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Lewis (The Big Short) puts his own spin on financial-disaster tourism, traveling to places we hear about in the headlines but whose economic troubles few of us really understand: Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Germany, and even California. Originally written as a series of articles for Vanity Fair, these pieces all reflect Lewis's flair for making complex financial shenanigans comprehensible to the nonbusiness reader as well as his talent for teasing character profiles (like the Texas financier who bought 20 million nickels for their metal value) and stories out of nameless bureaucracies and amorphous events. The individual chapters are engaging, but they remain a somewhat disconnected group without much in the way of an introduction or conclusion to bring them together. Lewis also tends to engage in a bit of cultural stereotyping that may not be to all readers' taste-Icelanders, for example, have a "feral streak," and Germans are fascinated with all things scheisse (shit). Verdict Lewis is red-hot right now (thanks in no small part to recent movie versions of The Blind Side and Moneyball) and there will be demand for this title, which, despite its shortcomings and depressing subject matter, is fascinating.-Sarah Statz Cords, The Reader's Advisor Online (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
The "new third world" of the book's title refers to first-world countries that have run up debts so large that default is now a serious option. Bestselling journalist Lewis (The Big Short, CH, Jul'10, 47-6378; Moneyball, CH, Apr'04, 41-4733) visits Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Germany, and California, trying to discover why some speculators are betting that sovereign debt default will trigger the next financial crisis. Lewis has an acerbic take on some societies and people he visits: the Icelanders are aggressive but naive, the Greeks totally corrupt, and the Germans fascinated with excrement. The reader will enjoy both Lewis's stay with Greek monks who have an uncanny ability to deal in real estate and his bike ride through traffic with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Although Lewis's writing style makes his discussion of the underlying financial themes readable and humorous, it also tends to push these themes into the background because they are not as entertaining as his observations about the cultures and people he encounters. His bad news is that people given too much money often act foolishly. The hope he holds out is that people forced to deal with the consequences of that foolishness often show creativity and innovation. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers and all levels of undergraduate students. R. E. Schenk emeritus, Saint Joseph's College (IN)