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The End of Wall Street
Roger Lowenstein
read on May 1, 2010

The one sentence review of this book is "the longest newspaper article I've ever read." It is concise, clear, and presents the facts in comprehensive but still approachable way. What it isn't, is a good book.

It has no narrative, no drive. It moves through the financial crisis chronologically, and honestly it just feels like someone picked out highlights from the WSJ over those two years. I'm not sure why the book is even broken into chapters, since each one is exactly like the last. Too Big To Fail covered this same content, but as a narrative. The characters had depth and motivations. A good example is when Joe Gregory at Lehman stepped down with Callan, the young CFO. TBTF had spent a long time talking about Gregory's relationship with Fuld, how he had appointed Callan and supported her, the mistakes that both of them made, etc, such that when they stepped down I actually cared, and I knew how big a hit it was to Fuld and how it changed the culture of the firm. In this book, the same scene is one sentence long. It goes something like "that week Joe Gregory, a Lehman exective, and the CFO Erin Callan abruptly resigned." Weak. And I'm not picking and choosing... TBTF covered pretty much every topic in more detail and in a more engaging way.

During the second half of the book, things pick up a little bit and become more engaging. This is during the actual Sep-Oct 08 timeframe, during those few weeks where the whole system was just falling apart. Still though, as a whole, this book seems like cliffs notes for TBTF. It covers all the content, but leaves out the good parts that really make it worth reading. I'm very surprised it's by Lowenstein, the same author of When Genius Failed, which was an extremely engaging account of the LTCM disaster.

Author Bio:

Roger Lowenstein (born in 1954) is an American financial journalist and writer. He graduated from Cornell University and reported for the Wall Street Journal for more than a decade, including two years writing its Heard on the Street column, 1989 to 1991. Born in 1954, he is the son of Helen and Louis Lowenstein of Larchmont, N.Y. Lowenstein is married to Judith Slovin. He is also a director of Sequoia Fund. In 2016, he joined the Board of Trustees of Lesley University. His father, the late Louis Lowenstein, was an attorney and Columbia University law professor who wrote books and articles critical of the American financial industry. Roger Lowenstein's latest book, America's Bank: The Epic Struggle to Create the Federal Reserve (The Penguin Press) was released on October 20, 2015.