JCL Blog

Book Review: Boomerang by Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis is one of my favorite authors. His magic is the ability to rapidly become an insider on a subject, without losing the perspective of an outsider.  He is an Earthling that sees the world through the eyes of a Martian.  Or a bond trader that sees Wall Street through the eyes of main street.  His latest work, Boomerang, takes us on a tour of what he is calling the new third world.  This is great irony capitalizing on the recent fashion of using the term “developing nation” instead of the term “third world”.  It is no longer correct to count the worlds.  Counting or not, we have leap frogged in the backward direction - over the developing nations.  His tour of countries worse off than the third world starts in Iceland, and goes to Ireland, Greece, Spain, Germany, and well, California. 

The recurring theme is examining what people do when told they are in a room full of money and:  “The lights are out, you can do whatever you want to do and no one will ever know.” It’s a great mental picture that takes all of a half second to absorb.  Lewis makes it even more powerful by applying it to nations.  “Americans wanted to own homes far larger than they could afford, and to allow the strong to exploit the weak. Icelanders wanted to stop fishing and become investment bankers, and to allow their alpha males to reveal a theretofore suppressed megalomania. The Germans wanted to be even more German; the Irish wanted to stop being Irish…”

The section on Germany was particularly interesting as Lewis investigated that culture’s fascination with human waste, which made them particularly vulnerable to the toxic waste products being packaged by our people on Wall Street.  It will be a long time before anybody anywhere in the world ever trusts Americans again.  WMD + Abu Ghraib + Goldman Sachs = Americans are liars. Our reputation could not be repaired even if we had the money to do another Marshall Plan.  Looks like we are going to be sewing Canadian flags on our backpacks for many years to come.

There have been many great reviews of the book.  Here are links to a few of them:

NY Times:

The Guardian:  


Washington Post

Seeking Alpha:  

As I do with many books, I listened to this one on Audible.  It was another great production, this time read by Dylan Baker.