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Whoops!: Why everyone owes everyone and no one can pay Hardcover – 28 Jan 2010
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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. I urge you to read it. (Will Self )
Explains the madness of modern capitalism with razor-sharp insight, brilliant clarity and a refreshing dose of humour. A great book. (John O'Farrell )
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 )
Scarier than Thomas Harris (Nicci French )
Original . . . beautifully written . . . both entertaining and profoundly anger-inducing (Chris Blackhurst, Evening Standard )
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 youd rather they didnt know (Bloomberg )
Wickedly funny . . . Good humor and good company will be the things thatll get us through (Dwight Garner, New York Times )
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 )
This is what George Bernard Shaw might have called An Intelligent Persons Guide to the Crisis of Modern Capitalism, and everyone ought to read it (Robert Harris, Sunday Times )
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 theyve read it, even better they wont be expecting you to return it (The Telegraph )
Unashamedly a book for beginners; an informed outsiders explanation of a series of extraordinary events (The Times )
John Lanchester's Whoops! is a book that made my head spin ... I must have read 30 books on the global economic crisis (I'm writing one myself) and this is the best. No question (William Leith, The Observer )
To make the financial sector more responsible, more people must understand what went wrong. As far as the literate British layman or woman is concerned . . . the process starts with reading this book (Andrew Martin, The Telegraph )
A devastating and 'devastatingly funny' analysis of the credit crunch and the subsequent global financial meltdown (London Review of Books )
A valiant and genuinely amusing attempt to describe how finance came off the rails . . . written with a good heart and a lively intellectual curiosity (Stephen Foley, Independent )
He starts with the observable and then scapes away to discover the truth (Paul Myners, FT )
We'll be living with the banking crisis for decades and devouring plenty more books about it too. But few, if any, will prove as pleasurable - and by that I mean as literate or as wickedly funny - as John Lanchester's latest book (The Scotsman )
A remarkable book ... in elegant phrases and witty analogies, [Lanchester] explains the crisis to the economically dyslexic in a way that actually sticks ... I finally grasp stuff such as leverage, credit default swaps, derivatives and am angry with my ditsy former self who dismissed these as the domain of the boring City types you get lumbered with at parties. (Janice Turner Times )
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 thw 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 )
I must have read 30 books on the financial crisis and this is the best, no question. Lanchester has a wonderful gift for explaining things in a simple way. (William Leith The Observer )
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.
Top customer reviews
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. There were exceptions, notably JP Morgan, who had pretty much invented the CDS and CDO industry and could see how profitable were these instruments, but to whom the risks were apparent and so they avoided them.
Lanchester writes a very human story. He discusses psychology research which proves that humans, even expert humans, have a particular propensity to errors in relation to risk. In the context of a widespread belief in the power of the free market to correct itself with its arch exponent Alan Greenspan, long time head of the US Federal Reserve, and with the growth of the mathematical modellers basing their work on historical data which did not include major downturns, risk becomes underrated.
The absence of any regulation by the financial services authorities is, in hindsight, fatal. The entire climate of opinion throughout the world was in favour of laissez faire, deregulation and financial innovation. Even where regulation was supposed to exist, the US's SEC and the UK's FSA were negligent. The SEC was warned about Madoff's long running Ponsi scheme and journalists did foresee the risks building up in the global financial system but "expert overconfidence" ignored them.
John Lanchester's conclusions are very depressing. Whilst not relating to $ trillions, I can get my head around the projected US deficit being bigger than the Marshall Plan, the Louisiana Purchase, the 1980's Loan crisis, the Korean War, the New Deal, the invasion of Iraq, the Vietnam War, and the moon landing all added together. In the UK relatively we are just as badly off. It is going to take a very long time to pay off this debt off. And John Lanchester is sceptical of the action that will be taken to regulate to prevent future crises.
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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