cover image Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World

Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World

Michael Lewis. Norton, $25.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-393-08181-7

Essentially an offbeat travelogue, Lewis's latest examines the recent global financial crisis by visiting the locales that have faltered beyond reasonable expectation. Though journalistic, there is a distinctly anthropological approach to vivid depictions of how particular cultural values contributed to such a bizarre, devastating series of events. In his dynamic narrative, Lewis simplifies complex financial systems without condescension, applies a degree of rationality to absurd decisions, and presents key individuals' profiles without denigration. Dark, deadpan humor is injected throughout: Iceland as a nation of fishermen-cum-hedge fund managers with "no idea what they were doing%E2%80%9D; Greece's "fantastic mess%E2%80%9D of scandalous monasteries, tax-evasion and top-down corruption; Ireland's busted banks and stratospheric losses debilitating a now "distinctly third world%E2%80%9D country. Germany is singled-out for its "preternatural love of rules%E2%80%9D and naivet%C3%A9 regarding the so-called "riskless asset%E2%80%9D while California tops the list of "America's scariest financial places%E2%80%9D following their ratings downgrade and piling debts. Easily devoured in one sitting, Lewis (Moneyball) manages to gracefully explain what happened with a unique regard for both the strengths and weaknesses of humankind. (Oct.)