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On the Brink: Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  1,182 ratings  ·  130 reviews
When Hank Paulson, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, was appointed in 2006 to become the nation's next Secretary of the Treasury, he knew that his move from Wall Street to Washington would be daunting and challenging.

But Paulson had no idea that a year later, he would find himself at the very epicenter of the world's most cataclysmic financial crisis since the Great Depres...more
Audio CD, Unabridged
Published February 1st 2010 by Hachette Audio (first published January 14th 2010)
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William Breakstone

BOOK REVIEW

ON THE BRINK: Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System
by Henry M. Paulson, Jr., Business Plus, Hachette Book Group, 2010

Reviewed by Bill Breakstone, Somers, NY, May 22, 2010

This is more or less the 12th book I’ve read about the Financial Crisis of 2007—2009. It’s no doubt the last I’ll undertake, but it will have to do for now. I need a break, and have a half-dozen volumes of fiction, biographies and historical prize-winners that I’m looking forward to readi...more
Yaboimazz
ya boi read dis book right afta mah man tim geithners epic stress test. dis dont hold watah ta geitners tour da force, but paulson does manage ta give is own unique viewpoint of da avents of da 2008 economic meltdown , nom sayin? ya may not digg was hes all about, but mah boi hank lays it down on da line n manages ta put da bush administration in a brand new light. check it out.. . .
karl
Reading this book I became aware how naïve I must have been back especially in 2008 as the financial system in the US lurched from crisis to crisis realizing now that there was so much work going on behind the scenes by collaborative teams from Treasury-Fed-Comptroller-SEC-FDIC and House and Senate. Paulson’s book reads almost like a day by day blow of events from 2007 through the handoff January 20, 2009 to the Obama team. Surprisingly, reading it often got me excited – like a good novel.

My onl...more
evan pon
It took a long time to read this book. The material was interesting - it was great to see what was happening behind closed doors during the financial crisis. It definitely gave me a new perspective on a variety of events and people - the Lehman Brothers failure and George W. Bush to name a couple. I generally felt that Paulson was being straightforward and honest throughout the book, and that he did a decent job avoiding some of the financial jargon that could really trip readers up.

A small prob...more
Drew Johnson

Part Biography, Part Analysis of the financial crises. Due to the crises, he was forced to do things he didn't believe in (government intervention) to save something he did believe in (our free market financial system). He didn't create the problem but worked diligently to rescue our financial system. It could have been much worse but for his efforts. He made mistakes but as I consider the totality of what he did against the backdrop of the breadth and depth of the problems we faced, I am gratef...more
Christopher
I normally don't add school reads to my Goodreads list, but this one was interesting enough to add. It is an unmistakable piece of self promotion, and I seriously think Paulson is softly announcing a future run for President here. Once I got past the chapters establishing himself as a hardworking honest farm boy and college QB, with the environmental activist wife, the actual minute by minute of the Financial crisis is as engaging as a Dan Brown book with ridiculous cliff hangers and crazy chara...more
Kim
Written with his mother's advice in mind..."if you don't have anything nice to say about anybody, don't say anything at all"...so in this book, all the bureaucrats are strong, all the politicians are good looking and all the bankers are above average.

Ok, so he can write a book that deftly avoids being critical of anyone. And as such, all book really does is document, on a broad scale, the major events of the Great Recession from the view at the top. No great insight here.

But I did like his aft...more
Ben Trump
Secretary Paulson's work provides an incredible insight into the financial crisis that plagued his tenure as Treasury Secretary. There's an incredible wealth of information in this book, which is packaged in an easy-to-read manner. 5/5 for clarity in an incredibly dense and complicated subject.

However, if there is any book that will convince you of elite power in America, it is this one. Paulson makes a convincing case for the reasons behind his actions and those of his associates, but it doesn'...more
Richard Wagaman
I can't help but consider Paulson to be a protected elite. America is not supposed to have "protected elites". Since the market crash of 2007-2009 if Paulson did what several people have said he--lied to Congress--and then said the key Wall Street Insiders the truth, he should be in Jail!
Paul
I had no idea how close we were to economic catastrophe in 2008. Read this book and learn how ideology almost sent us into the abyss, and how George Bush may have saved us all.
Ian Billick
I found this to be an engaging account of the 2008 financial collapse. It is hard to appreciate the pressure the decision-makers were under-- how much they worked and how they had to act with incomplete information. It made me sympathetic to George Bush and his handling of the situation. It does make you wonder whether we survived the crisis through the sheer luck of having a competent financial team in place. Will we be so lucky next time? It doesn't seem that we've done much from a regulatory...more
Gary
I picked up this book because it covered such an intriguing and stressful time in US and world history, when the world financial markets were on the verge of total meltdown and Mr. Paulson was in many ways in the cat-bird-seat.

