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

3.65  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,803 Ratings  ·  155 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
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Published February 1st 2010 by Hachette Audio (first published January 14th 2010)
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William Breakstone


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
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.. . .
Pavlo Illashenko
There are three types of crisis-history-books: macro stories (why it had happened in terms of macroeconomics); third-party-for-broad-public-storytelling (usually written by journalists for non-economists) and first-hand-reminiscences (story by real actors, usually for the broad public).

If your interest in topic is superficial, you should read something from second category. Probably, "The End of Wall Street" by Roger Lowenstein.

If you'd like to dig deeper, then it is better to make it through "m
Mar 31, 2015 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an excellent complement to Tim Geithner's "Stress Test". Paulson, Geithner and Bernanke were the key players in mitigating the impact of the 2008-09 financial crisis, and the dedication, teamwork and diligence they and their staffs applied to the enormous issues we faced were nothing short of remarkable. Even just six years later, it's impossible to imagine their being able to get Congress to do what it did to supplement their herculean efforts, it's become that much more dysfunctional ...more
Mar 12, 2010 karl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Drew Johnson
Mar 20, 2010 Drew Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
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
Jan 25, 2011 Kim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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" 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
Jul 09, 2014 BDT rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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'
So, let's start with why this was only two stars. Much of it went way over my head, especially as Paulson seemed especially attached to the use of financial jargon. I found myself losing interests at times. It strikes me that if he is trying to make the case for the wisdom of the federal government's handling of said crisis, then he might want to make his defense a little more accessible to the lay person such as myself. However, I could not help but like Paulson. He struck me as a basically dec ...more
Leaving aside whether Paulson did the right thing or not, my major issue with this book is it almost exclusively based on Paulson's memory, and the memory of "others."

While I put some stock in the whole idea of he lived through it, he'll remember a lot, not to the extent it would fill a 500-page book. I'd let Paulson off the hook a little on this point, if the book wasn't structured as a day-by-day.

I would think it would be important to corroborate more facts, dates and times against other sourc
Apr 26, 2015 Kathleen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Meh. 2.5 stars, I would say. Paulson's tale of his experience as Treasury Secretary during the beginning of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression is written in a disarmingly forthright and clear manner. I couldn't help but be charmed when he described his annoyance at Sarah Palin calling him "Hank," even though everyone calls him that. But it's certainly self-serving and I felt like he didn't truly address the ultimate political backlash over the bank bailouts, or give serious tho ...more
Keith McGowan
Yet another self-serving attempt to paint the author in the best light possible as an actor serving in a high government post (Treasurer Secretary for the second George Bush) during 1998 when our entire global economic system came close to collapse.

As a former partner in Goldman Sachs, Paulson gives running data on the fluctuations of the Dow Jones Industrial Average as background to his frantic all-night-through-the-weekend attempts to keep the financial system from disintegrating. Still he has
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!
May 31, 2016 Mingyi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Didn't read the entire book, but a summary of the book via Get Abstract. It talks about the key events that Henry Paulson was involved with during financial crisis: taking down Fannie and Freddie, bail out of Bear Sterns, collapse of Lehman Brothers, stabilizing AIG, and using TARP to save the banking sector. Having read his "how to deal with China", I think the style of the writing will be quite similar (from the summary it can be seen as well) in listing down the things he's done well, ie why ...more
Apr 15, 2014 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 09, 2014 Ian Billick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Eye Summers
Mar 02, 2015 Eye Summers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A clear and insightful account of the Global Financial Crisis from Treasury Secretary Paulson. After reading this I gained a basic understanding of the narrative of the crisis & learned a lot basic information about Fannie, Freddie, GSEs & those institutions role in engendering the sub-prime mortgages. This could have easily been a longer & more technical account but it was fairly readable & easy to understand.

This is one of the few books that I had been meaning to read for a wh
Jul 01, 2014 Gary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Thomas 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
Aug 02, 2010 E rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 Wang
Apr 13, 2010 Wang rated it really liked it  ·  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
Feb 04, 2011 Phillip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Apr 03, 2011 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Linda B
Mar 21, 2010 Linda B rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 11, 2012 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
More about Henry M. Paulson Jr....

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