Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers

Trader. Most of the books I’ve read about the current financial crisis have been written by economists, journalists and other experts. Lawrence McDonald was a trader at Lehman Brothers and his book, A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers, presents a personal perspective on Lehman and its demise. Reading this book is like sitting in a bar listening to a regular guy tell his work stories in colorful language, loaded with personal opinions about people and events. McDonald told his tales to Patrick Robinson who wrote this book. If a reader keeps in mind that McDonald was one of 25,000 employees at Lehman, that he was there only a few years before the company failed, and that he was fired before the bankruptcy, expectations about insight and perspective can be contained. Rather than the subtitle’s claim to be the inside story of the collapse of Lehman, A Colossal Failure of Common Sense is a personal story of one person’s work experience on a small team of people with a bucket of opinions about what was happening all around him.

Rating: Three-star (Recommended)

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On the Money: The Economy in Cartoons 1925-2009

Chuckles. The organization by decade of a new cartoon collection from The New Yorker titled, On the Money: The Economy in Cartoons 1925-2009, presents a reader with the opportunity to gain insight along with laughter. For example, a lot of the humor in the decade after World War II was about inflation and price increases. Malcolm Gladwell’s entertaining introduction to this collection was lively and refreshing. I savored this collection by reading one decade at a time. Now, I’ll go back through and select my favorites. Any reader who loves the cartoons from The New Yorker will enjoy this collection.

Rating: Three-star (Recommended)

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The Power of Progress

Prescription. John Podesta’s The Power of Progress attempts to do two things: describe the history of the progressive movement in America, and lay out ways in which progressive leadership can move America forward. In a measured and calm way, Podesta lays out past accomplishments under a progressive agenda, and uses that foundation to show how the principles of progressivism can be applied to today’s challenges. Those who disagree with President Clinton’s former chief of staff will find plenty of ways in which he overstates his case; those who agree with him will find examples to bolster their opinions. Either way, reading The Power of Progress adds to the information a reader can have on hand to participate in an informed dialogue about what can work for Americans today. Podesta injects his personal story on these pages and that helps humanize the basis for his political persuasion.

Rating: Three-star (Recommended)

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Saturday, September 26, 2009


Competent. Joseph Finder introduces protagonist Nick Heller in a new novel titled, Vanished. Nick is a former special forces officer who now works for a private intelligence company. When his nephew Gabe calls and tells Nick that his stepdad and Nick’s older brother, Roger, has disappeared, Nick drops everything to help. Nick responded not because of his relationship with Roger, which is strained, but because Gabe asked. The suspense in Vanished, and the plot twists will keep most readers well-entertained. I found it is Nick’s character that kept me turning the pages. Cool and competent with a clear moral compass and passion for justice, I wanted to know more about Nick, and despite his superhero exploits in Vanished, I felt he was underdeveloped as a character. Finder promises more novels featuring Nick, so we’ll see how this character develops over time.

Rating: Three-star (Recommended)

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Where's My Fifteen Minutes?

Preparedness. Readers looking for plain speaking advice on getting attention and recognition might find some nuggets of interest on the pages of Howard Bragman’s book, Where's My Fifteen Minutes?: Get Your Company, Your Cause, or Yourself the Recognition You Deserve. You have to love a publicist with a name like Bragman. He draws from his three decade career in this field to offer readers ways to influence perceptions. For me, I kept turning the pages with a degree of amazement that anyone could spend one’s working life in the public relations field if this is what it is all about.

Rating: Two-star (Mildly Recommended)

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