Book: Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World

I’ve generally ignored the mainstream media during the original US financial crisis and the more recent European financial crisis. My lack of interest in mainstream media (TV, newspaper, and magazines) – especially about non-tech related stuff – is well known. The last domino to fall was when I finally stopped listening to NPR a few years ago. I view the signal to noise ratio as terrible, I don’t believe most of the information, I often think the people talking have no clue what they are talking about, and as many things unfold in real time, the people involved have no idea what’s actually going on. Oh – and it’s part of the macro that – while it certainly impacts me, doesn’t directly affect me, nor is there anything I can do about it. So I ignore it and instead focus on things I can make an impact on.

But I like to read and learn from history. There are a number of writers who I think do a magnificent job of writing in different areas – for example Walter Issacson on Biography and Michael Lewis on Financial History. So I was excited when Lewis’ new book, Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World, came out about the European financial crisis. I read it last night after we had dinner with some good friends who we hadn’t seen in a while.

It was awesome and kept me up well past my normal bedtime. Lewis writes like a novelist so his story completely sucks you in. In the case of Boomerang, he added in a travelogue component and went to each of the countries he wrote about. The book starts in Dallas, takes us to Iceland, to Greece, to Ireland, to Germany, and finally back to the California. Lewis covers both what happened, what’s happening, what could happen, and why in a book that gave me more history, context, facts, and personalities than watching hundreds of hours of CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg or reading the Wall Street Journal and New York Times daily could have. And I trust his synthesis – it feels very agenda-less and is written clearly from his point of view.

If you want to understand what is going on in Europe, especially Greece, Ireland, and Germany, how it happened, why it matters, and where it might go, read this book. And if you just are curious and want a good “real life is better than fiction” kind of read, you can get that also from Boomerang.

  • …on my short list.  Now at the top.

  • Boomerang was really a book about European culture told through the lens of the financial crisis. It was very interesting to see how different countries reacted to the problems they were facing. I think we take for granted just how much of our personalities and values are shaped by the societies we live in.

    The Big Short was even more compelling and featured awesome characters. Must read

  • Neil Fernandes

    I just read the preface and didnt want to put it down. The Big Short is an excellent read as well.

    • Totally agree on Big Short. Great book.

  • I’ve been searching for a way to describe my distaste of mainstream news for years. I once called it “fear-mongering robo-anchors”. I like your less militant approach. Will be borrowing 🙂

    Big fan of Michael Lewis – solid review – added to reading list.

    • Yeah – I think we can just refer to it as “stupid” and leave it at that.

      • JamesHRH

        It is important to remember that mainstream media does not tell peope what to think, but tells them what to think about.

        As much as people find mainstream media micro annoying, it is macro important as an agenda setting device.

        • No doubt that it is an agenda setting device. Fortunately, the agenda is so confusing, contradictory, and tangled that over time it sucks itself into a black hole. Or at least it does in my fantasy.

  • Brad, are you familiar with the Austrian School of economics? If so, are you a fan? I think you would love Rothbard. Cheers! 

    • I’m not. What should I read?

      • Derek Scruggs

        Whatever you read, also make sure you read the blog Marginal Revolution. People there tend to be sympathetic to the Austrian School but have not drunk the koolaid completely.

  • Kyle S

    You can read 90 percent of the material in this book for free on the web by searching for Lewis’ columns in Vanity Fair. Or go here:

  • Heard so many good things about this book. It’s on my Audible wish list. 

    I guess you have read Too Big to Fail..? That was riveting!

    • Too Big To Fail was excellent as well.

  • PS: Also reading a fantastic book called ‘The Happiness Hypothesis’ by Jonathan Haidt. 

    This book is promising to be great..

  • Anonymous

     Ocassionally the written word and television merge. 60 Minutes ran a piece this past Sunday on the Greek Monks mentioned in the book.  No mention of the awsome real estate deal the Monks pulled off to restore thier island infrastructure.

  • “I read it last night after we had dinner…”
    Is the book that short or do you read at a superhuman pace?

    • I read very fast. It took me about three hours to read it.

    • JamesHRH

      Dude reads fast.

  • JamesHRH

    Expect to finish this today………..

    I really like 2 concepts that anchor the book: the ‘ when let into a dark room where all the money is, the ______s then ………’ & the idea that European nations have strong natures or theme that drive them.

    Lewis has a long history of being able to see human traits in group conduct. The New New Thing was as accurate ( & disturbing ) an account of the Valley as I have read.

    One of the few authors where I have read almost every title ( read the article the was the basis for The Big Short, so didn’t read the book). Maybe I missed out?

    • You should definitely read The Big Short. Super insightful.

  • Jordan Mendenhall

    Michael Lewis fan but what’s the difference b/w what is written in that book and his Vanity Fair articles about the same topics? Seems that it might be a repackage of the same so just curious.

    • The Vanity Fair articles are excepts. They cover a lot of the book, but not all of it.

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  • David Lukas

    Not as jaw-dropping as The Big Short IMO, but still very good. I love how Lewis takes a set of circumstances, actors, and events that is insanely complex and sort of distills it down to the point where it is explained by the most rudimentary human motivations.

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