Paulson was the US Secretary of the Treasury from July 2006 to January 2009 under George Bush. Previous to this position Paulson spent the majority of his career at the prestigious Goldman Sachs including as its CEO from 1999 to 2006.

Paulson shows his humility in telling...more
T. Edmund
If you’re looking for a book that details page by page – day by day the events building up to the global credit crisis and subsequent recession read this.

Say what you want about Paulson, he obviously has a head for dates and numbers. Unfortunately: literary skills - Not so much.

On The Brink can’t seem to make up its mind whether it’s an autobiography, political polemic or factual work. Ultimately the mish-mash comes out as an apologetic piece which seems more about Paulson trying to prove himsel...more
getAbstract
The definitive inside account of the fiscal meltdown

If books about the 2008 financial collapse are starting to run together in your mind, rest assured that former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr.’s memoir is unique. In the first account by a high-ranking government official, Paulson lets out some juicy details. He describes the dry heaves and insomnia he suffered throughout the crisis, his pithy banter with President George W. Bush and his irritation with the ever-perky Sarah Palin. Even...more
Supernova1987agmail.com Wang
Apr 13, 2010 Supernova1987agmail.com Wang rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sensible people
This is one of the two books I finished during my whirlwind trip to Europe.

I think it's fair to say that this book proved yet again that fair-minded economists, liberal or conservative, see pretty much the same issues in America's economy - high budget deficit, low income tax and high corporate income tax, underregulated hedge fund industry, excessive speculation. In Paulson's account of the around-the-clock effort to save the US financial system, he repeatedly pointed out that the US regulatory...more
Phillip
I thought this was a wonderful book! Not for the prose but for the informal delivery, it felt like I was sitting and listening to a chat of the events instead of someone trying to wax poetic and impress the reader of their knowledge of markets, finance, etc.

The magnitude-and speed--of incredibly important decisions that Hank had to make, which were critical to avoiding another Great Depression, were awe inspiring. This man was working 18 hour days, I can't imagine to get a phone call saying AIG...more
Michele Weiner
This is an awful book. I learned that Henry Paulsen is a genuine flake, and that he gets the dry heaves alarmingly often, especially when he doesn't get his eight hours. He let Tim Geithner do all the actual work saving the financial system, and he decided to get some sleep rather than return Warren Buffett's call, when Buffett actually had the solution that saved the world. Also, he liked the Democrats and George Bush, who to his credit, did finally learn to leave Dick Cheney behind in an undis...more
Brian
Paulson tells a compelling story on the financial crisis from the perspective of the Executive Branch. It is one of the few to bring an overtly political tone into sections, though much of the book tries to appear politically agnostic. He also brings an emphasis that he is a ‘free market guy’ - though his takeover of Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, and essentially AIG would belie that position. His insight into the very detailed products being discussed - CDSs, CDOs, MBSs - are helpful, though he doesn’...more
Glenn
3.5 stars. An in depth look at the behind the scenes meetings and happenings leading up to and throughout the financial crisis and rescue of some of the largest financial institutions in the world starting in 2008 by the former secretary of the Treasury of the United States.

I have newfound respect for Paulson and also Timothy Geithner and Ben Bernanke as they were the main three players who tried to find creative solutions to daunting problems, many of which "charted uncharted territory". You ca...more
Jacque Bona
"Some people have claimed that as president, George W. Bush lacked curiosity and discouraged dissent. Nothing could be further from my experience."

President Bush and Barney Frank were willing to work together to reform Fannie and Freddie (GSE); however, with Chris Dodd running for president, reform put on hold in the senate and nothing was done.

