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5 Books about the Financial Crisis and the Economic Aftermath

It’s been four years that Wall Street nearly crashed the economy and was bailed out by the government. Since that time, the Dow has recuperated and Wall Street is buzzing along. The bonuses that appalled everyone are still handed over—some might argue they’re much smaller—and many of the men and women who were responsible in helping unravel the economy still have jobs while many Americans are unemployed or underemployed.

What happened on Wall Street led to the worst economic paralysis since the Great Depression; now that it’s an election year, we felt it was worth revisiting what occurred on Wall Street, why the big banks were bailed out, why we’re still in what seems a never-ending recession, and why the gap between rich and poor is becoming wider.

All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis, by Joe Nocera and Bethany McLean

As soon as the financial crisis erupted, the finger-pointing began. Should the blame fall on Wall Street, Main Street, or Pennsylvania Avenue? On greedy traders, misguided regulators, sleazy subprime companies, cowardly legislators, or clueless home buyers? According to Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera, two of America’s most acclaimed business journalists, the real answer is all of the above-and more.

Many devils helped bring hell to the economy. And the full story, in all of its complexity and detail, is like the legend of the blind men and the elephant. Almost everyone has missed the big picture. Almost no one has put all the pieces together. All the Devils Are Here goes back several decades to weave the hidden history of the financial crisis in a way no previous book has done. It explores the motivations of everyone from famous CEOs, cabinet secretaries, and politicians to anonymous lenders, borrowers, analysts, and Wall Street traders. It delves into the powerful American mythology of homeownership. And it proves that the crisis ultimately wasn’t about finance at all; it was about human nature.

Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the FinancialSystem–and Themselves, by Andrew Ross Sorkin

Andrew Ross Sorkin delivers the first true behind-the-scenes, moment-by-moment account of how the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression developed into a global tsunami. From inside the corner office at Lehman Brothers to secret meetings in South Korea, and the corridors of Washington, Too Big to Fail is the definitive story of the most powerful men and women in finance and politics grappling with success and failure, ego and greed, and, ultimately, the fate of the world’s economy.

Through unprecedented access to the players involved, Too Big to Fail re-creates all the drama and turmoil, revealing never disclosed details and elucidating how decisions made on Wall Street over the past decade sowed the seeds of the debacle. This true story is not just a look at banks that were “too big to fail,” it is a real-life thriller with a cast of bold-faced names who themselves thought they were too big to fail.

The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008, by Paul Krugman

In this major bestseller, Paul Krugman warns that, like diseases that have become resistant to antibiotics, the economic maladies that caused the Great Depression have made a comeback. He lays bare the 2008 financial crisis—the greatest since the 1930s—tracing it to the failure of regulation to keep pace with an out-of-control financial system. He also tells us how to contain the crisis and turn around a world economy sliding into a deep recession. Brilliantly crafted in Krugman’s trademark style—lucid, lively, and supremely informed—this new edition of The Return of Depression Economics has become an instant classic. A hard-hitting new foreword takes the paperback edition right up to the present moment.

The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future, by Joseph E. Stiglitz

The top 1 percent of Americans control 40 percent of the nation’s wealth. And, as Joseph E. Stiglitz explains, while those at the top enjoy the best health care, education, and benefits of wealth, they fail to realize that “their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live.”

Stiglitz draws on his deep understanding of economics to show that growing inequality is not inevitable: moneyed interests compound their wealth by stifling true, dynamic capitalism. They have made America the most unequal advanced industrial country while crippling growth, trampling on the rule of law, and undermining democracy. The result: a divided society that cannot tackle its most pressing problems. With characteristic insight, Stiglitz examines our current state, then teases out its implications for democracy, for monetaryand budgetary policy, and for globalization. He closes with a plan for a more just and prosperous future.

Crisis Economics: A Crash Course in the Future of Finance, By Nouriel Roubini and Stephen Mihm

Renowned economist Nouriel Roubini electrified the financial community by predicting the current crisis before others in his field saw it coming. This myth-shattering book reveals the methods he used to foretell the current crisis and shows how those methods can help us make sense of the present and prepare for the future.

Using an unconventional blend of historical analysis with masterful knowledge of global economics, Nouriel Roubini and Stephen Mihm, a journalist and professor of economic history, present a vital and timeless book that proves calamities to be not only predictable but also preventable and, with the right medicine, curable.

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