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Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System from Crisis — and Themselves
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Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System from Crisis — and Themselves

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  25,744 Ratings  ·  1,102 Reviews
Andrew Ross Sorkin delivers the first true behind-the-scenes, moment-by-moment account of how the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression developed into a global tsunami. From inside the corner office at Lehman Brothers to secret meetings in South Korea, and the corridors of Washington, Too Big to Fail is the definitive story of the most powerful men and women ...more
Hardcover, 600 pages
Published October 20th 2009 by Viking (first published 2008)
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Sep 03, 2011 Kemper rated it really liked it
"The only problem with capitalism is all the capitalists.”
Herbert Hoover

There’s a school of thought out there that many, if not most, people buy into. It goes something like this: The U.S. government is full of a bunch of stupid bureaucrats who do nothing but pass restrictive laws that keep businesses from making money and prevent the growth of the economy. Obviously, the businesses should be allowed to do their thing with no government interference because they know what’s best, and if they sh
Petra Eggs
May 05, 2015 Petra Eggs rated it it was amazing
What the financial crisis in the US essentially came down to was the bankers had the government balls in a nice tight wrench and if those balls got gangrene and dropped off, leaving the whole of the Western world without a banking system and the ensuing anarchy, they couldn't care less because they were filthy rich anyway and would, personally, all of them be more than just all right. (Skip to the last-but-two paragraph if you don't want the lead-up to how).

How it works, in a simplified way (the
If anything else, this is an entertaining book. Big tough bankers swear and dick around like petty real-estate salesmen from a David Mamet play.

It's also a good history of part of the 2007-2009 recession, specifically the collapse and restructuring of the investment banking system. Lehman Brothers is gone, Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch, AIG got money from the Fed, and the survivors rest put an emergency fund together, similar to the private response to the crashes of 1907 and 1929. Goldma
Oct 10, 2011 Lobstergirl rated it liked it
Shelves: business-finance
The strength of Sorkin’s book, which covers the period right after the fall of Bear Stearns (March 2008), up to the TARP infusions of capital (October 2008), is that he synthesized masses of detailed information and assembled it into a chronological story, using multiple firsthand accounts, contemporaneous journalistic sources, and public records. You can imagine him flipping through his enormous Rolodex (an inapt 80s allusion, but I like the image), calling every Wall Streeter he’s ever spoken ...more
Jan 18, 2016 Mahlon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016
In Too Big to Fail Andrew Ross Sorkin achieved the impossible, he made the 2008 financial crisis accessible to a wide variety of readers. His tightly woven and meticulously researched narrative feels like a movie script, which is why it is no surprise that it eventually became one. Sorkin does a great job in setting out the circumstances that led to the failure of the banks, and then chronicling almost day by day the decision making process behind the eventual bailout.

One of the best financial
Dec 02, 2011 Kerry rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction, business
I don't know if it's fair to rate the book based on the first few chapters that I read, but I know that my rating is going to be the same IF I did finish it. I just can't. This is NOT a book about the financial meltdown -- if you want something that explains the crisis, you are better off reading Wikipedia (seriously!). This, however, seems more fiction than nonfiction. Seriously? Was the author there in the boardroom when the investment bankers and traders barked to each other frantically to sa ...more
Feb 24, 2010 AC rated it it was amazing
Shelves: markets, audible
Finished -- I imagine this book would be a tough read, since it's pages literally crawl with minor characters -- bankers, minions of the armies of the night... but it makes a good listen -- Paulson comes off much better than Bernanke or Geithner -- and the author tries (against Taibi) to rehabilitate Goldman. He makes the case, persuasively, imo -- against the Vampire-Squid conspiracists -- that the media really didn't and doesn't understand how close Goldman itself came to failing (-- so much f ...more
Ldrutman Drutman
Mar 20, 2010 Ldrutman Drutman rated it it was ok
This was a book I felt like I had to read – 539 pages of the blow-by-blow of the financial crisis. Or at least what the crisis looked like from the top: It’s really the story of what the heads of the biggest financial firms were up to, and the federal regulators (mostly the Treasury and the Fed) who were trying to prevent the financial sector from collapse.

Mostly it just feels like reading about this chaotic charade with a bunch of crazed sleepless CEOs and lawyers and accountants trying to figu
Apr 16, 2011 Kartik rated it it was amazing
The tag 'Master Storyteller', should be applied to Andrew Ross Sorkin for this piece of work. It has been a while since a book captured my attention so well as this one did.

Sorkin is able to cover the 'history' of the financial crisis in a good amount of depth, switch back and forth between the different 'stages' and bring out the personalities of the key players such as the investment bank CEOs, the NY Fed and the Treasury while at the same time providing enough information about the complicate
Rob Smith
Aug 24, 2015 Rob Smith rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If any book from the past several years that has emerged to have critical acclaim across the broad swath of American society from that cottage industry of economic doomsday books, it's this one. Andrew Ross Sorkin's Too Big to Fail is the crowning achievement of them all, appearing on several "need-to-read" lists for the controversial economic shindig that eclipsed so much of the last year's of the Bush administration.

