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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I really enjoyed this book
I bought this book weeks ago and only just got around to reading it. I have to say that I really enjoyed it.

Obviously, I know the end, as it were, but it was written like a thriller meaning that I was still keen to see what actually happened. Very unusual and very well done.

If you would like to learn a little something about how to blow a hole...
Published on 21 Sep 2010 by S. Langridge

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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great story but the writing is abysmal
The story is very interesting - it's good to get the view from inside Lehman Brothers. I assume that all the dates and numbers are correct - no reason that they shouldn't be

But - the writing is not good. Too often the authors - both the former investment banker and the guy who made it into book - substitute made up conversations to advance the story. I'm...
Published on 21 Oct 2009 by James Johnston


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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great story but the writing is abysmal, 21 Oct 2009
By 
This review is from: A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Incredible Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers (Paperback)
The story is very interesting - it's good to get the view from inside Lehman Brothers. I assume that all the dates and numbers are correct - no reason that they shouldn't be

But - the writing is not good. Too often the authors - both the former investment banker and the guy who made it into book - substitute made up conversations to advance the story. I'm not saying they fabricated the story - it's just that nobody, but nobody, remembers conversations years later - not like these guys pretend the banker did.
It is laziness and a lack of talent that leads to this

Too much of the book is about the author's education in the school of hard knocks, although it doesn't seem that they were all that hard, compared to many more people of his generation (now in late 30s I'd guess)

His upbringing was so deprived that he never has been a scratch golfer - one or two handicap, maybe. Not too deprived, I think. Maybe that he couldn't get into a better school than U Mass - Dartmouth had more to do with him screwing around while he was in high school.

Anyway - he did want to get to Wall Street, and he did have to do it the hard way - a series of jobs with increasing responsibility, and finally he finds the Holy Grail - his own desk at Lehman Brothers. He was SO happy!

And the story goes on, and he recounts how he and a few other people in his department (in charge of short selling and disposing of damaged goods) saw the mistakes everybody else was making (there is no nuance in his description of people - either they are the best and the brightest, or stupid and evil incarnate at the same time)

And a year or more before Lehman sinks he understands (because he knows what is going on in the mortgage business) that the system is going to collapse. But he wasn't bright enough to add everything up (although others did - a man named Einhorn was selling Lehman short for a year before it failed, and he didn't have as much information as our author - he just could draw reasonable conclusions from the evidence)

So he sticks around and Lehman crashes, taking his Lehman stock (which he couldn't sell, although I don't get the idea he would have sold much before the end even if he had been able to [Lehman stock made up half the bonuses it paid employees like the author, and it was not able to be sold for several years thereafter. I don't know if quitting Lehman would have lifted the restriction; he doesn't say. Probably not)

And he whines - boy does he whine - about all those years of work, and most of it down the drain. He doesn't say whether he saved any of the cash he was paid; if he didn't and relied completely on his illiquid Lehman holdings for his net worth, then he was a very big fool The experience of Enron was fresh - he mentions it. He doesn't say whether it encouraged him to diversify even a little bit. He complains that Lehman wasn't bailed out while Goldman was.

He has a little bit of a point here - but as we all know, it is an unjust world. Republicans like the author - he says he is, or was, a confirmed Reagan-Thatcherite - which means sink or swim EXCEPT when those sinking are deserving hard working investment bankers such as him.

I don't think the author knows what irony is - so I concluded that his lament for some fellow employees was serious e.g., one had to sell his forty million dollar beachfront home, another had to watch his wife's famous art collection be sold et cetera I don't think any were or are homeless and eating in soup kitchens, though
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Assuming the facts are right, interesting, but bad writing style, 13 Jun 2010
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J. Borden (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Incredible Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers (Paperback)
I suppose this is an "instant-tell-all" written quickly to exploit a market opportunity and current interest. The book is interesting from a timeline and events standpoint, but terribly written. Too much about the author, too much speculation about events where he wasn't present, and the language and style is very casual and repetitive.

It is a quick read - just skim over the author trying to build up his own case for calling himself "clever" as he loves to repeat.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An insider's account? Please!, 26 July 2011
This review is from: A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Incredible Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers (Paperback)
Aside from the shockingly poor writing, the hyperbole and offputting and constant personal focus, the most disturbing part of this book is that it is presented as if written by someone who was privy to the decisions, meetings and conversations that decided Lehman's fate.

This guy was nothing more than a mid-level trader who had absolutely no position to know what was going on in the Boardroom, let alone in DC. To pass this off as if it is first-hand reporting, when in fact it is some undisclosed mix of conjecture and second-hand information (with very little in the way of acknowledgement to sources, by the way) is just plain dishonest.

If you want to read a thoroughly-researched, well-written book on the subject: Too Big To Fail is your book.

