Your Financial Crisis Summer Reading List

by Derek Loosvelt | June 16, 2009

In the past few days The New York Times reviewed four financial crisis-related books now available at your local Amazon.com website. Two of these are about that former scrappy investment bank led by infamous midnight toker Jimmy Cayne, one focuses on how a group of derivative traders with questionable ethics from the bank of Dimon played a part in the market crash and one tells how home-ownership country became bailout nation.

Kate Kelly’s Street Fighters: The Last 72 Hours of Bear Stearns, the Toughest Firm on Wall Street is the juicier of the two books on Bear (the Times says it has “the feel of a high-class snuff film”), but William Cohan’s House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street lays out “Bear’s rise and fall in much more detail.”

Cohan, unlike Kelly, also lays out first-hand observations about the rise and fall from the man at the top, Jimmy Cayne. “The observations,” according to the Times, “revealed plenty about Cayne too. Homophobia? Check. Misogyny? Sure. Cohan also helpfully offers up the executive’s opinion of [Kate] Kelly; Cayne uses an anatomical description better left to the Bear Stearns locker room.”

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, which “describes how a small group of bankers at storied J.P. Morgan built a monster that got out of control and helped destroy much of their industry,” takes readers back to as early as 1994 to the Boca Raton Hotel, where, according to Tett, a group of swaps traders, all under 30 years of age, first “embraced the idea of a new type of derivative that would transform the wider world of twenty-first-century finance and play a decisive role in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.”

The shortest read of the bunch, Daniel Gross’ Dumb Money: How Our Greatest Financial Minds Bankrupted the Nation, at 104 pages, is a “succinct,” “breezy and sometimes snarky account” “for the lay reader” of how low interest rates turned into growing debt turned into banks bundling then selling said debt turned into housing crisis turned into the horror of Stephen King proportions now commonly referred to as the worldwide financial crisis.

Happy reading!

Filed Under: Finance


Of Insolvency and Solidarity The Balance Sheet (Second Quarter 2009 Edition)

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