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Summary

In 2000, the total GDP of Earth was $36 trillion. At the start of 2007, it was $70 trillion. Today that growth has gone suddenly and sharply into decline.

John Lanchester travels with a cast of characters - including reckless bankers, snoozing regulators, complacent politicians, predatory lenders, credit-drunk spendthrifts, and innocent bystanders, to understand deeply and genuinely what is happening and why we feel the way we do.

©2010 John Lanchester (P)2010 WF Howes Ltd

Critic reviews

"A valiant and genuinely amusing attempt to describe how finance came off the rails...written with a good heart and a lively intellectual curiosity. ( Independent)

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Elegance and charm, jazzing on a well-known theme

I've read several books (Gillian Tett's Fools Gold, Michael Lewis's The Big Short, Gordon Brown's apology..) about the financial crisis, so I can't really say I learnt anything new from John Lanchester. However, I was richly amused and entertained by his whimsical and informal style. His wry wit and colloquial turn of phrase often had me laughing out loud. And it is a story so amazing, so profound and so ongoing (unfortunately) that it bears retelling a few times, in different registers, by different people. Mr Lanchester is a definite outsider. Son of an old fashioned (good/safe) banker, he read English and became a writer. He can take the 'man in the street' perspective, and uses analogies that make the whole episode both accessible and maximally absurd.

Normally I don't like narrators trying to mimic real characters (e.g. the voices of Ronald Reagan and Alan Greenspan), but in this context - a rather theatrical book - it does more or less work. The narrator also manages to personify Mr Lanchester's animated and humorous style.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

essential but witty

This book has tackled a diificult subject and made it interesting and accessible. The author is very knowledgeable but he puts over his knowledge in a very clear and witty way.
I have been telling all my friends about it and I hope it has a well deserved sucess

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Tom
  • West Wickham, United Kingdom
  • 07-11-10

Clear exposition of the financial crisis

I enjoyed and learnt from this book. It sets out an admirably clear and concise history of the origins of the financial crisis; the author has a knack for explaining things simply, and for the telling analogy in describing such things a financial derivatives - you dont need to be an economist or a mathematician to understand them - and he balances the detail and the big picture very well; some nice touches of humour too. Towards the end of the book he does rather get on his soap box, and his ideas for avoiding similar crises in the future are a bit confusing and contradictory; for example he seems to think that Government could run banks better than bankers, which is more than a tad naive, I think. So four stars rather than five for me.

Narration is excellent; very well paced, which is very important with this sort of book, and nicely varied in tone so you dont get distracted or lose interest.

I listened to this book not long after listening to Michael Lewis' 'The Big Short', also available on Audible. Both books together paint a well rounded and intersting picture of what happened and who should shoulder the blame - worth getting if you're interested in the subject.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Financial crisis

Would you listen to Whoops! again? Why?

I worked in banking for over 30 years and found this audio book clear and easy to follow. I have listened to it a couple of times to remind myself why the global markets are in a mess.

What did you like best about this story?

I found the information up to date and esay to follow

What about Jonathan Iris’s performance did you like?

The narrator's performance is spot on, neither boring or too excitable. Just what a book of this content needs.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I found myself shouting outloud in agreement with the book

Any additional comments?

I would recommend this book to anyone you don't need to be an economist to understand it !

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Whoopy? Do.

Recent exhortations in The Guardian that the time is now to stop reading fiction and start dipping into popular economics swayed me to give this one a try. I’m not going to stop reading fiction, and neither do I think (or, let’s be honest did I anticipate) that Lanchester has the authority of a Chomsky. But an honest endeavour in switching from fiction to faction is well rewarded - this is an informed and informing volume which has the added benefit of impeccable timing. It is important to understand the current economic environment and the insights provided here are wonderful, fresh and endlessly entertaining - but whether the prognosis goes far enough is a matter for further debate and consideration.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • John
  • DublinIreland
  • 12-10-10

Really good

This is a really fascinating audiobook. Lanchester has done a excellent job of making the financial concepts accessible and explaining them in everyday terms. (I'm an engineer and have next to no knowledge of economics and finance). Occasionally he gets a little carried away with analogies in art & music, but it's rare and it doesn't get in the way of the story.

The narration is some of the best I've heard. If I were reading this on paper, I think I might have struggled to motivate myself to finish it because it's such an unfamiliar area to me. Having it read via audiobook made it so easy to just keep listening though and I'm glad I did. It's a fascinating story, superbly told and engagingly read.

Well worth a listen.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Enlightening..

Interesting.....and informative..makes you aware of many things...relating to mortgages, finance and central bank decisions whichh affect normal people...

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Terrifyingly clear

A complicated subject laid bare in an accessible format that assumes no prior knowledge. Of course it could all be nonsense but it rings true because it doesn't have any overt political agenda.

Listened to it twice, back to back, because there is so much to take in, and the earlier chapters take on new meanings having gone through the whole thing, and I anticipate doing so many more times in the future.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Mr
  • 02-03-18

Excellent, with one caveat.

This is probably the clearest and most concise explanation of the 2007-2008 financial crisis I've encountered. The origins of the various forces behind it, the relevant institutions, and the nature of the complicated financial products that suddenly became relevant to the lives of millions who had never heard of them - are all eloquently explained in plain english. This is accompanied by helpful analogies, and a healthy does of Lancheter's wit and irreverence that stop it getting too heavy.

My one caveat is the author's propensity for condemning others who treat their dogmas as facts, whilst spending quite a lot of time doing exactly that. "Keynes was the greatest economist who ever lived". Those who advocate for free markets are "ideological", while those who advocate for bigger government are "rational". And, (this one made me snort), "In the good old days Hollywood cared about making films, and now they only care about making money".

I would encourage you not to let this put you off however. The rest of the books is so good you can overlook Lanchester's divergence into pure opinion, and in any case his own personality is part of the books appeal.

The narrator is very good, and captures the tone perfectly.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Accessible but clever

This is wonderfully easy-to-read yet clever and insightful account of the financial crisis and its causes. Recommended for everyone!