In Other Words

The Early Read on: The Great Recession

As experts attempt to heal the fractured global market, a group of new books on the financial crisis is already offering the first draft of history.

Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World
By Liaquat Ahamed (January 2009, Penguin)

In their bid to stave off inflation, a small group of central bankers — one each from Britain, France, Germany, and the United States — helped bring about the worst financial catastrophe in history: the Great Depression. Ahamed, in reviewing the missteps of these four men, reminds us that the fate of markets often rests with discrete individuals, not a diffuse "invisible hand."

The Sages: Warren Buffett, George Soros, Paul Volcker, and the Maelstrom of Markets
By Charles R. Morris (June 2009, PublicAffairs)

There are three giants whose financial judgment commands outsize respect, writes Morris, a retired investment banker. How have Buffett, Soros, and Volcker been able to see more clearly than most? The answer, according to Morris, is balance: These wise men don’t lose their heads during the cyclical booms and busts that trip up everyone else.

Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises (sixth edition)
By Charles Kindleberger and Robert Aliber (December 2009, Palgrave Macmillan)

In the forthcoming edition of this 1978 classic by the late economic historian Charles P. Kindleberger, Aliber, a professor emeritus of international economics and finance, adds new layers to what’s long been mandatory reading for budding economists. While maintaining Kindleberger’s overall approach, Aliber, who in 2006 warned in vain of Iceland’s meltdown, adds new insights on the last 30 years of history’s most tumultuous monetary period.

This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly
By Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff (October 2009, Princeton University Press)

What makes this crash different from all the others? For economists Reinhart and Rogoff, less than you might think. Pulling together a mammoth new set of data on past economic crises, they show that, in the long, diverse history of financial fallouts, what countries truly suffer from can be boiled down to one thing: short memories.

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