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

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  2,051 Ratings  ·  159 Reviews
From the Foreword, by Rep. Barney Frank, especially written for the trade paper edition:

"For many people, what will be most striking about this foreword is the fact that I wrote it. It's not every day a partisan, liberal Democrat gets a call from a conservative, high-ranking member of the George W. Bush administration asking for a favorable introduction to anything. But wh
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Paperback, 512 pages
Published February 15th 2011 by Business Plus (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
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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
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Nathaniel
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." There is no bibliography. There are no sources. No datebook. No call sheets. For a non-fiction book about an important event with a massive paper trail, this book stands as an unbelievable, astonishing feat of memory.

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
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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.. . .
George
Apr 04, 2017 George rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
a great book describing the financial crisis, even though I lived through it, it helped me understand the why.

I did watch Too big to Fail, and even though what was in there is covered in the book, many of the things in the movie were compressed to fit.
karl
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
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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
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Martin
The bailouts were complicated. Even reading the WSJ, I couldn't follow everything that was happening. This book does a great job of spelling it out in a way that one can follow.

The writing is honest, with praise for both Bush II and Obama, and criticism of several members of Congress. Paulson doesn't hide the physical effects of the stress he was under. Most authors would.

Paulson has some tremendous blind spots. Some bank activities are really just gambling. That should be stopped. The only ment
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Tom
Aug 25, 2014 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
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
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Kim
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"...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
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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
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!
Hal
Feb 13, 2010 Hal rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Paulson reveals that he is a closet democrat. Had great things to say about Pres Bush, Barney Frank, Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner and himself. He didn't like McCain. Difficult read but lots of good info.
Paul
Jan 12, 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.
Bojan Tunguz
Jul 11, 2011 Bojan Tunguz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Craig
Apr 19, 2010 Craig rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ross T
May 26, 2012 Ross T rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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Gary
Mar 15, 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
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John
Mar 10, 2011 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Chris Henn
Aug 11, 2011 Chris Henn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
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Supernova1987agmail.com Wang
Mar 21, 2010 Supernova1987agmail.com 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
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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
Brian
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
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
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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
BDT
Jul 07, 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'
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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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