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Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World

by Michael Lewis

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1,543649,006 (3.81)34
The tsunami of cheap credit that rolled across the planet between 2002 and 2008 was more than a simple financial phenomenon: it was temptation, offering entire societies the chance to reveal aspects of their characters they could not normally afford to indulge.Icelanders wanted to stop fishing and become investment bankers. The Greeks wanted to turn their country into a pinata stuffed with cash and allow as many citizens as possible to take a whack at it. The Germans wanted to be even more German; the Irish wanted to stop being Irish.Michael Lewis's investigation of bubbles beyond our shores is so brilliantly, sadly hilarious that it leads the American reader to a comfortable complacency: oh, those foolish foreigners. But when he turns a merciless eye on California and Washington, DC, we see that the narrative is a trap baited with humor, and we understand the reckoning that awaits the greatest and greediest of debtor nations.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
Entirely entertaining
Entirely anecdotal

Quick, informative read, about the crashes of 2008 and how they are still impacting us in 2011, though it is told entirely through one off stories, for someone who previously had no real knowledge about the situation (me), it was very informative.

Would read more books by Lewis.
( )
  royragsdale | Sep 22, 2021 |
Whilst returning a book to the library I decided to take a poke around for anything that would catch my fancy and I noticed this in the small but well stocked 'politics and economics' section. I have previously read The Blind Side and The Big Short and enjoyed both greatly.

Boomerang is a strange mix of travel, political and economic writing which I felt was a bit of a departure from the other books I have read by Lewis. As usual his writing style is light and relaxed with a good dose of humour throw in for good measure. Lewis always manages to get across topics of vast seriousness and magnitude in an easy way which is no simple feat. It's only once you start to take in the heart of the issue that you realise just how serious it all is.

There are a few gripes I had throughout the book however. The first one is that Lewis likes to present the nations involved in a very simplistic way. For example, the Greeks are lazy and always on the take, the Germans are efficient with an evil undercurrent and the Icelandics are simplistic idiots who didn't understand what they were doing. The Americans get off very lightly, this could for 1 of 2 reasons. The first is that he views the rest of the world to blame, the second and the most likely is that they were dealt with in The Big Short and it didn't need repeating.

The other main gripe that I had was that the book felt like a collection of writings rather than a book. I later found out that it is based around a load of articles that Lewis had written for a newspaper. Once I found this out it completely fitted what I felt, a bit more work could have gone into the book and I would liked to have seen chapters on the UK, France, Spain and Italy.

Despite these issues this is a very good read even if it doesn't reach the heights of The Big Short or The Blind Side. ( )
  Brian. | Jun 20, 2021 |
This is a follow-up to The Big Short, a seminal account of the 2008 sub-prime mortgage crisis. Lewis goes to Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Germany and then back to the US to show the downstream effect of the crisis on the economies of these countries, and California. While not his best work, the book is extremely thought provoking, and at points downright scary. ( )
  koustav | Jan 6, 2021 |
Quite interesting to see how different cultures behave in relationship to money. ( )
  RunsOnEspresso | Mar 25, 2020 |
Published in 2011, when the financial crisis was still fairly fresh in everyone's mind and we had not yet reached as much recovery as we eventually achieved, this is in some respects a look into the past. Yet none of Lewis's observations from his travels through a developed world still reeling from that crisis seem to have been proven truly false. Each country got into trouble in the world of essentially free money in the madness of 2003-2008 by following its own weaknesses and temptations.

Greece was the only country he visited where the financial industry had nothing directly to do with the country's financial collapse. They were honest, they were responsible, and they could not impose honesty and responsibility on a government that took taking bribes for just doing their jobs for granted, people who saw no reason not to evade taxes, and an entire culture seemingly arranged around facilitating financial irresponsibility. When the financial problems started to show themselves, the new finance minister discovered that no one really had any idea what the government's deficit was--and as he started digging out the real numbers, the truth was horrifying.

In Iceland, it seems ludicrous to say and yet has a bizarre plausibility, that the men have a very macho, risk-taking culture that goes along with centuries of open ocean fishing being the main national source of income, and the women have a much more pragmatic, practical culture grounded in keeping everything working on land while the men were away fishing. And the two cultures didn't interact much. When the men discovered, in the era of free money, that they could stop fishing and get fantastically rich with offshore investments built on practically nothing, they weren't discussing these wonderful, exciting new ventures with the women who might have encouraged them to think about the lack of any real basis for the wealth and the consequences of it blowing up on them.

He also visits and analyzes Ireland and California, but in some ways the most interesting country is Germany. There were no wild and crazy investments in Germany. There were no wild and crazy investments in Germany. But careful, responsible German banks bought up unbelievable amounts of US securitized subprime loans. They had in some respects the greatest exposure of all. They didn't break any laws; they followed all the rules. These were, after all, AAA-rated securities, so they were completely risk-free, right? The German bankers check all the boxes, followed all the rules, and never really thought, certainly never asked, what those AAA-rated US real estate securities really contained. And Germany, to a great extent, was left holding the bag.

It's a fascinating story with some interesting revelations I hadn't been aware of before. It's a really good listen.

Recommended.

I bought this audiobook. ( )
  LisCarey | Aug 30, 2019 |
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To Doug Stumpf, gifted editor and gentle soul, without whom it never would have occurred to me to tour the ruins
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This book began accidentally, while I was at work on another book, about Wall Street and the 2008 U.S. financial disaster.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The tsunami of cheap credit that rolled across the planet between 2002 and 2008 was more than a simple financial phenomenon: it was temptation, offering entire societies the chance to reveal aspects of their characters they could not normally afford to indulge.Icelanders wanted to stop fishing and become investment bankers. The Greeks wanted to turn their country into a pinata stuffed with cash and allow as many citizens as possible to take a whack at it. The Germans wanted to be even more German; the Irish wanted to stop being Irish.Michael Lewis's investigation of bubbles beyond our shores is so brilliantly, sadly hilarious that it leads the American reader to a comfortable complacency: oh, those foolish foreigners. But when he turns a merciless eye on California and Washington, DC, we see that the narrative is a trap baited with humor, and we understand the reckoning that awaits the greatest and greediest of debtor nations.

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