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They were a band of outsiders unable to get jobs with New York's gilded financial establishment. They would go on to corner the world's multitrillion-dollar oil market, reaping unimaginable riches while bringing the economy to its knees.
Meet the self-anointed kings of the New York Mercantile Exchange. In some ways, they are everything you would expect them to be: a secretive, members-only club of men and women who live lavish lifestyles; cavort with politicians, strippers, and celebrities; and blissfully jacked up oil prices to nearly $150 a barrel while profiting off the misery of the working class. In other ways, they are nothing you can imagine: many come from working-class families themselves. The progeny of Jewish, Irish, and Italian immigrants who escaped war-torn Europe, they take pride in flagrantly spurning Wall Street.
Under the thumb of an all-powerful international oil cartel, the energy market had long eluded the grasp of America's hungry capitalists. Neither the oil royalty of Houston nor the titans of Wall Street had ever succeeded in fully wresting away control. But facing extinction, the rough-and-tumble traders of Nymex - led by the reluctant son of a produce merchant - went after this Goliath and won, creating the world's first free oil market and minting billions in the process. Their stunning journey from poverty to prosperity belies the brutal and violent history that is their legacy.
For the first time, The Asylum unmasks the oil market's self-described "inmates" in all their unscripted and dysfunctional glory: the happily married father from Long Island whose lust for money and power was exceeded only by his taste for cruel pranks; the Italian kung fu-fighting gasoline trader whose ferocity in the trading pits earned him countless millions; the cheerful Nazi hunter who traded quietly by day Irish-born femme fatale who outsmarted all but one of the exchange's chairmen - the Hungarian emigre who, try as he might, could do nothing to rein in the oil market's unruly inhabitants.
From the treacherous boardroom schemes to the hookers and blow of the trading pits; from the repeat terrorist attacks and FBI stings to the grand alliances and outrageous fortunes that brought the global economy to the brink, The Asylum ventures deep into the belly of the beast, revealing how raw ambition and the endless quest for wealth can change the very nature of both man and market.
Showcasing seven years of research and hundreds of hours of interviews, Leah McGrath Goodman reveals what really happened behind the scenes as oil prices topped out and what choice the traders ultimately made when forced to choose between their longtime brotherhood and their precious oil monopoly.
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A far better book than its come-on implies
Reading the promo for this book, I dreaded another self-indulgent frat-boy waste of time like "Wolf of Wall Street" (the worst business title I have ever read). I put off purchasing it, but finally previewed the book itself on amazon, and discovered a much more weighty and meaningful work. This is an epic multi-generational narrative of the evolution of these markets and exchanges, and their key personalities, with enough personal bio color (and enough on the legal environment and other technical aspects) to keep me interested. If not absolute top-rank, it is very well worth my time and money. If the topic (as opposed to some shallow depiction of trading as a bunch of cut-ups and their lurid weekend stunts) interests you, I wholeheartedly recommend it.
2 people found this helpful
Entertaining Nonfiction, Great Narrator
Would you consider the audio edition of The Asylum to be better than the print version?
I don't know as I only have the audio.
Who was your favorite character and why?
Gutman. He had a focus and a moral code. He was persecuted solely because of his role as chairman.
Which character – as performed by Robert Fass – was your favorite?
If you could give The Asylum a new subtitle, what would it be?
Mooks Against the World.
Any additional comments?
The remarkable thing about this book is that the author seamlessly transitions between subjects, while the narrator does the same with the characters. This sets it apart from similar books like Boomerang, The Big Short, Too Big to Fail. And the characters are much more interesting.
1 person found this helpful
Great - Well Written, Narrated Really Well
Great - Well Written, Narrated Really Well.
If you looking for a good listen and are interested in the topic this is a good one. Really entertaining.
Narration really brings it to life.
1 person found this helpful
Well-written and quite funny
I really enjoyed "The Asylum" by Leah McGrath Goodman, and I highly recommend it. Robert Fass does a fantastic job of delivering the hilarious antics of the NYMEX traders, all of whom had a palpable disdain for rules and law- and enough money to flout both. It's a colorful read, and while you won't walk away understanding the ins and outs of why oil fluctuates so wildly, you will be entertained by the frat-boy antics of the traders, while gaining quite a bit of insight into the energy sector and their supposed regulators.
1 person found this helpful
What made the experience of listening to The Asylum the most enjoyable?
I dont think I can possibly come across an audiobook this entertaining. Although the book itself is more of the history and the background of NYMEX and its people (which is shocking in itself).
This book is a MUST LISTEN! Excellent job by Robert Fass!
What does Robert Fass bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
Those different accents. Robert really brings this amazing book to life!
What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?
"We have met the enemy and he is us"