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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
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    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.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

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.

4 people found this 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

4 people found this helpful

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Fascinating! Banking with Interest...

If, like me, you thought of bankers as dull Capt. Mainwarings or dumb but overpaid "hooray Henry's", this book will come as a revelation. Whoops! actually explains Banking as an advanced form of higher mathematics, akin to M Theory or Particle Physics.

What went wrong in 2008, is therefore all the more unbelievable, as the whizz kid mathematicians had devised what seemed like a fool-proof system of managing risk, where everyone benefitted. Whoops! leads the listener through the intricacies of "stocks", "derivatives", "options", "hedging" etc. through the wonders of MPT and the Black-Scholes equation, and the higher maths of managing high-risk, high return investments with minimal actual risk, by calculating the Value at Risk (VaR) of debt recapitalisation, based on historical data. It seemed too good to be true... and of course it was.

The book then brilliantly dissects what went wrong, how complacency and mismanagement by bankers, ratings agencies and fraudsters such as Madoff in a culture of increasing competitive risk-taking, almost inevitably led to situations that according to the model, had probabilities of only occurring once in several lifetimes of the Universe.

Finally, the book looks at the aftermath, and asks what has changed, and what needs to change.

It's a very entertaining read - especially if, like me, it's a world you are not already familiar with. The narration is excellent, and it has pace and verve that I never suspected banking could ever achieve.

2 people found this helpful

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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 !

2 people found this helpful

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Compulsory reading

Given the level to which financial decisions affect us all this book should be compulsory reading.
I can’t believe how ignorant I was of so much.

1 person found this 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 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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 person found this helpful

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You couldn't make this up

I'm not a financial person but have been effected by what happened. I think that when you listen to this book you'll get angry as you hear what these "banks" where up to and how they made so much money at no risk to themselves, just the taxpayers footing the bill if it went wrong. Still no action taken really to stop this from happening again and how our governments and regulators failed us.

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    5 out of 5 stars

A whirlwind of financial disarray

The author pinpoints the areas which led to the financial crises in politics, the financial world and society in general. In the end it feels like evil forces are at work, but greed is probably quite common and everyone is susceptible.
Everyone, but especially conservatives and republicans, should read this book.