New book: Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World, by Michael Lewis ’82 (W.W. Norton)
The author: A chronicler of human financial folly and institutionalized greed, Lewis is the author of The Big Short, a tale of the global financial catastrophe through a group of investors who bet money on the boom going bust; Liar’s Poker; and Moneyball, about Billy Beane, general manager of Major League Baseball’s Oakland A’s, and how he built winning, affordable teams. The book recently was made into a feature film starring Brad Pitt.
The book: In his latest look at financial disaster, Lewis surveys the wreckage of once-booming economies in Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Germany, and the United States. In each locale, he explores the complex financial schemes that led to their downfalls. Lewis provides “a guided tour through some of the disparate places hard hit by the fiscal tsunami of 2008,” wrote The New York Times, “tracing how very different people for very different reasons gorged on the cheap credit available in the prelude to that disaster.”
Opening lines: “Just after October 6, 2008, when Iceland effectively went bust, I spoke to a man at the International Monetary Fund who had been flown in to Reykjavik to determine if money might responsibly be lent to such a spectacularly bankrupt nation. … Iceland was entirely new to his experience: a nation of extremely well-to-do (No.1 in the United Nations’ 2008 Human Development Index), well-educated, historically rational human beings who had organized themselves to commit one of the single greatest acts of madness in financial history. ‘You have to understand,’ he told me, ‘Iceland is no longer a country. It is a hedge fund.’”
Review: “Lewis captures the utter folly and madness that spread across both sides of the Atlantic during the last decade, as individuals, institutions, and entire nations mindlessly embraced instant gratification over long-term planning, the too good to be true over common sense,” wrote a critic for The New York Times.