Friday, September 26, 2008

If You Want To Know Why We Are In This Mess

With the news of bank failures, investment firm takeovers and government bailouts or rescue plans Shelf Awareness provided a list of books which bookstore owners and librarians are recommending to readers who want to understand how things could get this bad and are looking for ideas on how the mess can be cleaned up. While there are many who say they didn't recognize the signs which warned of the financial markets impending implosion, many of these authors anticipated the current crisis and their books offer a different perspective.

To understand what happened:
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein (Picador, $16, 9780312427993/0312427999), which appeared in paperback in June. Glen Robbe of the Stanford Bookstore called this title "prescient" claims the hardcover book trailer is "so compelling that you can't not want to read the book after seeing it."

I.O.U.S.A.: One Nation. Under Stress. In Debt. by Addison Wiggin and Kate Incontrera (Wiley, $19.95, 9780470222775/0470222778), which has a pub date of September 29. Carol Hill, owner of Book Mine, Leadville, Colo., said that this book is "very readable, with the obvious advantage that it also provides a picture of where we are today. As the blurb on the back notes, it is 'defiantly nonpartisan,' including interviews with Warren Buffet, Alice Rivlin, Robert Rubin, Ron Paul, Paul Volker, Alan Greenspan and Paul O'Neill among others."

Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism by Kevin Phillips (Viking, $25.95, 9780670019076/0670019070), which appeared in April. By the author of American Theocracy and American Dynasty, Bad Money notes that 20% of the economy is based on finance and if it is in trouble, it will have a major effect on the rest of the economy. Oh yes.

The Subprime Solution: How Today's Global Financial Crisis Happened, and What to Do About It by Robert Shiller (Princeton University Press, $16.95, 780691139296/0691139296) is an August title. Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten of 800-CEO-READ, commented: "Shiller's work on housing values is well-known and originally established in Irrational Exuberance. This book describes pretty clearly the mortgage crisis we are in and offers some solutions to get out."

For information on the names we wish we could ignore or had never heard:

The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World by Alan Greenspan (Penguin, $17, 9780143114161/0143114166), published in paperback earlier this month. Robbe of the Stanford Bookstore said that the paperback edition with its new epilogue includes "more information" from the former Fed chairman and "has some important things to say."

Essays on the Great Depression by Ben Bernanke (Princeton University Press, $29.95, 9780691118208/0691118205), published in 2004, offers "insight into what the current Fed chairman is thinking" and "reading his perspective on the last event of this magnitude may help understand what he does in this one," Covert and Sattersten noted.

And it is good, I suppose, to realize we've been here before:

The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind (Portfolio, $16,9781591840534/1591840538), first published in 2003. In a review, Jack Covert of 800-CEO-BOOK wrote with foresight that Enron's failure could happen again "when you have hubris at the CEO level, sales peoples' compensation based on short term success, upper level people totally focused on growth to satisfy short term Wall Street success, an accounting system that supports this concept, and finally an accounting firm that doesn't do a good job of oversight. Add to this a deregulated industry and watch what happens."

It's not all about Wall Street:

The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker by Steven Greenhouse (Knopf, $25.95, 9781400044894/1400044898), an April book. Aaron Curtis, quartermaster of the buying office at Books & Books in Florida, said the book, which includes suggestions and examples for improving the lot of working-class America, is "not Wall Street specific but very relevant."

The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder (Bantam, $35, 9780553805093/0553805096), appears on Monday. A former insurance industry analyst and managing director at Morgan Stanley, Schroeder had full access to Buffett.
The complete list on Shelf Awareness

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