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Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity Hardcover – November 17, 2008

3.4 out of 5 stars 72 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Lewis (Liars Poker) takes readers on a spin through notable recent financial catastrophes including the stock markets 1987 crash, the Russian default and related failure of hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management, the Asian currency crisis, the Internet bust and the recent subprime debacle. While the collection is comprehensive and contains varied and learned commentary, the presented crises beg for more thorough treatment. Lewis is content to rehash the past with (undeniably compelling) previously published analysis by the likes of economists Joseph Stieglitz and Paul Krugman and Wall Street Journal reporters Gregory Zuckerman and Roger Lowenstein. The author wisely includes excerpts from his books and articles, including an account of his time as a trader at Salomon Brothers in the midst of the junk bond crash of 1987 and his observations on the Internet boom and bust. The narrative is certainly elegant and the arguments are on-target; the author lambastes shoddy risk management at financial firms, the foolish principles that have guided the behavior of sophisticated Wall Street traders and the common man in this current crisis, and the problems caused by the new complexities of the financial markets, but readers seeking serious solutions to our current woes will be disappointed. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

Lewis, author and journalist, presents an anthology of financial writing done immediately before, during, and after the panics that have occurred since 1987, to show how financial markets now operate. These articles explain the mood and market factors leading up to each crisis and then with hindsight report on what actually happened. The financial panics include Black Monday, the 1987 stock market crash; the 2000 bursting of the Internet bubble; the 1999 Asian currency crisis; the Russian default that prompted the failure of the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management in 1998; and the current subprime mortgage crisis. In addition to his own work, the editor offers articles by notable writers including Paul Krugman, Roger Lowenstein, Tim Metz, Robert Shiller, Joseph Stiglitz, Eric Weiner, and Laurence Zuckerman. This is a portrait of today’s money culture—its players, victims, and the widespread consequences of these historic catastrophes. Informative and timely, it is an excellent book for a wide range of library patrons. --Mary Whaley

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (November 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393065146
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393065145
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #456,471 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
First, what this book isn't, then what it is. Panic is NOT a "Michael Lewis Book." In other words, it's not "Liars Poker" or "MoneyBall" the classics written entirely by him, which will disappoint some readers.

This book is a series of articles that form a coherent whole, discussing the four "once in a millennium" financial meltdowns we had in the last 25 years. Michael Lewis weaves them together by contributing a chapter to each of the four parts. His portions are of course the most readable and interesting (although Dave Barry gives him a run for his money writing about how to get rich in real estate). For readers that lived through these times, this book is a nice recap to jog memories for brains that may fade with time and for those that are new to the markets and think the crash of 2008 in unusual, this may be an eye-opener.

Michael Lewis's message is "financial panics have become almost commonplace; events that are to meant to occur once in a millennium now seem to occur every few years. Could this be because the financial system was built on an idea that badly underestimates the risk of catastrophes - and so conspires with human nature to create them?" After studying all four of these major panics, he also concludes that the press was at least partly complicit in the inflation of these bubbles.

Lewis starts with the crash of 87, writing "Black Monday was the first of a breed: a crash the suggested disastrous economic and social consequences but in the end had no serious effects at all." He writes: "the sweet logic of Black-Scholes was shown to be irrelevant in the real world of crashes and panics." It is truly dumbfounding how a theory that seemed to have been proved invalid on one destructive day persisted anyway, in a different form.
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Format: Hardcover
I really like Michael Lewis's work. In fact, I have read everything he has written, from Liar's Poker to The Blind Side. The guy is, in a word, gifted.

So, imagine my delight when I saw (while I was rushing through an airport) a new book by Michael. I purchased the book, and could hardly wait to start reading it. When I finally got in the plane, and opened the book, I discovered that the writings in the book were not Lewis at all, but rather a collection of no-so-interesting articles about the various financial crashes.

Nothing is staler than yesterday's Wall Street journal (financial news spoils quickly) and reading WSJ or Barron's pieces from 10 to 20 years ago is just painful.

The title PANIC: The story of modern financial insanity led me to believe the book was about the current crises. The book does say, in very, very fine print "Edited by" Michael Lewis.

I feel I was misled....shame on you Michael for lending your name to this and shame on your publisher
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Format: Hardcover
As I look at the Amazon product page for the book I've just received, there's nothing that indicates that this is NOT a book written by Michael Lewis. Rather, it's a collection of short articles (a lot of them, probably 50-75 in total, of which he wrote 6) that he selected to discuss various topics. My rating doesn't reflect the quality of the articles - I'm sure they're good, and I've actually read some of them in the past year. My rating reflects the fact that this isn't a new Michael Lewis book, and that isn't indicated anywhere. Disappointing.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like countless others who have reviewed Michael Lewis' "Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity", I didn't realize I was buying a collection of works of other authors in addition to Lewis' previously published pieces. However, it was interesting to get a glimpse into different financial eras to see how things have progressed over the past twenty years. Of the four sections, the Dot.Com was my favorite due to Lewis' defense of the entrepreneurial spirit within the Dot.com firms and criticism of Wall Street's post-crash, hypocritical stance of "don't blame us".

What is very interesting and what I came away with from reading about these unique events is the realization that the panic in 1987, as well as the Asian Currency crisis, really didn't affect the average American. However, beginning with the Dot.com stocks and continuing into the current subprime crisis, the markets have evolved into such a far-reaching force that the actions of Wall Street have significantly impacted all income classes. Also, Lewis does a good job in selecting pieces that, as a whole, portrays the evolution of investment banks as firms focused on servicing individual brokerage accounts to fee-driven, relationship banks for corporate clients. This has created significant conflicts of interests with regards to investment banks pushing the sale of stocks of their corporate clients to their individual investors. I perceived an implication from Lewis, through his selection of some of the pieces, that he places a large share of the blame on Wall Street for all of these Panics.

All in all, I felt the book was a good read that you can pick up over the course of a couple of weeks and read at your pace. However, there are articles that you will read and wish you had those ten minutes of your life back.
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