Than why does it come off like the economic and political thriller version of
Scott Rhee
Aug 06, 2015 Scott Rhee rated it liked it
Andrew Ross Sorkin's "Too Big to Fail" should frighten and enrage readers, and, for some, it probably will, but for a majority of readers, it will fall into that "grand systemic changes need to be made, but I (an average person) can't do anything to change it" mentality that cripples many of us into petrification and denial. Our heads go back in the sand, and we go about our daily lives as if we didn't have this looming storm over our shoulders.

Unfortunately, if history has taught us anything (
Daiv Shorten
Jun 14, 2012 Daiv Shorten rated it really liked it
For the lay person looking to learn the basics about the events that unfolded during the subprime mortgage crisis, I actually recommend the HBO original film based on this book ahead of the book itself. Whereas the movie had several illuminating scenes that put the events into vernacular for someone like me, I found that the book was a bit too hard to grasp. Not for lack of effort, as Sorkin is not prone to speaking over anyone's head. Rather, the material is so dense, and the factors so similar ...more
Aug 09, 2013 Alan rated it did not like it
This book made me mighty mad, not only at the despicable characters portrayed in it, but at the author for his adoring, fawning approach to them. More than once I slammed the book down, only to force myself back to it a week or two later. And for that persistence I was rewarded---ever so slightly---by Sorkin daring to approximate analysis in an afterword.

To judge by this book, Sorkin never met a Wall Street bigshot he didn’t worship. But worse, his journalistic style is so overloaded with trivi
Mar 15, 2011 Ci rated it it was amazing
An excellent chronicle of the fiasco of 2008. This is a sympathetic group portrait of the major players in the financial crisis. Their failures and success are not as important as their desperate efforts to avert something catastrophic. One should always be reminded of the excellent quote in the end of the book by Theodore Roosevelt's speech in Sorbonne in 1910:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done the
Bob Adamcik
This was a very long and (at times, tedious) read, but in fact informative and worthwhile. The obvious question before reading it is whether or not it is biased, i.e. slanted either left or right...a logical question given how the crisis has been politicized. But frankly, I think Sorkin did his homework, and to my unspecialized ear, it sounds pretty complete and balanced. He also weaves a pretty good story to get you through all the minutiae.

And I have to say (much as I kind of hate to do so) t
Apr 07, 2011 DoctorM rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, economics
There's a variety of military history sometimes called "maps and chaps"--- often vivid, well-researched, and well-written ---that tells you everything that happened in a given battle or campaign, but without any context in politics or social costs. Andrew Ross Sorkin's "Too Big To Fail" is a kind of maps 'n' chaps version of the Global Economic Meltdown of the Year Eight--- a vivid, well-researched, very well-written account of the events that led up to financial chaos in September and October o ...more
Feb 05, 2015 Elle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Too big to fail è una cronaca dettagliata della crisi finanziaria di Wall Street del 2008, che mise a rischio l'intero sistema finanziario globale e culminò con il fallimento di Lehman Brothers. Il racconto inizia con l'acquisizione da parte di JP Morgan di Bear Sterns, la prima delle "Big Five", le cinque più grandi banche d'affari di Wall Street, a crollare. Questo primo collasso genera una reazione a catena che porterà alla crisi non solo le altre banche d'affari, ma anche società apparenteme ...more
Jeremy Stock
Mar 18, 2016 Jeremy Stock rated it it was amazing
An excellent read. I'm curious now to somehow watch the HBO documentary that was made (with the same author?).

I felt that the author of this book, though comprehensive in his detail, too often gave an apologetic and even rationalizing explanation as to the motives and intentions of the primary actors in the catastrophic events and decisions that took place.

One of the biggest take-aways from this story is that Hank Paulson and Timothy Geithner (government agents) got all the CEOs (of the bigges
May 12, 2013 Peter rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics
I had retired from the Federal Reserve System just before the financial crisis of 2008-2009, but I was aware of many of the issues. This is a solid and well researched story of the crisis.

The crisis was a creature of the shadow banking system--the array of investment banks, hedge funds, and private equity funds. It was akin to an old-time run on the bank -- short term credit dried up, financial institutions had to sell assets to meet bills and committed purchases, every institutions stress was p
Nov 18, 2010 Mac rated it liked it
A play-by-play of the days leading up to and shortly after the financial crisis, centered largely around the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and climaxing with the TARP program. Unlike Michael Lewis, who drew a fascinating and engaging story out of the short-sellers who made a bundle when the building fell down, Sorkin tries to tell "the" story of the crisis in a narrative form. I'm not sure I'm on board with that, considering how close he sets the point-of-view, but it's become a common practice ...more
This book is a great feat of reporting - Sorkin conducted thousands of hours of interviews and obviously put a lot of research into reconstructing all the events surrounding the meltdown on wallstreet in 2008. The book focuses on the Lehman bankruptcy, and then focuses on how the US Treasury and the Fed eventually developed TARP to stabilize the financial/credit markets.

