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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 15 December 2013
The title of the review says it all: I found this book by turns enjoyable, fascinating and horrifying. The central message is to be responsible and pay your way in the world - valuable advice we are already forgetting, I fear. It will be interesting to see where we are by 2020; I suspect most of our bad habits will remain and most of the good advice forgotten.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 10 April 2013
This late addition to the post-financial-crisis-analysis genre has the feel of someone cashing in on a trend (and on his name). Peston writes well enough, for the most part, and there are a few chapters where he might actually be telling some readers something new, but only if they haven't read any of the earlier books on the subject.

There are long paragraphs of facts and figures that become quite tedious, and the book is repetitive and in places poorly edited. It comes across as a bit rushed and cobbled together, presumably with a lot of help from the co-author, who gets his name added in tiny print. This rushed feel is confirmed by what appears to be a last-minute chapter tacked on the end, about the Libor scandal at Barclays, which probably broke just before the book was going to print. No attempt is made to blend this information more smoothly into the text, so it comes rather obviously after the original concluding chapter.

But perhaps I'm being unfair. There's a lot of detail, some of it interesting, about British banks in particular, and also some good stuff on the Eurozone. Not all chapters are up to the same standard, however, and some appear to be a rehash of previous writings by the author, sometimes on subjects that have no relevance to the main theme of the book (lots of statistics on mobile-phone use in the developing world, for example).
My biggest criticism is that, apart from a few obvious points about reducing the power of the banks, there is very little in this book that fits the title: How Do We Fix This Mess (if one can fix a mess -- shouldn't messes be cleaned up rather than fixed?)

This book is mostly about the state of British and international banking, and as such is probably of limited appeal. Those who might be interested have probably read a lot of this before. As Business Editor of the BBC, Peston knows his stuff, but this adds little to the large stack of books on the financial crisis, and as I said, there are no new ideas here with regard to a fix.
This strikes me as a typical case of a book being published because of who the author is, rather than because of what he has to say.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 November 2013
This is a really important subject and a really important book. Well written and well researched.

Robert Peston describes clearly and in a way which the public can understand, the shocking mess of the financial system from 2007 on. The biggest collapse since the Great Depression of the 1920s, and yet most financial leaders and politicians were totally blind to it even weeks before it happened. And on describing how we are still in the mess, and how the problems which caused it have still not been solved. He is not so clear on describing a clear roadmap out of it, but that is the nature of the beast, and he at least gives some ideas and describes where we need to get to.
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on 18 March 2015
This book undoubtedly makes interesting reading and also makes a complex subject quite accessible. However, there is just one, possibly fatal, flaw: several statements suggest that Robert Peston does not understand where money comes from. For example, on page 331 he says "Now, to repeat a mantra you will have a few times in this book, when banks cannot borrow, they cannot lend." In other places he talks repeatedly about the importance of savers deposits in allowing banks to lend i.e. that this is what they are lending. This is flatly contradicted by the following statement on the bank of England's website and elsewhere " Money creation in practice differs from some popular misconceptions — banks do not act simply as intermediaries, lending out deposits that savers place with them, and nor do they ‘multiply up’ central bank money to create new loans and deposits...In the modern economy, most money takes the form of bank deposits. But how those bank deposits are created is often misunderstood: the principal way is through commercial banks making loans. Whenever a bank makes a loan, it simultaneously creates a matching deposit in the borrower’s bank account, thereby creating new money [i.e. creates money out of thin air!]. The reality of how money is created today differs from the description found in some economics textbooks. Rather than banks receiving deposits when households save and then lending them out, bank lending creates deposits". Sadly Peston's interpretation of the causes of the 'mess' and the suggested remedies are undermined by this fundamental misconception that he seems to have. For more information about where money currently comes from and a suggested, better alternative see www.positivemoney.org. Needless to say Peston doesn't mention why and how the current creation of money, which is simply a form of debt, is the main faultline running through the entire world's current financial system. Nor does the creation of a better approach feature in his rather brief list of remedies to the 'mess' that he comprehensively describes.
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Like, I suspect a lot of people, I have struggled to understand just how the banks got into the mess they did, what is happening to try to untangle it, what is going on in the Eurozone and more. And thanks to this book I now have a much better feel for what it's all about. It's the sort of thing that is very difficult to put across on the TV news, requiring a more detailed, sprawling approach possible in a book, and Peston really does make things a whole lot clearer. He also makes it clear that there hasn't been enough done to prevent this happening again - the regulatory system still encourages the bankers to dream up byzantine mechanisms to get around the rules and increase their bonuses.

