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Too Big to Fail: Inside the Battle to Save Wall Street Paperback – 29 Oct 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (29 Oct. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • 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 (112 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 137,457 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

Review

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

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Mooch on 17 Dec. 2009
Format: Paperback
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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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful By J. Duducu on 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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David Bradshaw on 11 Jan. 2011
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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Format: Paperback
I won't repeat in detail what many reviewers have already written - but in short by telling the tale from the perspective of the personalities involved and focusing on the drama of the events - Sorkin produces an extremely readable, page-turning account of the 2008 financial crisis.

Instead the main view I wanted to add is that it would be great if Mr Sorkin could produce a revised version to provide what would then arguably be the definitive account of the crisis. The revised version could useful reflect the following points:

1. The current version is very much Wall Street focused (which indeed is what it claims to be). The crisis was however global and inclusion of events such as the drama in Iceland, the rescue of Fortis, the bailouts of the UK banks, etc. would more fully reflect the scope of events.

2. Too Big to Fail does not include all the major events of the crisis - for example a noteable omission is the fact that the crisis revealed other scandals that had been taking place hidden by the excesses of the boom years - Madoff, Kerviel, Stanford and the like.

3. While I loved the dramatic perspective from which the book portrays events and wouldn't want it to be re-written as an academic text, the final chapter which reflects on some of the lessons learned from the crisis could be stronger and could also take a look at what steps could be taken to prevent history from repeating itself.

4. The focus of the current account on events on Wall Street and in Washington unfortunately means the book does not provide any particularly useful insights on how events were actually impacting everyday individuals throughout the world. I'm sure by doing this the events could be put into proper context and additional drama could be provided.
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