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Too Big to Fail: Inside the Battle to Save Wall Street [Paperback]

Andrew Ross Sorkin
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
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Book Description

29 Oct 2009

Shortlisted for the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize 2010

Andrew Ross Sorkin delivers the first true behind-the-scenes, moment-by-moment , account of how the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression developed into a global tsunami. From inside the corner office at Lehman Brothers to secret meetings in South Korea, Russia and the corridors of Washington, Too Big to Fail is the definitive story of the most powerful men and women in finance and politics grappling with success and failure, ego, greed, and, ultimately, the fate of the world's economy.

"We've got to get some foam down on the runway!" a sleepless Timothy Geithner, the president of the Federal Reserve of New York would tell Henry M.Paulson, the Treasury Secretary about the catastrophic crash of the world's financial system would experience.

Through unprecendented access to the players involved, Too Big to Fail recreates all the drama and turmoil, revealing never-disclosed details and elucidating how decisions made on Wall Street over the past decade sowed the seeds of the debacle. This true story is not just a look at banks that were "too big to fail", it is a real-life thriller about a cast of bold-faced names who themselves thought they were "too big to fail".

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Product details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (29 Oct 2009)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1846142385
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846142383
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 3.4 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 157,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Andrew Ross Sorkin is The New York Times's chief mergers and acquisitions reporter and a columnist. Mr. Sorkin, a leading voice about Wall Street and corporate America, is also the editor of DealBook, an online daily financial report he started in 2001. In addition, Mr. Sorkin is an assistant editor of business and finance news, helping guide and shape the paper's coverage.

Mr. Sorkin, who has appeared on NBC's "Today" show and on "Charlie Rose" on PBS, is a frequent guest host of CNBC's "Squawk Box." He won a Gerald Loeb Award, the highest honor in business journalism, in 2004 for breaking news. He also won a Society of American Business Editors and Writers Award for breaking news in 2005 and again in 2006. In 2007, the World Economic Forum named him a Young Global Leader.

Mr. Sorkin began writing for The Times in 1995 under unusual circumstances: he hadn't yet graduated from high school.

Product Description


Andrew Ross Sorkin pens what may be the definitive history of the banking crisis (The Atlantic Monthly)

Andrew Ross Sorkin has written a fascinating, scene-by-scene saga of the eyeless trying to march the clueless through Great Depression II (Tom Wolfe)

Sorkin has succeeded in writing the book of the crisis, with amazing levels of detail and access (Reuters)

Sorkin can write. His storytelling makes Liar's Poker look like a children's book (SNL Financial)

Too good to put down . . . It is the story of the actors in the most extraordinary financial spectacle in 80 years, and it is told brilliantly . . . It is hard to imagine them being this riveting (Economist)

As close to a definitive account as we are likely to get (Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times)

The most readable and exciting report of the events surrounding the Lehman collapse that we have seen . . . impeccably sourced (Edmund Conway, Daily Telegraph)

Surpassed its rivals with its depth, range of reporting and high quality analysis (Stefan Stern, FT)

He has done a remarkable job in producing a lively account that will be hard for subsequent authors to beat (Gillian Tett, FT)

The sense of being in the meeting rooms as hitherto all-conquering alpha male egos fight for their reputations, as their and our world judders, is palpable (Chris Blackhurst, Evening Standard)

A superbly researched and sobering take on the events surrounding the meltdown on Wall Street (Sam Mendes)

Compelling, novelistic and enormously thorough account (Alison Roberts, Evening Standard)

A fine narrative drawn from interviews with the leading bankers and policymakers (Oliver Kamm, The Times)

A riveting fly-on-the-wall account of the collapse of the Lehman Brothers and what comes afterwards (Books of the Year recommendation, Economist)

About the Author

Andrew Ross Sorkin is the award-winning chief mergers and acquisitions reporter for the New York Times, a columnist, and assistant editor of business and finance news. He has won a Gerald Loeb Award, the highest honor in business journalism, and a Society of American Business Editors and Writers Award. In 2007, the World Economic Forum names him a Young Global Leader.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable book 25 Nov 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The global recession that raged through the entire globe in 2008-2009 was one of the biggest in history. The causes are complicated and it underlined how interconnected the global economy really is.

What Sorkin does is introduce the major (mainly American) players in this tale of an inexorable slide into chaos across the world's economies and show you what they were thinking and how they responded. In 100 years this book will be priceless as we get a look at the human element more than the numbers. He interviewed them, and dissected their statements with colleagues what this leaves us with is a day by day guide to what happened.

It reads almost like a Dan Brown thriller, it is page turning stuff which is a major achievement as this is ultimately a tale of middle aged men talking a lot about sub prime mortgages, however jargon is either avoided or explained and the sheer pace and authority of the writing pulls you in and keeps you engaged.

In short this is a must read.

