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A blog about the economy and the Sacramento-area real estate market.

June 30, 2010
Best books about the housing crash and financial meltdown

41vvmbigshortXp3IRL._SL500_AA266_PIkin2,BottomRight,-16,34_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpgI recently finished reading "The Big Short" by Michael Lewis, a really excellent book in which he debunks the notion that no one could have seen the coming financial crash. I've now rumbled through several interesting histories of the terror that gripped us all though much of 2008, especially the fateful month of September when it appeared all civilization was about to collapse. Believe you me, all these Sacramento mortgages that were easy to get and hard to pay off were all part of a huge money-making machine with no thoughts of consequences.  

Page 260 in Lewis' book contains one of the great paragraphs in the history of books (OK, maybe books about the financial industry):

He writes:
"The people in a position to resolve the financial crisis were, of course, the same people who had failed to foresee it: Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, future Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack, Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit, and so on. A few Wall Street CEOs had been fired for their roles in the subprime mortgage catastrophe, but most remained in their jobs, and they, of all people, became important characters operating behind the closed doors, trying to figure out what to do next. With them were a handful of government officials - the same government officials who should have known a lot more about what Wall Street firms were doing, back when they were doing it. All shared a distinction: They had proven far less capable of grasping basic truths in the heart of the U.S. financial system than a one-eyed money manager with Asperger's syndrome."

51nVgreatesteverkFua0JL._SL160_AA160_.jpgRight now, I am trying to slog through "The Greatest Trade Ever," a tale about investor John Paulson who made a fortune shorting subprime mortgages. It seems for whatever reason to be slow going.

I recommend "A Colossal Failure of Common Sense" by Lawrence G. 51SIovcommonsenseP1D1L._SL160_AA160_.jpgMcDonald. It offers a great insider sense of the chaos building inside investment bank Lehman Brothers as it gorged on subprime mortgages. Great, too, is a sense of The Central Valley being an alarm bell for all that was about to go spectacularly wrong.

41CCtoobigl0Jf-T7L._SL160_AA160_.jpgCheck out "Too Big to Fail," by Andrew Ross Sorkin. It's largely a gripping chronicle of that horrifying weekend when the establishment let Lehman Brothers go into bankruptcy and Merill Lynch became part of Bank of America.

I also liked "Street Fighters, The Last 72 hours of Bear Stearns, " by 5streetfighers1jOl+Ew5ML._SL160_AA160_.jpgKate Kelly. It's a little drier, it seemed to me. Nontheless, it's all about madness gripping Wall Street in March 2008. I can still remember that Sunday night waiting for the Asian markets to open, and having a sense of what awesome trouble we were all in. And we were.  (Images courtesy of Amazon.com).

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