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Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System from Crisis — and Themselves
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Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System from Crisis — and Themselves

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  35,694 ratings  ·  1,405 reviews
Andrew Ross Sorkin delivers the first true behind-the-scenes, moment-by-moment account of how the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression developed into a global tsunami. From inside the corner office at Lehman Brothers to secret meetings in South Korea, and the corridors of Washington, Too Big to Fail is the definitive story of the most powerful men and women ...more
Hardcover, 600 pages
Published October 20th 2009 by Viking
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Start your review of Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System from Crisis — and Themselves
Aug 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
"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
Petra-X Off having adventures
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
Oct 20, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: business-finance
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 27, 2018 rated it liked it
So I teach banking law and I assign a bunch of articles and documentaries on the crisis and I lived through it so nothing in here was new, but I wanted to read this after 10 years to see how well the narrative has aged and also because I forgot some of the play by play. This hasn't aged all that well because it's more of a financial thriller than an analysis. It's also so over the top about lionizing some of these big bad macho bankers and policymakers. Sorkin seems to have a big crush on Dimon ...more
Dec 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016
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
Aug 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
I have 5 books on the 2008 financial crisis and this is the largest. However, it wasn't "Too Big to Fail". Mostly a waste of my time but I finished it and will give it 2 Stars. If you want to know what some of the people on Wall Street and a few in DC were saying and doing, you will be satisfied. You won't learn anything about what caused the financial crisis and you really don't get any detail on the plans to save the system. Just "make a plan", "give me your Plan B", "call that guy", "make a d ...more
RJ from the LBC
The level of detail is astonishing in this comprehensive insider's look at the 2008 financial crisis including the failure of Lehman Brothers and the response of government regulators. This book will be an undeniable resource for historians in the years to come. Unfortunately that same level of detail also cripples the book somewhat, making it too unwieldy and dense to be fully appreciated by the average reader. ...more
Alok Mishra
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
It was very interesting as well as enlightening read! More will told by the native readers but as fas as my own perception about the book is concerned, I got a lot to learn and understand about the functioning of USA economy and the big time players who influence the system.
Jan 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Ldrutman Drutman
Mar 13, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Daiv Shorten
Jun 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 rated it did not like it
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
Apr 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Rob Smith
Jul 28, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 (
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 rated it it was amazing
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 22, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Nov 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
I picked this book up mistakenly thinking it was Paul Bunyan's memoir. It was not, but enjoyable anyhow. ...more
Bob Adamcik
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
Dec 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics, politics
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
Jeremy Stock
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 18, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Wayland Smith
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
I read this book to fill a slot in a challenge. It's not my usual kinda thing. It has a lot of information about the financial crisis of 2008. While it's informative, you almost need a degree in finance to follow it some of the time, or that's what it seemed like to me. I definitely learned a lot more about those events.

I also learned that, from what I could tell, some, if not most, of what happened could have been prevented. It was a combination of greedy/stupid choices on the part of the bank
Never did I ever expect to fall so deeply enthralled with the inner lives of CEO's, Federal Reserve Chairmen and government officials. What I love most is that Sorkin writes so candidly that you find yourself lost in the turn of events yourself. By the end of the book I was pulling for people to whom I never thought I would give sympathy, and rooting against people I originally thought I liked. Definitely worth the read, even if you have no interest in the subprime mortgage crisis. ...more
Feb 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Subprime crises- behind the scene! Amazing book. I wonder what all the author would have gone through to collect and collate this kind of information. From Bear Stearns to TARP, everyone involved and the conversations that took place; all so palpable.
Sep 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: waiting
I was expecting something more from this one, since its almost 600pages, at least 300 over average. This one was as good as the others, maybe written more like a novel :)
May 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Cannon Fodder, Lehman Brothers
- Review of Too Big to Fail

In 2008, the lucky Chinese people sheltered under the state-owned system watched a striking and destructive financial crisis resulting from private ownership. While the real estate and financial market became sluggish, the media industry thrived to be the winner with a variety of books, films and television programs. Of which the interview collection - Too Big to Fail under the cloak of documentary produced by the young and successful
Duncan Pelham
Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A remarkable account of the frantic behind-the-scenes efforts to stop the 2008 Wall Street credit crisis from causing a global economic meltdown. It's fascinating to see just how much worse this catastrophe could have been – and the role sheer panic, across media, financial markets, governments and consumers, played in proliferating the downward spiral.

Sorkin does a great job in fleshing out all of the key players - and there are a lot to keep track of - exploring their backgrounds, motivations
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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.



News & Interviews

Happy Women's History Month! One of the undisputedly good things about modern scholarship is that women’s history is finally getting its due....
28 likes · 4 comments
“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.” 13 likes
“There are no atheists in foxholes or ideologues in a financial crisis. Ben Bernanke” 10 likes
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