Reid's Reviews > Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World

Boomerang by Michael Lewis
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Sep 03, 12

bookshelves: michael-lewis, trading-money-finance
Read from August 29 to September 03, 2012

I am already impressed with this book.

The foreward is an interview with Kyle Bass, one of the hedge fund managers who saw the subprime housing crisis in the making and took an immense short position and profited from the fall. There are several amusing bits to this part, including the fact that Bass literally bought $1 million worth of nickels -- 20,000,000 of them -- to profit from an anticipated change in the metal content of the coins.

From there, Lewis travels to countries which have since been decimated by financial disaster. He visits Iceland, the first European country in living memory to declare bankruptcy, and finds that the Icelanders suddenly found themselves caught up in a rising bubble and believed that they had suddenly discovered theretofore hidden talents for financial acumen. The Icelanders didn't realize they were merely benefiting from market momentum as it exhausted itself....

His chapter on Greece has already been featured to some extent in Vanity Fair under the title, Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds... It shows how a group of monks (!) managed to show surprising proficiency with land transfers, yet still got singled out as villains and financial frauds in a country full of villains and financial frauds.

Lewis concludes the book with a look at the disastrous municipal bond market in California, and even manages to interview Arnold Schwarzenegger, who claims he only decided to run for governor of California on the Tonight Show while talking to Jay Leno. He was in for a rough ride, because the system in California is designed to freeze the status quo in place, not to allow for reform. He shows how cities like Vallejo are now just being sold off in foreclosure auctions in front of city halls -- which are empty, because they've cut their staffs to skeleton crews.
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