When Paulson asked at a meeting of the G7 summit how we had gotten to where we were, John Mack of Morgan Stanley replied, "Greed, leverage, and lax inve...more
Linda B
I was surprised by the intricate detail of his recall of the events surrounding the financial crisis throughout this 478 page book. It was in his acknowledgements that he explained that he relied not only on his own recall, but more than 20 people with whom he consulted. One of the most striking cuts from the book:

“I had come to Washington to make a difference, and we had, I thought, just saved the country – and the world – from financial catastrophe. The next day, Lehman Brothers began to coll...more
Nancy
What this book isn't is a "tell all" where certain personalities get blasted, and some praised to perfection. Paulson does have his take on people, but it is even handed. You know what he's thinking at the time, but he doesn't hand out black hats or white hats.
Rather this is an account of the efforts to prevent the collapse of the entire global financial system. Paulson served President George W. Bush and what he does make clear is that neither one of these men were thrilled with the huge role...more
Chris Henn
Take a massive housing bubble, over-levered Government Sponsored Enterprises, and overstated capital reserves, and you have a witches brew that resulted in the largest financial meltdown since 1929. When Hank Paulson took over the Treasury Department in 2006, he knew that large sovereign capital imbalances, easy credit, and irrational risk taking could result in recession, but he admits that he had no idea that the events of 2008 would be so calamitous.

This is the ultimate insiders view of what...more
Sarah
So, I lost this book half way through reading it. It’s not like I don’t know how it ends, so I don’t think I’ll be running out to purchase a replacement copy (it was an impulse buy in the first place). There are a million opinions out there as to what caused the financial crisis. Sorting them out is tedious in itself, but what makes it even more overwhelming is the fact that no one reason was the downfall of the economy. It was like an avalanche, with a series of events cumulating in us ending u...more
Bojan Tunguz
The book wastes no time on lengthy introductions or narrative preambles. The very first sentence is a direct question from President Bush to Paulson. ("Do they know it's coming Hank?" - "they" being Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and "it" being the seizure of the control of those companies by the government.) The overall narrative style of the book is very direct and conversational, which makes for an easy and straightforward read. This tone of voice is at odds with the more deliberate and cerebral...more
Adam Ford
A good record of the recent financial collapse, but too little introspection. Yes, I know it is easy to stand on the sidelines and find fault with the benefit of hindsight. But Paulson in this book has precious little criticism of himself--every mistake was unavoidable, every decision was the best one possible at the time with the constraints of time, information and power.

Paulson is a free market Republican who will be remembered for the biggest government intervention into the markets in the...more
Dana
Near the end of former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's memoir about his role during the greatest financial disaster to hit the U.S. since the Great Depression he writes, "[T:]he crisis did not shake my faith in the free-market system." Along with regularly placed confessions by Paulson letting the reader know that he hated what he had to do and that it went against everything he believed, this is about all the reflection and analysis we get from him, the man at the center of averting, if he i...more
Ross T
Interesting read. Paulson's recollection of events makes clear the speed at which the crisis escalated in the second half of 2008, and by extension, the frantic and fast-moving nature of policy work at the US Treasury. One of the consequences of the quick descent of the financial system was the often rushed and muddled policy response. Mistakes were perhaps inevitable given the need for quick and decisive action to calm markets, but this should not have precluded policymakers from occasionally s...more
Craig
Very detailed narrative of Paulson's tenure as Treasury Secretary, particularly between 3/08 and 1/09, when the whole system nearly imploded. While his narrative is quite believable and at times exciting, I wish he would have spent a little more time explaining his actions, and giving his rationale for doing things or approaching things a certain way. He does this a little during the Afterward, but I still don't feel I really understand why he did things the way he did, or where he feels had he...more
John
I resisted the impulse to shell out 30 bucks and buy the hardcover when it first came out. As a bargain bin special for $8 one year later, I am satisfied that I received my money's worth. Books like this have a tendency towards self-justification with limited admissions of error or bad judgement. The value of this book is its portrayal of the sheer panic and confusion that racked global financial markets. While Paulson confidently traces his career from Darthmouth to Harvard Biz to Wall Street a...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Author using name format in different editions 5 25 Nov 19, 2013 04:16AM  
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Henry Merritt "Hank" Paulson, Jr. (born March 28, 1946) is an American banker who served as the 74th United States Secretary of the Treasury. He had served as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs, and is now chairman of the Paulson Institute, which he founded in 2011 to promote sustainable economic growth and a cleaner environment around the world, with an initial focus on the...more
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