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Thrifty Chick "Bexando" (Scotland)

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Who Runs Britain?: and Who's to Blame for the Economic Mess We're in
Who Runs Britain?: and Who's to Blame for the Economic Mess We're in
by Robert Peston
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.49

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear your diary for a week!, 9 April 2010
I've had this book sitting on the shelf since last April after buying it in a fit of enthusiasm one day. Truth be told, I was a tad wary of picking it up, thinking that I would understand not a word of it and be left feeling more bewildered than fiscally enlightened.

I couldn't have been more wrong. Rarely has a subject grabbed me with so much force and simply compelled me into sitting down and learning. I kept finding myself opening it up again while sitting at my desk, desperately trying to cram in a few extra lines between tasks. The writing is vivid and engaging, and the subject matter actually makes for eye-popping reading at times, which isn't something I thought I would ever encounter in a book dealing with that jaw-droppingly sexy subject that is finance.

Peston covers most topics economic, from private equity to hedge funds to collateralized debt obligations (I didn't even know those existed let alone what they were before!) and their relevance to the market meltdowns of 2007 and beyond. It really is a whistle-stop `tourist guide' to modern economics, a subject which, I would hazard, swathes of us know shamefully little about. I personally have been completely staggered by some of the things I have read here. Particularly shocking and upsetting are Peston's insights into the way in which our elected representatives have consistently bowed down to what he refers to as `the plutocracy' through generous tax treatment, special favours and even knighthoods.

It appears to me that the world of the uber-financials is a sort of sub-terranian environment within itself that many (most?) of us in our day-to-day lives are quite happy to completely ignore or dismiss on the basis that it's too complicated to even begin to try and understand. Well Peston has done all of the hard graft for us here. The book has evidently been well-researched and his arguments are presented in an extremely readable fashion. When I come to think of it, there's actually no good reason for us not to be clued up on these things, especially given the fact that we are all affected one way or another by the wheeling and dealing that goes on in our biggest financial cities. As far as the UK is concerned (and there are some fascinating insights into other countries as well), I'd definitely advocate Peston's book as a good place to start reading. Just clear your diary of all prior engagements first!

All Consuming
All Consuming
by Neal Lawson
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read this book and make some changes., 17 Nov 2009
This review is from: All Consuming (Paperback)
I found All Consuming to be an extremely readable account of the problems a society runs into when consumption is the order of the day to the exclusion of everything else. The UK today represents a clear case of money taking precedence over time, health and happiness, and for what? For increased crime rates, a surge in the numbers of people suffering from depression and anxiety and a planet that is literally burning itself into extinction? Lawson explains at one point that if the entire world was to consume at the same rate as we do here in the UK, we would need three planets to sustain us. This makes me feel categorically ashamed of myself, and of this country. It effectively means that we are relying on poverty to sustain our shopping addiction. At its most basic, if someone somewhere wasn't going without food, a clueless Barbie-type in the UK wouldn't be able to buy a new outfit at Primark only a couple of days after she bought the last one. It's ludicrous.

Having said that, I didn't find there to be a huge volume of material in this book that I hadn't come across elsewhere before, and there is a fair amount of repetition, especially where Lawson describes the consequences of our all-consuming actions. I would have enjoyed the book more had there been a better balance between the 'what went wrong' and the 'how we can fix it', and there were also a considerable number of typos which I tend to find quite annoying.

The one thing that does, however, set the book apart from many of the others I have read in this area is its readability. Extremely easy to follow and hugely comprehensible - no prior political or economic knowledge necessary. This makes it a winner in my opinion, and I would implore anyone to read it, if only to have their eyes opened to the issues that surround each and every one of us. I have already passed my copy on and I live in hope that others will do the same. The message contained therein is far too important not to be spread as far as possible.

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