Boomerang (2011) by Michael Lewis is the successful non-fiction writer’s latest effort that is not nearly up to the standard of his best books. The book is a number of essays that Lewis has had published in Vanity Fair where he travels around the world to places affected by the sovereign debt crisis. The book cashes in on Lewis’s previous two excellent books on finance, Liar’s Poker and The Big Short. The book isn’t terrible and has some amusing anecdotes but it isn’t as good as P.J. O’Rourke in this respect.
Lewis first goes to Iceland where he essentially says that the financialisation coupled with Icelandic males odd qualities led the country to make huge mistakes. He then goes to Greece where he says that essentially everyone has been cheating and this cheating has finally caught up with the nation. The trip to Ireland is a better chapter, Lewis could speak the language and perhaps talked to more people there. He also gets into his element because he talked to finance people from outside who happily pointed out that Ireland’s own banks were wildly incompetent. In his trip to Germany Lewis decides that Germany’s financial situation is due to war guilt and liking to watch people get dirty. The final chapter on looking at US cities and visiting California is also one of the better ones because Lewis could speak the language and also got to talk to more people in better positions including former Governor Schwarzenegger. There is also a brief conclusion in the California chapter where Lewis points out that people have been borrowing too much and that personal, business and government debt is finally catching up to people.
It’s hard to blame a writer like Lewis cashing in once in a while and the book still exhibits his skills as a non-fiction writer and someone who knows something about finance. His ability to create a story within his writing and describe and selecting interesting facts is impressive. The book is also good in that it points out the the debt crisis manifests itself differently in different places. The book references the more serious books on financial crisis such as This Time is Different, Manias Panics and Crashes and the work of Hyman Minsky. It’s also difficult to write about a crisis that is ongoing. Perhaps within a few years Lewis will write another book about how the sovereign debt crisis turns out which will be really good but in the mean time this book will at least help to stave off any financial problems that Lewis has.