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Whoops!: Why everyone owes everyone and no one can pay [Paperback]

John Lanchester
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Oct 2010

John Lanchester's Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay is the unbelievable true story of the economic crisis.

We are, to use a technical economic term, screwed. The cowboy capitalists had a party with everyone's money and now we're all paying for it. What went wrong? And will we learn our lesson - or just carry on as before, like celebrating surviving a heart attack with a packet of Rothmans?

John Lanchester travels with a cast of characters - including reckless banksters, snoozing regulators, complacent politicians, predatory lenders, credit-drunk spendthrifts, and innocent bystanders to understand deeply and genuinely what is happening and why we feel the way we do.

'Devastatingly funny ... the route map to the crazed world of contemporary finance we have all been waiting for'
  Will Self

'Bang on the money'
  Independent

'Explains the crisis in a way that actually sticks ... to my amazement, I finally grasp it'
  Janice Turner, The Times

'Endlessly witty ... will turn any reader into an expert within the space of 200 pages'
  Jonathan Coe

'Terrific ... there is no better guide to the crazy world of high finance'
  GQ

John Lanchester is a journalist, novelist and winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award. His fiction includes Mr Philips, The Debt to Pleasure and Capital. He is a regular contributor to the London Review of Books and the New Yorker, with a monthly column in Esquire.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (7 Oct 2010)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 014104571X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141045719
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

This is what George Bernard Shaw might have called An Intelligent Person's Guide to the Crisis of Modern Capitalism, and everyone ought to read it (Robert Harris, Sunday Times)

Original . . . beautifully written . . . both entertaining and profoundly anger-inducing (Chris Blackhurst, Evening Standard)

The route map to the crazed world of contemporary finance we have all been waiting for. John Lanchester's superb book is everything its subject - the 2008 crash - was not: namely lucid, beautifully contrived, comprehensible to the reader with no specialist knowledge - and most of all devastatingly funny (Will Self)

Wickedly funny . . . Good humor and good company will be the things that'll get us through (Dwight Garner, New York Times)

Endlessly witty, but the wit is underpinned by a tremendous, unembarrassed anger and moral lucidity. A superb guide which will turn any reader into an expert within the space of 200 pages. (Jonathan Coe)

Explains the madness of modern capitalism with razor-sharp insight, brilliant clarity and a refreshing dose of humour. A great book. (John O'Farrell)

Scarier than Thomas Harris (Nicci French)

John Lanchester's newfound mission: to explain the world of finance to the general public . . . The result is the perfect read for anyone still wondering what went wrong and why. Unless you'd rather they didn't know (Bloomberg)

Literary and profound . . . a master explainer with an excellent grasp of sophisticated finance (Christopher Caldwell, The Daily Beast)

Acidic, frightening, and sharply funny . . . a better book about the global meltdown than any other to date (EW.com)

[A] sober message lurking among Lanchester's delightful wordplay, and it deserves attention by everyone who cares to understand where we are, how we got here and who is responsible (John Lawrence Reynolds, Globe and Mail)

This is a piece of genius . . . It tells a proper story, like a novel, and we're all part of it - which means it is *gripping*. Yes! Gripping! A book about money! I know! But it's true. It is necessary, particularly - but not exclusively - if you're somebody who thinks, 'Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Iceland, um, mortgages, er...' and doesn't want to keep thinking it until the end of time, amoeba-stylee. I humbly posit that it is a masterpiece (India Knight)

Lanchester has turned that fascination - coupled with a kind of astonished anger - into a lucid, conversational account of the crisis designed for non-financial types and helpfully leavened with jokes, swearing and interesting asides (Quentin Webb, Reuters)

An excellent book for anyone wondering what the hell is going on. Triple A, as the credit rating agencies might say (Irish Times)

Or you could simply borrow the book from someone. If they've read it, even better - they won't be expecting you to return it (The Telegraph)

For anyone still wondering what the hell those bankers did with our money, try John Lanchester's deliciously escoriating Whoops! Even someone who can't remember their eight times tables comes away feeling wonderfully well informed (Allison Pearson summer reading recommendation, Psychologies)

This account is by far the most lucid and entertaining explanation of the world banking crisis of 2008 (Megan Walsh summer reading recommendation, Times)

A lively lay reader's guide to the financial crisis, written by a novelist who sought to educates himself about banking and its failures. Funny and pointed, it exposes the gulf between the two cultures of modern Britain: financial and non-financial (Ed Crooks summer reading recommendation, Financial Times)

If you want to look like a rock of good sense, a person who is deep and wise and worried, then I suggest Whoops! by John Lanchester ... If only the Queen Mother were still alive, it would make sense even to her (Colm Toibin summer reading recommendation, Guardian)

About the Author

John Lanchester is a journalist, novelist and winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award. He is a regular contributor to the London Review of Books and the New Yorker, with a monthly column in Esquire. John's piece on our love affair with the City, 'Cityphilia', generated much response on its publication in January 2008 and indeed predicted a worldwide crash based on the misuse of financial derivatives. In October 2008 he charted the crisis as it had developed over the year in 'Cityphobia', which also attracted much attention as a piece that explained not only what had happened, but how we felt about it. John was raised in South-East Asia and now lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
159 of 160 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An immensely readable account of the credit crunch by an informed observer rather than a participant with an axe to grind.

