As Wall Street waits for a rescue, booksellers and librarians are highlighting titles to help consumers understand how things could go so bad and how the mess might be cleaned up. Quite a few authors anticipated the current crisis. Among the highest-rated, gilt-edged titles:
The New Paradigm for Financial Markets: The Credit Crisis of 2008 and What It Means by George Soros (PublicAffairs, $22.95, 9781586486839/1586486837), which was published in May. Glen Robbe, trade book manager at the Stanford Bookstore, Stanford, Calif., said that the store has "done very well" with the book, which is "designed for lay people who are looking to learn more than what they're getting in newspapers."
The Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash by Charles R. Morris (PublicAffairs, $22.95, 9781586485634/1586485636), published in March. Praveen Madan, co-owner of the Booksmith, San Francisco, Calif., noted that "with uncanny accuracy, Charles Morris predicted the current crisis and even estimated the magnitude of it. . . . Although the book does get a bit technical in some parts, most of it is written in such a way that even people without an advance finance degree can understand the basics."
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" and said that the store will highlight the book in connection with an appearance by Klein at the school October 16. He called the hardcover book trailer for the book "so compelling that you can't not want to read the book after seeing it."
Financial Shock: A 360-Degree Look at the Subprime Mortgage Implosion, and How to Avoid the Next Financial Crisis by Mark Zandi (FT Press, $24.99, 9780137142903/0137142900), a July publication. Chief economist and co-founder of Moody's Economy.com, Zandi "called the mess before it happened," Maureen Montecchio, community relations manager at Barnes & Noble in Devon, Pa., said. "The book is written in layman's terms. As my sister the stockbroker put it to me, 'Even you could understand it.' " Montecchio added that Zandi appeared at a "very well attended" event at the store recently.
The Subprime Solution: How Today's Global Financial Crisis Happened, and What to Do About It by Robert Shiller (Princeton University Press, $16.95, 9780691139296/0691139296) is an August title. Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten of 800-CEO-READ, the business book part of Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, 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."
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, written as a companion book to the documentary of the same title released in August, and 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.
Beyond Greed and Fear: Understanding Behavioral Finance and the Psychology of Investing by Hersh Shefrin (Oxford University Press, $19.95, 9780195304213/0195304217). Published last year, this book explains "the behavioral factors that guide the decision-making processes of Wall Street professionals."
For some understanding of the outlook of the current Fed chairman and his predecessor:
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."
Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten of 800-CEO-READ noted that "many are laying the blame [for the crisis] at Mr. Greenspan's feet" and that Greenspan's epilogue outlines "his thoughts on the current crisis."
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.
For an understanding of other similar crises:
When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management by Roger Lowenstein (Random House, $14.95, 9780375758256/0375758259), which first appeared in 2001. Glen Robbe said this story of the 1998 collapse of the hedge fund and the bailout organized by the Fed "foreshadowed what's going on today" and has "a really good narrative."
In a review, Todd Sattersten said that Lowenstein shows "how blind arrogance brought down the company and almost the entire financial system" and offers "a case study for how markets defy formulaic explanation." He added, "this was peanuts compared to the current crisis."
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."
A look at how high finance affects people far from 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."
Some titles arriving soon will garner a lot more attention than anticipated even a month ago. Among them:
The Partnership: The Making of Goldman Sachs by Charles D. Ellis (Penguin Press, $37.95, 9781594201899/1594201897), coming October 7. Ellis is an investment banker and longtime strategy consultant to the investment bank that just this week sold a $5 billion stake to legendary investor Warren Buffett, head of Berkshire Hathaway. Speaking of whom . . .
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.
Fixing Global Finance by Martin Wolf (Johns Hopkins University Press, $24.95, 9780801890482/0801890489). The publisher is just shipping copies of this book, which is by the associate editor and chief economics commentator for the Financial Times.
The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World by Niall Ferguson (Penguin Press, $29.95, 9781594201929/1594201927) will be published November 13. Nathan R. Maharaj, category manager at Indigo Books & Music in Canada, says that this and the following book by Michael Lewis "may be the best reading" until a year from now, when, at the earliest, we will begin to see "the best books about the current crisis--the ones that are fundamentally great reading experiences, not just extended newspaper articles."
Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity by Michael Lewis (Norton, $27.95, 9780393065145/0393065146) will be published December 1. Covert and Sattersten said this book about five recent meltdowns--the crash of 1987, the Russian default, the Asian currency crisis of 1999, the Internet bubble and sub-prime mortgage disaster--is "bound to be brilliant." Lewis wrote Liar's Poker, Moneyball, The Blind Side and more.
Bernanke's Test: Ben Bernanke, Alan Greenspan, and the Drama of the Central Banker by Johan Van Overtveldt (Agate, $26, 9781932841374/1932841377), which will be published in January. The book is by a Belgian economist who argues that the mess confronting the Fed chairman was created by his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, and that Bernanke is well prepared for the current crisis.
Bailout Nation: How Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy by Barry Ritholtz (McGraw-Hill, $24.95, 9780071609050/0071609059), will be published in January. The title says it all.
By the way, Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten of 800-CEO-READ are writing the mother of all business books: The 100 Best Business Books of All Time: What They Say, Why They Matter, and How They Can Help You, which will be published by Portfolio in February.--John Mutter