What's more as a bonus (the acceptable face of the bonus) there's an explanation of the whole LIBOR scandal business - and an in-depth analysis of China's finances and why there is a lot of potential for problems there too. Of course, you have to have an interest in current affairs/business and finance to find this as fascinating as I did, but it is important reading if you want to get on top of this crucial world situation affecting all our livelihoods.

One thing Robert Peston is famous for is his rather strange, drawling intonation and the book does have an equivalent in a habit of far too often saying 'In other words' or 'Put simply this means' or something similar. Time and again he will make a statement and then re-state it in simple terms. (He actually does this twice in a single paragraph at one point.) Usually the restatement is valuable, and sometimes having both versions helps because one uses the terminology you often hear but don't understand and the other clarifies - but it does happen far too often. I also ought to mention Laurence Knight who appears in very small letters on the front - he presumably co-wrote the book, so part of the acknowledgement for an excellent bit of work should go to him.

If you were baffled by the credit crunch, banking behaviour, the Eurozone crisis or any combination thereof and want to know more, this is definitely the book for you.
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on 25 October 2012
As a lay person it is very difficult indeed to truly comprehend the big picture of the current financial situation. I have read the other reviews of this book, some of which go into considerable descriptive detail so I will not attempt to replicate this here. Robert Peston has a very distinctive style which may not be to everyone's taste but I love it! Some of the concepts he has to explain are pretty complex and I appreciate the way in which he explains them in several different ways and then tells you what is really important with his trademark phrase: 'Now here's the thing'. The fact that he does not provide a definitive solution, which I have seen as a complaint, seems to me to be a bit much considering what a masterly job he has done in analysing the problems. I think a simplistic solution is neither probable nor desirable but there are plenty of ideas about the direction we should go and, frankly, it is not something government can solve alone anyway. What does come out of this is just how minor are the supposed points of difference between Labour and the ConDems.

I have seen criticism that the book was written quickly but I don't see this as necessarily bad. However speedily it was written it has been well proof-read as I could not find any errors. My criticism is reserved for the process of 'Kindelisation' which has led to 2 fundamental flaws: Firstly the book is not recognised as being English by the Kindle dictionary system and secondly what looks like an excellent and comprehensive index lacks any numbers!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 March 2014
This is a well written book by a man who is better poised than most to talk about the subject at hand. He goes into detail explaining what happened, the likely outcomes and who's to blame.

My only criticism is that for a book aimed at the economic layman, he delves a bit too deeply into very dry areas of banking that are of little interest to anyone who doesn't work in the field. This made it difficult to read at times and caused me to skip to the end of the chapter more than once.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 November 2014
This is good and approachable mainstream analysis of how and why a 2007 liquidity freeze in the CDO securitisation markets turned into the most devastaing financial catastrophe since the 1930s.

If you tend to glaze over and roll your eyes at the mention of CDO securitisation markets and liquidity freezes, then this book is for you! Peston uses his best man-in-the-pub tone to explain, clearly and simply, what these things are and why they mattered so much in 2007/8. I can't think of a single journalist who had better access to the UK's financial movers and shakers at this critical time, and the most exciting parts of this book (yes, really) are Peston's gripping inside story of how Northern Rock unravelled in 2007 and how contagion from the US bond markets came within a whisker of bankrupting the UK in September 2008. It's an almost unbelievable story, and one that's well worth reading.

Peston tells his tale very well indeed but, for my money, his account lacks the penetrating wit and elegance of John Lanchester's Whoops!: Why everyone owes everyone and no one can pay' If you only buy one book on the financial crisis, my advice would be to head straight to Lanchester. If you can't quite believe what Lanchester says, and you feel you need a second opinion, then Peston's your man!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 21 November 2013
This book needs some serious editing to improve the reader experience and information transfer. Whilst Peston may be able to get away with it on TV, there is no excuse for it in the written word. There are useful insights and explanation buried in there, so he does understand the issues and the history. You do have to ask, however, given that knowledge why he is so forgiving and accommodating to the politicians responsible when he is interviewing them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 August 2013
I have read a number of accounts of the 2008 banking crisis and subsequent impact on the world economy. So why read this? Well for the for the 1st time I got an insight into the Basel rules and how they may have contributed to the problem but also a very clear view about what needs to be done differently in future. The analysis of the growth in china and its flaws was insightful. Fairly easy read for complex topic
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