Books: Boomerang

Michael Lewis captures the absurdities of the financial crisis in his global travels.

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Photo: Natalie Castellino

BOOMERANG: Travels in the New Third World
(W.W. Norton)
Michael Lewis

If you’ve been keeping up with Lewis’s Vanity Fair travelogues from the front lines of the sovereign debt crisis, filed from Iceland to California, then you’ve read practically all the writing this book collects. And if the global economy truly is as screwed as some believe—like Kyle Bass, for example, a Dallas fund manager Lewis encounters who predicted the sub-prime mortgage disaster and who has since bought an isolated ranch with its own water supply and an arsenal of weaponry, betting on severe economic collapse—then you’re probably better off saving your nickels.

Otherwise, this is essential reading, if only because Lewis captures better than anyone the absurdity of the financial chaos we’ve brought on ourselves. In previous books (Moneyball, Liar’s Poker), he showed he was a great storyteller when given the right characters; he’s found them here again. In Greece, for example, he visits an isolated monastery whose inhabitants spun a rediscovered 14th-century deed for a nearby lake into a multi-billion-dollar commercial real estate empire, at the expense of a befuddled Greek government. One finance ministry official still can’t tell if they’re con men or “the savviest businessmen he’d ever dealt with.” A group of monks. This is where we are, now.