You've put off buying that gift for Dad or that strange aunt or uncle or the sibling who loves to ruminate on world events. One of our favorite books of the season is a brilliant burst of pop economics that will appeal to the thinker, the traveler, the mover and shaker — Michael Lewis's new book, Boomerang.
Lewis — one of our great chroniclers of the modern deal (see also Moneyball) — picks up where he ended his best-selling explanation of the Wall Street economic meltdown, The Big Short. In the new book's introduction, he retrieves from discarded research an interview with a colorful Dallas hedge fund manager who looked beyond the fractured domestic economic landscape to the disaster forming overseas. Entire countries were threatening to collapse, and this shrewd market player was trying to stay ahead and determining where to move his chips. The situation was perilous, he assured, not the end of the world but bad enough that when Lewis asked him about the safest place to invest his money, the hedge fund manager told him, "Guns and gold."
A curious layman reading about the folly of big western capitalism might be tempted to throw down this book in fear and disgust if Lewis wasn't so damned funny and sympathetically wide-eyed. In the following pages, he scuttles over the globe from one house of cards to the next — Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Germany — describing the crisis in each country and explaining how it all happened. Along the way we meet colorful locals, interesting traditions, bits of lore and history, all of which illuminate the distinctive ways in which each culture has wrought its own ruin.
Of course, the great similarity in each imperiled country is how their misfortune can be traced back to the United States' influence, the forebearer of modern financial folly ... hence the title. This is no America-bashing book, for those who can't stomach self-criticism, but instead a wide-eyed, reasoned and refreshingly casual piece of investigative journalism. Lewis manages to encapsulate complex and intriguing ideas into palatable commentary, replete with hilarious anecdotes and memorable characters.
By the end of Boomerang, you may not know whether to laugh or cry, but you'll be tempted to read it again so you can relay it all back to friends.