If you liked this there's more historical debate and fun at @HistoryGems on Facebook and Twitter
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Close, But No Fat-Cat CEO Cigar 17 Dec 2009
By Mooch
This fascinating and compulsively readable book seeks to spill the beans on what was going on at the highest levels during those calamitous weeks in summer/autumn 2008 when the financial system of the U.S. (and beyond) was on the brink of collapse. Using a vast amount of interviews with a number of the top bank CEOs, their boards and colleagues and with the top players in government (possibly with the exception of Ben Bernanke), Sorkin has created a remarkable narrative illuminating exactly what happened behind closed doors as Lehman Brothers sunk and AIG and American finance's most storied institutions tottered on the brink, culminating in the notorious 'bailout' legislation. The conversations, the phonecalls, the deals, the shuttling back-and-forth, the extraordinary meetings of the heads of the mafia-like Wall Street 'families,' the fear and the panic: it's all here in this gripping book.

It's a great read and the author succeeds admirably in his stated aim of showing these titans of the economy as human beings under immense strain, being forced to improvise their way through the most testing of circumstances. It makes the macho world of high, high finance seductive and intriguing and made me hungry to read more books from the business section. The writer even makes the people he portrays come across sympathetically and it is good to see the British government, in a cameo role, standing up for itself in the face of American pressure (not that it seems that way to the Americans themselves!)

However, it fails to go further. Sorkin provides very little in the way of context and analysis.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book would have been easier to follow and more impactful if it had been shorter. You can see the author's problem from the 38 page appendix (in small typeface) "Notes and Sources", where he lists the sources he was allowed to cite, though he also had plenty more from sources he was not allowed to cite. Most reviewers have reveled in this level of detail - but some readers will find it just gets in the way.

My abiding insight after finishing the book is that few if any of the big hitters of Wall Street had any particular wisdom. Many financial institutions were brought to the knees because their leaders completely failed to understand the level of risk they had taken on. They were not nearly as smart as their pay-packets implied, but just ordinary human beings who had risen above their levels of competence.

In summary, this book does give you a lot of insight into the events on Wall Street, and little insight into the peripheral role played by some UK banks. But unless you like devouring a large stack of background material, you will find it frustratingly long-winded.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 2008 financial crisis:The inside story 11 Nov 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the first and gripping inside story of the unfolding drama of the 2008 financial crisis, the worst since the great depression, which metastasized like a mailignant cancer to envelope the whole world.

The author, Andrew Ross Sorkin, a business writer at the New York Times, has conducted a meticulous research drawing on 200 of those participated in the events it covers. The book is as detailed as spiced with many colourful anectodes.

The book is the definitive story of the most powerful men in finance and politics grappling with success and failure, ego, and, ultimately, the fate of the world's economy but also elucidating how decisions made in the Wall Street over the last decade sowed the seeds of financial catastrophe.

The book reconstructs vividly the events surrounding the seizure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Lehman's Brothers collapse, the rescue of the American International Goup (AIG) and the shoring of big banks' capital with Public funds.

The book describes vividly the confusion, reversal and arbitrariness of policy decisions. Regulators would back a merger in one instance only to reverse it in the next for reasons that confused bankers. The $700 billion of the Troubled Asset Relief was a monument of arbitrariness and guesswork. The improvisations evident across Wall Street was similary notorious.

The author casts protagonists in different light. Hank Paulson, the then Treasury Secretary, acted decisively but not always wisely. Tim Geithner then President of the Federal Reserve of New York was tough minded while Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve was cool headed and professorial. Under unfavourable light comes Christopher Cox, then the wavering head of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The big crash
An excellent read - very informative, I couldn't put the book down! Easy to understand - takes you blow by blow on what really happened
Published 1 month ago by M Britton
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but hard to read
A good book that goes slightly too much in the details, from my point of view. Haven't finished it for the reason, and have read many books in the middle since starting this one. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Tero Ojanperä
4.0 out of 5 stars a good read.
The book captures the excitement. I would have liked a bit more analysis. Perhaps the subject is just too big for that.
Published 3 months ago by bob
4.0 out of 5 stars The Great Vampire Squid Gets Off Lightly
I feel proud for getting to the end of this, because there were times I didn't think I was going to make it. Not that there's anything wrong with it. Read more
Published 3 months ago by J. J. Ward
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice Detail but lacking on theory
A good read but lacking in theory and historical context somewhat. The moment by moment account is interesting but I felt like I wasn't getting the whole picture.
Published 7 months ago by Mr. I. J. Guffogg
5.0 out of 5 stars Great recount of the largest economic crisis of our time
A truly insightful and, at many times, exciting account of the disaster that unfolded in front of us. Read more
Published 10 months ago by David Cheshire
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I have read in a long time
The most interesting, educational and fascinating tome I have had the privilege to read in the last 10 years. An education in itself. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Natasha
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome
Great journalism. Can't recommend it enough. Takes you inside to where crucial decisions were made. You will be so much more knowledgeable after reading it.
Published 14 months ago by Spencer
5.0 out of 5 stars A great insight
I saw the last 30 minutes of the film on TV. Bought it this book on Amazon that evening. It's very readable and brings all the tension of the situation. Read more
Published 15 months ago by MR JAMES W S LOCK
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book - worth the read - but has shortcommings
This is a fantastic book detailing first person accounts that record the events leading up to and resulting from the failure of Lehman Brothers. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Robin L. Stacpoole
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