Michael Lewis has a real talent for recognizing and bringing out the humanity in a subject that seems dry and confusing. He did it with Moneyball, with Blindside, with Liar’s Poker, and now he does it with Boomerang. But this time, the subject is a little bigger than baseball. This time, he takes on the global financial crisis.
Boomerang doesn’t come out until Monday (we’ll have a copy or two for you to grab on your way to work), but I wanted to tell you about it today because I really loved it. It’s sometimes shocking, a little scary, but also entertaining and funny. Lewis interviews one German man who has this quote from Henry Ford on his wall: “The secret of success is to understand the point of view of others.” Lewis is an expert at that, and I think it’s what makes his books so readable.
Lewis examines the financial crisis in five parts, each focusing on the financial structure of one country, how it participated in the housing boom, and how it’s reacting to the bust. He takes us through Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Germany, and, finally, the U.S. It’s informative, but it’s also funny. He marvels on how much money serious Icelandic builders spent to clear their sites of elves (really!). He describes how, “The politicians in Ireland speak Gaelic the way the Real Housewives of Orange County speak French … Enough to get by.”
His point is that the responsibility for the global crisis is landing, sometimes literally, in our backyards, since our cities are footing the bills for government-backed banks. Boomerang is sometimes incredulous, but it’s never gloomy. Lewis doesn’t seem to doubt that, somehow, we can find our way out of this mess, but the first step in that process is taking responsibility for it. To do that, we have to understand it — and I think it’s books like Boomerang that can help us get there.