of financial anthropology, how different cultures handle money. Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Germany and the U.S. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Barbara E. Goll
My career required interaction with Wall Street on a consistent basis and he is spot on in his writings concerning that crowd. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Carl Laurino
Not bad, not his best work. Somewhat repetitive, and it meanders at the end when he gets back to the US. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Reynaldo Bo