Nobody could avoid being totally bemused by the shenanigins of the financial institutions who brought about the credit crunch in 2008 - 2009. I certainly could not nor could I grasp the scale - what does $ trillions mean? How do sane bankers provide mortgages to poor people without any security of assets or income and convert them into triple AAA rated loans? And how can these loans be multiplied up to such an extent that they threaten the global financial markets? What are derivatives and why do they now dominate the financial markets? Should Lehman's bank and the US mortgage companies - Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - have been allowed to fail? Were we right to bail out Northern Rock and rescue our banks whose key expertise is meant to be assessing risk? And why were the credit rating agencies not blowing the whistle on the incompetent bankers - surely that is what they are paid to do?

Whoops provides a comprehensible and entertaining account of what went wrong. He places the credit crunch in historical context - the collapse of communism in 1989 and the liberalisation of the financial markets especially the Big Bang in the UK and the repeal of regulation in the US. He explains in layman's terms the explosion of derivatives like credit default swaps (CDS's) and collateralised debt obligations (CDO's) and how they rapidly came to dominate the markets. The lack of understanding of their risk by those who ran many banks is absolutely staggering.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite simply, brilliant! 13 Mar 2010
By anna
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am deeply grateful to John Lanchester for this lucid, funny and passionate account of the recent Great Crash. Before I read it, I felt impotent and angry; now I feel impotent, angry but informed - and, considering I surrender, numbed and uncomprehending, after two paragraphs of your average money page in the newspaper, I can say that financially informed is an unusual, but satisfying place for me to be. Others have criticised the informal style. It held me spellbound - true, the tone is conversational, the pace as racy as a thriller, but the book is none the worse for that. JL is also articulate, knowledgeable and totally unpatronising. With friendly charm, he kindly assumes that you are both intelligent and curious, and unravels the complexities of the credit crunch with a deftness and lightness of touch that nevertheless confronts head on the profoundly serious situation, moral as well as financial, in which we now find ourselves.
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116 of 120 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece 30 Jan 2010
Format:Hardcover
It's a cliche to say that every body should read a book, but one of the messages from this brilliant book is that most of us blithely went about our business, perhaps enjoying the boom times, wholly unaware of what was happening in financial markets. Yet what was happening was crazy, fascinating, and driven by geniuses scarily out of touch with reality. It is, as John Lanchester argues, one of the greatest stories ever told--and postmodern to boot. We should have been watching and understanding--because now we will feel the pain of our collective failure.

I spent a year at the Stanford Business School, studied finance, and read several issues a year of the Economist, but I had no idea what was happening. Nor despite reading Galbraith's "The Crash" and Vince Cable's book did I understand it until I read John's book. It is a tremendous achievement and illustrates the value of a highly intelligent mind untainted by technical immersion in a subject studying a phenomenon.

John brings all his wit and novelist skills to the book so that it is highly readable, explains the near incomprehensible, and makes you laugh. It's one of life's greatest pleasures to be fascinated, amused, and educated all at the same time.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seriously scary stuff 24 Oct 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book will make any thinking person livid with rage and very, very worried. By pure luck I read it back-to-back with Fools Gold by Gillian Tett, an equally excellent though very different account of the same events. (In Whoops! John Lanchester pays tribute to Ms Tett as one of the few journalists to recognise and warn against the risks which the banks were running before it all blew up). Whoops! is aimed squarely at the intelligent reader who isn't an expert in high finance and the author succeeds brilliantly at explaining in everyday terms concepts which are, at best, abstruse. Given its subject matter, the book is quite astonishingly entertaining but the author's conclusion is both bleak and frightening - a real, effective fix for the banks is not going to happen until after the NEXT crisis and that crisis, whenever it arrives, will be far worse than 2008 because "it will be close to impossible for the politicians to help the banks stay solvent". The most worrying thing about this conclusion is that it is contained in an epilogue added in August 2010. Whoops! is a superb book which should be compulsory reading for every banker (or "bankster" as Mr Lanchester prefers to style them), politician and voter. Highly recommended but ultimately a very uncomfortable read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars fun, engaging, insightful
Great insight into the financial crash of 2008. Fun and engaging read with lots of real life anecdotes....but useful to have a grasp for economics before you dive in.
Published 4 months ago by Michael Simpson
5.0 out of 5 stars They can be so stupid
What this excellent books demonstrate clearly is that the financial masters of the universe are stupid. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Kathlynne Chatterton
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and worrying
A very interesting (and readable) guide to the financial crash - but also rather alarming, since it's apparent that even some bankers didn't quite understand the products they were... Read more
Published 5 months ago by pixie g
5.0 out of 5 stars Politicians please read this book
The debt crises, the problems with the banking industry and the implosion of the american property market all explained in well considered, easy to follow chapters. Read more
Published 9 months ago by A. Moseley
4.0 out of 5 stars Whoops! by John Lanchester
I like John Lanchester. Capital was excellent.

This new book is non fiction but very addictive. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Dr. R. W. Slee
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes sense of what could have been financial Armaggedon
This is a small enough book for us all to tackle and we all need to understand what went wrong with our financial system as we all need to be able to understand where our... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Happy Chappie
5.0 out of 5 stars How Finance Blew Up
Very readable explanation of the background and causes of the financial crisis. It would be great if this was mandatory reading in schools and colleges as it spells out the way in... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Taka
5.0 out of 5 stars Super layman's guide to the great economic crash
Lanchester explains how the great crash happened in simple terms with simple everyday analogies that anyone could understand. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mike in Sussex
4.0 out of 5 stars Where to from here?
Lanchester's strength in this book is that he isn't an expert on the subject. He is an objective outsider. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Laurence Dann
5.0 out of 5 stars Great explanations
John Lanchester does a brilliant job of explaining the various financial instruments in play in the crisis. Thoroughly recommend this.
Published 13 months ago by Chris
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