by Michael Lewis
WW Norton & Co (e-book)
You could always read newspaper reports about the basket-case economies of Greece, Iceland and Ireland. But they would not be as much fun as Michael Lewis' book Boomerang - adapted from essays he wrote for Vanity Fair - which takes subjects of potentially brain-frying complexity and explains them in a way you can then elucidate to others. Lewis, of The Big Short and Liar's Poker fame, delves into the background, the quirks of the different places, and the people caught up in the bubbles. His outrageous generalisations - Icelanders as inbred fishermen-turned-investment bankers; Germans as rule lovers with a defecation complex; Greeks as tax-cheaters who lack faith in themselves - might raise eyebrows. But mostly he tells it like it is, explaining, for example, how the people who saw the global financial crisis coming 'had more to gain from it by taking short positions than they did by trying to publicise the problem'. Lewis also journeys to California, financially America's 'scariest' state: in 2011 the average Californian has debts of US$78,000 against an income of US$43,000.