Sorkin writes about the months after the sale of the Bear Stearns brokerage firm, up through the collapse of Lehman Brothers…and, finally, to “the bailout,” or what government officials prefer to call “TARP”—Troubled Asset Relief Program. It was a desperate time, one which turned conventional politics on its head. Both parties—voting against their deepest-held beliefs—nearly nationalized the banks (say Republicans) or subsidized the wealthy (say Democrats).
What makes the story such fun—oh, yes, it’s fun!—are portraits of outsized personalities—brilliant, driven men and women, who get where they’ve gotten by grueling work schedules, mentors, cut-throat infighting, alliances, and stunning betrayals.
In the days leading up to the bailout, we’re privy to blow-by-blow accounts of these titans as they clash, curse, plead on bended knee, and wretch over toilet bowls. Finally, reluctantly, politicians, government officials, and bankers forge an agreement.
There are no particular villains but plenty of arrogance, blindness, and irresponsibility to go around. There are, however, heroes—Henry Paulson and his team at Treasury; Timothy Geitner, then head of NY-Federal Reserve; and Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve chairman.
This is an ambitious undertaking for any book club. But if you’re up to it, Too Big Too Fail is an extraordinary tale about how close, how very close, we came to a total global meltdown.
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