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From Wall Street to the whole wide world

To mark the 10th anniversary of the 2008 financial crisis, we pick 20 books that look at it through the lens of history, economics, politics and society

Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

The 2008 financial crisis shook global markets as badly as the Great Depression of the 1930s. What started with the subprime mortgage crisis in the US, led to the collapse of Lehman Brothers and eventually had a ripple effect far beyond. To mark the 10th anniversary of the crash, we pick 20 books that look at the crisis through the lens of history, economics, politics and society

Too Big To Fail—Inside The Battle To Save Wall Street By Andrew Ross Sorkin, (2010, Penguin, 550)

Written like a thriller, this book gives a detailed account of the events leading up to the Lehman collapse. The narrative is brought to life by personality sketches of, and conversations with, the principal characters involved.

The End Of Wall Street By Roger Lowenstein , (2010, Penguin, 550)

Based on interviews with nearly 200 Wall Street CEOs and top government officials, this is a ringside view of the end of America’s bounding optimism, embodied by the 2008 crash.

A Failure Of Capitalism—The Crisis Of ’08 And The Descent InTo Depression By Richard A. Posner, (2009, Harvard University Press, $20, around 1,420)

In his revisiting of the crisis, Posner, an advocate of free markets, examines the factors that led to it, and why the crisis wasn’t anticipated in spite of the dire lessons from the 1930s.

Crash Of The Titans—Greed, Hubris, The Fall Of Merrill Lynch, And The Near-Collapse Of Bank Of America By Greg Farrell, (2011, Crown Business, 599)

A compelling saga about the decline and fall of an iconic wealth management firm, this book looks at Merrill Lynch’s merger with Bank of America following the 2008 crash.

Crisis Economics—A Crash Course In The Future Of Finance By Nouriel Roubini And Stephen Mihm, (2010, Penguin, 1,499)

The central argument of this study isn’t unique: financial systems are fragile and easily impact the real economy. But to bolster their thesis, the authors draw on their extensive knowledge of history and global economics, as well as their familiarity with politicians, policymakers, investors and market watchers.

In Fed We Trust—Ben Bernanke’s War On The Great Panic By David Wessel, (2010, Crown Business, 799)

When the US economy crashed in 2008, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke stepped in. This is an analysis of his performance under the circumstances.

The Origin Of Financial Crises—Central Banks, Credit Bubbles, And The Efficient Market Fallacy By George Cooper, (2008, Vintage, 1,499)

An elegantly argued book by a fixed-income analyst, it draws a panoramic picture of economic crises and suggests ways of preventing boom-and-bust cycles.

The Sellout—How Three Decades Of Wall Street Greed And Government Mismanagement Destroyed The Global Financial System By Charles Gasparino, (2009, HaperBusiness, $27.99

If you like popular classics on finance, such as Barbarians At The Gate and Liar’s Poker, this one is for you—packing in all the drama and machinations that led to one of the biggest economic crises.

Guaranteed To Fail—Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, And The Debacle Of Mortgage Finance By Viral V. Acharya, Matthew Richardson, Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh & Lawrence J. White , (2011, Princeton University Press, $24.95)

Tracing the federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, this study shows that guarantees made by these agencies fuelled the rise of mortgage finance, which became a key factor behind the 2008 crisis.

GlobaL Slump—The Economics And Politics Of Crisis And Resistance By David Mcnally, (2010, Spectre, $17)

This forward-looking book predicts an era of political and economic instability, which we are now living through.

The Wizard Of Lies—Bernie Madoff And The Death Of Trust By Diana B. Henriques, (2012, St Martin’s Griffin, $16.99)

The 2008 meltdown exposed numerous tales of chicanery. Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme was one which came unstuck when Lehman Brothers collapsed and the market crashed.

House Of Cards—How Wall Street’s Gamblers Broke Capitalism By William D. Cohan, (2010, Penguin, 750)

Bear Stearns, an elite name on Wall Street, found its fortunes dwindling in 2008. This is the story of reckless trading that brought down the 85-year-old company.

After The Music Stopped—The Financial Crisis, The Response, And The Work Ahead By Alan S. Blinder, (2013, Penguin, $18)

Disagreeing with the belief that larger global forces led to the 2008 crisis, Blinder shows that its causes emanated from US soil and spread outwards.

Age Of Greed—The Triumph Of Finance And The Decline Of America, 1970 To The Present By Jeff Madrick, (2012, Vintage, $17.95)

Madrick tells the story of 2008 through the policies and beliefs of some of its major actors—Milton Friedman, Alan Greenspan, Richard Nixon et al.

On The Brink—Inside The Race To Stop The Collapse Of The Global Financial System BY Henry M. Paulson, (2013, Business Plus, $18

A first-person account by a former secretary of treasury, who was in the eye of the storm that crashed over markets in 2008.

Crashed—How a Decade Of Financial Crises Changed The World By Adam Tooze (2018, Penguin Random House, $35)

The most recent big take on the crisis, Tooze’s book reveals the intertwined nature of the American and European financial systems.

Debt—The First 5000 Years By David Graeber, (2014, Penguin, 399)

How far back does humanity’s dependence on debt go?

At least 5,000 years, says Graeber, joining the dots between the 2008 credit crisis with events you scarcely know about.

Freefall—America, Free Markets, And The Sinking Of The World Economy By Joseph E. Stiglitz, (2010, W.W. Norton & Company, $16.95)

The 2001 Nobel winner for economics makes a case for striking a balance between governments and markets. He also looks at the health, education, energy and manufacturing sectors in the US, which are still reeling 10 years on, since they were affected by the financial crisis in 2008.

The Return Of Depression Economics And The Crisis Of 2008 By Paul Krugman, (2009, W.W. Norton & Company, $16.95)

Krugman offers a critique of regulation, which, he says, has failed to keep pace with a financial system driven by bounding greed.

Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone And No One Can Pay By John Lanchester, (2010, Penguin, $5.99)

If you vaguely know what the 2008 crisis is all about but cannot quite grasp its larger implications, this accessible book is a must-read.

Compiled by Mint Editors

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