So, the book effectively reads like: "X happened, so Y CEO called Z CEO, who then called Hank Paulson, who then conferenced in
May 22, 2010 BookSweetie rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is not too big to read, or even too big to enjoy, provided that you are a reader who wants to be reading the book that is, rather than a long list of possible alternative books about the severest financial crisis since our Great Depression. This book is a reportorial non-fiction style book with a dash of fiction-like drama that is low on the "why" and heavy on the "who" and "who said and did what when." That part is done fairly successfully, although readers should be forewarned of tw ...more
Oct 13, 2014 Celine rated it really liked it
Never did I ever expect to fall so deeply enthralled with the inner lives of CEO's, Federal Reserve Chairmen and government officials. What I love most is that Sorkin writes so candidly that you find yourself lost in the turn of events yourself. By the end of the book I was pulling for people to whom I never thought I would give sympathy, and rooting against people I originally thought I liked. Definitely worth the read, even if you have no interest in the subprime mortgage crisis.
Feb 25, 2016 Shivani rated it really liked it
Shelves: business, econimics
Subprime crises- behind the scene! Amazing book. I wonder what all the author would have gone through to collect and collate this kind of information. From Bear Stearns to TARP, everyone involved and the conversations that took place; all so palpable.
Feb 27, 2016 Jeff rated it really liked it
I picked this book up mistakenly thinking it was Paul Bunyan's memoir. It was not, but enjoyable anyhow.
May 20, 2015 jun rated it really liked it
The Cannon Fodder, Lehman Brothers
- Review of Too Big to Fail

In 2008, the lucky Chinese people sheltered under the state-owned system watched a striking and destructive financial crisis resulting from private ownership. While the real estate and financial market became sluggish, the media industry thrived to be the winner with a variety of books, films and television programs. Of which the interview collection - Too Big to Fail under the cloak of documentary produced by the young and successful
Kyle Ryan
Sep 19, 2014 Kyle Ryan rated it liked it

Cruised through “Too Big To Fail” by Andrew Ross Sorkin. I liked it, didn’t love it, but couldn’t put it down. It succeeds with basically the same playbook as “Game Change” (the book on the 2008 presidential election), with a juicy behind the scenes blow-by-blow recount of the key conversations and events that marked the 2008 credit crisis. That Sorkin is able to use the same format with success shouldn’t be surprising given that the same types of hubris, schadenfreude, excess, and backbiting th

Sep 27, 2010 Rick rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Too Big to Fail is a strong inside chronicle of the financial crisis that nearly brought about a second Great Depression in 2008 and, as the sub-title suggests, almost destroyed the international financial system. Informative, if not insightful; compelling, if not illuminating, it’s a human drama with no maverick heroes, just venal and unquestioning banking and investment bureaucrats—bureaucrats who inflate their own worth and reward their inflated value like drunken sailors paying each other fo ...more
Mikel Larrazabal
I approached this book trying to understand the key factors that led us to the devastating financial crash that began in 2008 and which led to the deep in which we are still immersed (more in some places than in others, as it is well known). The author presents his work, not as an academic exercise or a detailed analysis, but as an essay of the events and protagonists who took part in the outcome of collapse. On the pages of this voluminous book (618 in my pocket edition) a lot of characters app ...more
May 16, 2015 Kevin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
This book is compulsively readable. It provides not only a chronological unfolding of credit crisis, but also describes how people's emotional turmoil evolved as more news emerged. This book also set the fastest record of me reading a long length book in English.

I came across this book two weeks ago, somehow mesmerised by its description as it ticked something within me, then I started reading Too Big to Fail like I am reading Harry Potters. I guess my interest in the credit crisis was planted y
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Andrew Ross Sorkin is The New York Timess chief mergers and acquisitions reporter and a columnist. Mr. Sorkin, a leading voice about Wall Street and corporate America, is also the editor of DealBook (, an online daily financial report he started in 2001. In addition, Mr. Sorkin is an assistant editor of business and finance news, helping guide and shape the papers coverage.


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“While the financial crisis destroyed careers and reputations, and left many more bruised and battered, it also left the survivors with a genuine sense of invulnerability at having made it back from the brink. Still missing in the current environment is a genuine sense of humility.” 9 likes
“There are no atheists in foxholes or ideologues in a financial crisis. Ben Bernanke” 8 likes
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