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Too Big to Fail: Inside the Battle to Save Wall Street
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Too Big to Fail: Inside the Battle to Save Wall Street

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  24,077 Ratings  ·  1,077 Reviews
This book was shortlisted for the BBC Samuel Johnson prize 2010. They were masters of the financial universe, flying in private jets and raking in billions. They thought they were too big to fail. Yet they would bring the world to its knees. Andrew Ross Sorkin, the news-breaking "New York Times" journalist, delivers the first true in-the-room account of the most powerful m ...more
Paperback, 640 pages
Published June 26th 2010 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 2008)
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Sep 03, 2011 Kemper rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Petar X
May 05, 2015 Petar X rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Feb 24, 2010 AC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 02, 2011 Kerry rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ldrutman Drutman
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Scott Rhee
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 18, 2010 Mac rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 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
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
May 12, 2013 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 07, 2011 DoctorM rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mar 15, 2011 Qi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 14, 2016 Kberger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book describes in detail what went on with some of the CEOs of some Wall Street firms from 2007-2008. That is pretty amazing. I sat back wondering from time to time how the author was able find out all of the interesting conversations that happened in the boss' office or in a closed conference room. I guess we'll just say he did a lot of legwork and had a lot of help.

Sometimes I like reading about Wall Street shenanigans. I think the book The Quants was a good picture of some of the interes
Jeremy Stock
Mar 18, 2016 Jeremy Stock rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Rob Smith
Aug 24, 2015 Rob Smith rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, economics
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
Bill P.
Nov 20, 2010 Bill P. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finally got around to picking this up after seeing Sorkin on Mahr a couple of times. Like much of "main street" America I felt the outrage that so many of the "fatcat bankers" of Wall Street came out of the recent financial meltdown richer than ever thanks to the government bailout. I was hoping to give my outrage a bit better foundation and understanding through Sorkin's account of the whole dramatic series of events that led up to the invention of TARP. The book provides not only a day by da ...more
Jon Gilbert
Aug 28, 2012 Jon Gilbert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you want a book that provides detailed analysis into every economic, systemic and human reason why the American (and later the global) financial system collapsed in 2008, this is not for you.

If, however, you want a book that re-creates the events and experiences of every major player in the farce that became global financial meltdown, then buy this now. I have never read a factual book that has made me feel that I am living the events vicariously through the page quite like this one. Sorkin a
Sep 27, 2010 Rick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 25, 2012 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fast-paced expose on the behind-the-scenes negotiations during the financial meltdown in late 2008. Very entertaining as it highlights the intensity when political pressure meets economics.

Details: I enjoyed how the story compared and tracked the behavior of all the big egos in the room. Not only was this a pressure-packed scenario, but as the economy continue to deteriorate, there was no game plan. I was actually impressed by how our leaders made it up as they went along. Paulson espe
Fei Fei
It is rare for me to give a book a 5/5 star rating but I think this ambitious volume of work truly deserves such a distinction.

I personally consider this book as my definitive source on the Financial Meltdown of 08/09. "Too Big to Fail" was meticulously researched and cross-checked with first-hand accounts - down to the seemingly insignificant, off-hand text message. And the story that unfolds as you read this book is one of such fantastical drama that, quoting Sorkin, "It's like something out
I haven't finished this book yet, but I am disappointed so far because it does not take a deep dive into the roots of this financial crisis but rather chronicles (in a rather gossipy way) the personnel events leading up to Lehman's collapse. I was hoping to learn more about the structural incentives and disincentives that hamstrung even the people who knew that CDOs and CDSs and so on were tricky instruments. It made me think back to a piece I read in 2008 that an economic historian wrote compar ...more
I work for a Wall Street firm - though about as far out in the orbit as one can be while still technically employed - and while I liked this book, I'm not sure I would have found it quite so engaging if I didn't recall so vividly the weeks at the center of the narrative, the anxiety that our firm might fail and we might all be jobless, the emails to staff that are quoted by the author (and come off, to me anyway, strangely more sincerely than they did at the time).

Having said that, the level of
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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.” 8 likes
“There are no atheists in foxholes or ideologues in a financial crisis. Ben Bernanke” 7 likes
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