On The Money, Fiction and Non-Fiction

March 4, 2010

There are a handful of swell books just out related to the financial crisis in non-fiction and, not surprisingly given the emotional toll of the downturn, in fiction as well. Below are a few the Library has recently purchased. Click on the title to put a hold on the book.

The Ask by Sam Lipsyte
Milo Burke, a development officer at a third-tier university, has “not been developing”: after a run-in with a well-connected undergrad, he finds himself among the burgeoning class of the newly unemployed. Grasping after odd jobs to support his wife and child, Milo is offered one last chance by his former employer: he must reel in a potential donor—a major “ask”—who, mysteriously, has requested Milo’s involvement. But it turns out that the ask is Milo’s sinister college classmate Purdy Stuart. And the “give” won’t come cheap.

The Hole We’re In by Gabrielle Zevin
Meet the Pomeroys: a church-going family living in a too-red house in a Texas college town. Roger, the patriarch, has impulsively gone back to school, only to find his future ambitions at odds with the temptations of the present. His wife, Georgia, tries to keep things in order at home, but she’s been feeding the bill drawer with unopened envelopes for months and can never find the right moment to confront its swelling con tents. In an attempt to climb out of the holes they’ve dug, Roger and Georgia make a series of choices that have catastrophic consequences for their three children—especially for Patsy, the youngest, who will spend most of her life fighting to overcome them.

The Privileges by Jonathan Dee
Smart, socially gifted, and chronically impatient, Adam and Cynthia Morey are so perfect for each other that united they become a kind of fortress against the world. In their hurry to start a new life, they marry young and have two children before Cynthia reaches the age of twenty-five. Adam is a rising star in the world of private equity and becomes his boss’s protégé. With a beautiful home in the upper-class precincts of Manhattan, gorgeous children, and plenty of money, they are, by any reasonable standard, successful. The future in which they have always believed for themselves and their children—a life of almost boundless privilege, in which any desire can be acted upon and any ambition made real—is still out there, but it is not arriving fast enough to suit them. But the Moreys’ standards are not the same as other people’s.  As Cynthia, at home with the kids day after identical day, begins to drift, Adam is confronted with a choice that will test how much he is willing to risk to ensure his family’s happiness and to recapture the sense that the only acceptable life is one of infinite possibility

Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett
At the heart of Union Atlantic lies a test of wills between a young banker, Doug Fanning, and a retired schoolteacher, Charlotte Graves, whose two dogs have begun to speak to her. When Doug builds an ostentatious mansion on land that Charlotte’s grandfather donated to the town of Finden, Massachusetts, she determines to oust him in court. As a senior manager of Union Atlantic bank, a major financial conglomerate, Doug is embroiled in the company’s struggle to remain afloat. It is Charlotte’s brother, Henry Graves, the president of the New York Federal Reserve, who must keep a watchful eye on Union Atlantic and the entire financial system. Drawn into Doug and Charlotte’s intensifying conflict is Nate Fuller, a troubled high-school senior who unwittingly stirs powerful emotions in each of them.

On the Brink by Henry Paulson
From the man who was in the very middle of this perfect economic storm, ON THE BRINK is Paulson’s fast-paced retelling of the key decisions that had to be made with lightning speed. Paulson puts the reader in the room for all the intense moments as he addressed urgent market conditions, weighed critical decisions, and debated policy and economic considerations with of all the notable players-including the CEOs of top WallStreet firms as well as Ben Bernanke, Timothy Geithner, Sheila Bair, Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain, and then-President George W. Bush. More than an account about numbers and credit risks gone bad, ON THE BRINK is an extraordinary story about people and politics-all brought together during the world’s impending financial Armageddon.

Freefall by Joseph Stiglitz
Stiglitz traces the origins of the Great Recession, eschewing easy answers and demolishing the contention that America needs more billion-dollar bailouts and free passes to those “too big to fail,” while also outlining the alternatives and revealing that even now there are choices ahead that can make a difference. The system is broken, and we can only fix it by examining the underlying theories that have led us into this new “bubble capitalism.”

Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy by Eamon Javers
Today’s global economy has a dark underbelly: the world of corporate espionage. Using cutting-edge technology, age-old techniques of deceit and manipulation, and sheer talent, spies act as the hidden puppeteers of globalized businesses. They control markets, determine prices, influence corporate decisions, and manage the flow of data and information of some of the world’s biggest corporations. In his gripping and alarming book, Eamon Javers takes the reader inside this hidden global industry. Readers meet the spies who conduct surveillance operations, satellite analysts who peer down on corporate targets from the skies, veteran CIA officers who work for hedge funds, and even a Soviet military intelligence officer who now sells his services to American companies.

The Quants by Scott Patterson
Peter Muller, an eccentric, whip-smart whiz kid who’d studied theoretical mathematics at Princeton and now managed a fabulously successful hedge fund called PDT…when he wasn’t playing his keyboard for morning commuters on the New York subway.  Ken Griffin, who as an undergraduate trading convertible bonds out of his Harvard dorm room had outsmarted the Wall Street pros and made money in one of the worst bear markets of all time.  Now he was the tough-as-nails head of Citadel Investment Group, one of the most powerful money machines on earth.  Cliff Asness, the sharp-tongued, mercurial founder of the hedge fund AQR, a man as famous for his computer-smashing rages as for his brilliance, and Boaz Weinstein, chess life-master and king of the credit default swap, who while juggling $30 billion worth of positions for Deutsche Bank found time for frequent visits to Las Vegas with the famed MIT card-counting team.  In 2006, these four men and their cohorts were the new kings of Wall Street.  Muller, Griffin, Asness, and Weinstein were among the best and brightest of a  new breed, the quants.  Over the prior twenty years, this species of math whiz –technocrats who make billions not with gut calls or fundamental analysis but with formulas and high-speed computers– had usurped the testosterone-fueled, kill-or-be-killed risk-takers who’d long been the alpha males the world’s largest casino.  The quants believed that a dizzying, indecipherable-to-mere-mortals cocktail of differential calculus, quantum physics, and advanced geometry held the key to reaping riches from the financial markets.  And they helped create a digitized money-trading machine that could shift billions around the globe with the click of a mouse.

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