Don't waste your time or money on this.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 13 Nov 2009
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J. Casey - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Incredible Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers (Paperback)
This is a disappointing read. Clearly the author(s) had vast scope for delivering a gripping inside view of the goings on at Lehman. However the serious subject matter is waylaid in a geewhiz semi-autobiographical type delivery. The story is populated with pen pictures of how brilliant most of the boys and girls at Lehman's were and how hard they worked - there are just too many cringe-inducing episodes lauding peers and superiors. All of which serves to dilute the credibility of the witness and to question the balance of the presentation. Sticking with it to the finish is a real challenge with this book.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting story, terribly written by someone with a grudge, 1 Nov 2009
By 
J. H. R. Cornell (Guildford) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Incredible Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers (Paperback)
The subject of the book is the collapse and bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in the autumn of 2008. The book was written by Larry McDonald, a successful but mid level bond trader working in the "distressed debt" team.

Larry had one dream in life and that was to work in Wall Street for an investment bank. The book relates his journey through life until he ends up at Lehman Brothers, after being head hunted by a friend.

Sadly rather than writing the book himself he chose to use the services of a ghost writer, Patrick Robinson, so I don't really know who to blame for the appalling writing style which ruins the book. Instead of simply relating what happened factually through most of the book it lurches into passages of text like "They carried our CFO, Chris O'Meara, out of the combat trenches with a few gunshot wounds and very muddy boots. After months of internecine warfare facing the light cavalry of Wall Street's analysts and researchers. Dick Fuld, his commanding officer, pulled him back from the front line to a more sheltered position. There are no medals awarded for ducking and diving in the face of the enemy, but Chris deserved one for gallantry under fire". Other examples were "The Lehman Board contained no Prince Hal, the swashbuckling young Henry V preparing to lead his troops to victory at Agincourt." Some of the descriptions were so awful that I would put the book down and leave it for a few hours or days.

The other huge criticism of the book is that, as Lehman Brother made the author redundant and then collapsed, wiping out a sizeable shareholding that he had put up through the portion of his annual bonus paid as shares, he is always going to have an axe to grind, so its not in the slightest bit impartial. The people who work for Lehman Brothers are either described as being brilliant, especially the other members of his team or they are incompetent buffoons (Dick Fuld and Joe Gregory). The author also isn't that keen on the mortgage brokers who sold the sub prime mortgages which brought the system to its knees, he refers to them as "body builders".

If you can get past these huge failing, the book is quite interesting and gives a practionners account of how Wall Street and Lehman Brothers overloads themselves with sub prime mortgages and inflated asset purchases. From the authors perspective it was easy to see that things were going wrong and he can't understand why Dick Fuld and Joe Gregory failed to heed the warnings that they were being given.

In summary if you are looking for a well written balanced book about the Collapse of Lehman Brothers I would steer clear of this book, I am sure there will be others that do a much better job. I have read quite a few of financial books, especially about the credit crunch and this is probably the worst.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I really enjoyed this book, 21 Sep 2010
This review is from: A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Incredible Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers (Paperback)
I bought this book weeks ago and only just got around to reading it. I have to say that I really enjoyed it.

Obviously, I know the end, as it were, but it was written like a thriller meaning that I was still keen to see what actually happened. Very unusual and very well done.

If you would like to learn a little something about how to blow a hole through the odd $60 billion, this is the book to read!

It is written as a personal account, including details of some meetings and conversations so that the reader really has a feel for what was going on internally and what might have happened otherwise.

In short, I highly recommend the book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A self absorbed author, 29 Aug 2010
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This review is from: A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Incredible Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers (Paperback)
As someone who works in the bond market I got little colour from this book: it is all a bit breathless and the author makes himself a bit too much a Master of the Universe (cf Tom Wolfe): this said he gives a powerful picture of Richard Fuld's remoteness from reality and his tactic, when challenged,to bear his fangs.
A good read but this book is not the definitive one on why Lehman tanked.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible read, 25 Dec 2009
I bought the book for an insider's view of the Lehman Brothers collapse - but it is so terribly written. The worst thing about this book is the "author"'s overuse of cliches - not one per page, but about three to four per page, consistently. Furthermore, he writes in such a manner that makes it sound like he OBVIOUSLY KNEW the credit crunch was going to come along and that if he, or his buddies, were the CEO, this would never have happened. The only vaguely positive thing I could hope to get out of this book is that a)it was a cathartic experience for the author, b)that it brought him some revenue after losing his job at Lehman. If you want the real story, you have to read Ross Sorkin's "Too Big To Fail". That is an amazing read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars More cliches than an undergraduate admissions essay, 23 Nov 2009
I don't even know where to begin with my review of this book. I purchased it for an "insider's view" of the Lehman collapse and eighty golf cliches and self congratulatory chapters later, I only needed to know that the author was the type of employee that succeeded at Lehman Brothers to know why it failed. "A Colosal Waste of Time" would be a better title for this book. This guy talked about studying for and passing the Series 7 exam like he was earning a doctorate in finance. This confirmed my suspicion that current events books are usually awful and that bankers have the mentality and writing style of high schoolers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, 22 Aug 2013
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This review is from: A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Incredible Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers (Paperback)
Nice book giving u details of what happened on the inside of Lehman brothers. I would have wanted to know more though about what went on in the board room, the conversations between Dick Fuld and his top management. Larry not being high enough in the ladder portrays things the way he believes them to be, but reality could have been different or more interesting.
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