While 2008 was a bad year for many people’s retirement and investment accounts, the crash spawned a bunch of new books and equally rich authors in 2009. USA Today recently put together a list of the year’s best business books that try to make sense of the financial crisis.
The selection includes books that point the finger at Wall Street firms and their CEOs, that blast the government for excessive bailouts, that assail the U.S. economic policy triumvirate for letting the inflation genie out of the bottle, and that explain arcane financial derivatives and how they acted as viral agents spreading the crisis to the global economy.
If you’re like many people this holiday season, then you probably have some Amazon and/or Border gift cards to use. Maybe you want to fill up your new kindle. Whatever it is check out some the books below…
Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System – by Andrew Sorkin. Arguably the definitive history of the banking crisis, a blow-by-blow account of how decisions made on Wall Street and in Washington in the past decade led to the crash of the global financial system.
Bailout Nation: How, Greed and Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy - by Barry Ritholtz. Explores how the U.S. evolved from a rugged independent nation to a soft Bailout Nation, where financial firms are allowed to self-regulate in good times, but are bailed out by taxpayers in bad times.
The Sellout: How Three Decades of Wall Street Greed and Government Mismanagement Destroyed the Global Financial System – by Charles Gasparino. Argues that the financial collapse was just the latest in a 30-year pattern of executive excesses, unsustainable leverage, massive hidden losses and unreliable computer models. Gasparino is not optimistic that something similar won’t happen again.
The Great Money Binge: Spending Our Way to Socialism – by George Melloan. Champions the cause of supply-side economics, believing President Obama’s adoption of Keynesianism ultimately will result in rising interest rates, higher taxes and disastrous inflation.
The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street – by Justin Fox. Attempts to explode once and for all the efficient-market hypothesis, a canon of capitalism. That’s the hypothesis that asserts that prices of traded assets reflect all available information, a tough claim to make in the aftermath of the mortgage meltdown.
Last Man Standing: The Ascent of Jamie Dimon and JPMorgan Chase – by Duff McDonald. Quilts together Dimon anecdotes from first-person sources, resulting in a business bio that’s flattering but not fawning. Reveals an able banker who burnishes the reputation of JPMorgan at a time when other Wall Street CEOs watch their companies crumble.
Fool’s Gold: How the Bold Dream of a Small Tribe at J.P. Morgan Was Corrupted by Wall Street Greed and Unleashed a Catastrophe – by Gillian Tett. Digs to the origins of the financial crisis guided by in-depth access to members of the JPMorgan team that developed collateralized debt obligations, revealing how the exotic investment product was conceived on a weekend at the luxurious Boca Raton Hotel in June 1994.
Collateral Damaged: The Marketing of Consumer Debt to America – by Charles Geisst. Traces America’s credit history and finds it riddled with sleepy regulators, congressional do-badders and slippery financial firms making euphemistic pitches to consumers to drum up business.
How Capitalism Will Save Us: Why Free People and Free Markets Are the Best Answer in Today’s Economy – by Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Ames. A rebuttal to those writing free-market capitalism’s obituary. Explains how capitalism really works, arguing that the system is the world’s great economic success story despite the financial crisis and the worst recession in decades.
House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street - by William Cohan. A minute-by-minute account of the last 10 days of Bear Stearns, the 85-year-old investment bank that caved under the weight of a huge position in mortgage-backed securities accumulated without regard to the instability of underlying subprime loans.
This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly – by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff. A history of financial debacles up to the current crisis, revealing the unending cycle of boom and bust and how politicians and regulators chronically fail to divine recurring signs of bubbles.
The Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers – by Lawrence McDonald. A Wall Street insider and former Lehman trader reflects on the collapse of the nation’s oldest investment bank, a venerable vessel run aground by executives with a reckless addiction to financial leverage and a simplistic grasp of structured finance.
In Fed We Trust: Ben Bernanke’s War on the Great Panic – by David Wessel. Explains how Bernanke, steeped in the history of miscues by the Federal Reserve during the Great Depression, acted boldly in spearheading the biggest government intervention in more than half a century, effectively making the Fed the fourth branch of government.
The Greatest Trade Ever: The Behind-the-Scenes Story of How John Paulson Defied Wall Street and Made Financial History - by Gregory Zuckerman. Story of how a renegade hedge fund manager outwitted the mortgage-market cognoscenti, betting the market was headed for a major fall, a bet that earned more than $15 billion for his firm.
Meltdown Iceland: Lessons on the World Financial Crisis from a Small Bankrupt Island – by Roger Boyes. A tale of irrational exuberance and miscalculation by perhaps no more than 30 bankers that wrecked the economy of an island nation of 300,000 people, wiping out all the wealth accumulated the previous decade.