GOOD HOLIDAY READS IN A DARK AND DEPRESSING TIME
My 12 Best Books of Chanukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa About the Economic Crisis That Has Defined Our Times
By Danny Schechter, Author of The Crime Of Our Time
Back in 2007, just as the markets began their meltdown, I started writing a book I called Plunder to investigate the then emerging economic calamity. I had a well-known agent representing me, and, at that time, had published ten books. My agent warned me that I was ahead of the curve but agreed that the subject couldn't be timelier.
Before we were through, the manuscript went to and was returned by 30 publishers. I was told that there is only one person that a book like mine had to pass muster with, not an economist, not a book editor--but the book buyer who handles business books for Barnes and Noble. If she/she didn't like it, forget it. (This was before the bottom dropped out of that company that was later nearly sold.)
So much for their business savvy. I guess Plunder was too much of an anti-business book for them then.
At that point, they were looking for "How to Get Rich" books and volumes with investment advice. Since I was not offering either, my warnings of the collapse ahead were off-message. No sale. Finally, a small press, Cosimo Books put it out. Sadly, with no real advertising budget or retail support, it wasn't going to go anywhere. It was on the money in one sense -- published just before Lehman Brothers went down.
Since then, as the crisis was acknowledged and legitimated, the subject was finally validated for the publishing world, perhaps as millions of people began asking, "What the F"? What the hell happened?'
To answer that question, a mighty stream of crisis books were commissioned and soon poured forth. Every publisher wanted one. Some authors blamed psychological factors. Others were technical to a fault and unreadable. Still, others trashed borrowers who bought homes they couldn't afford. Many framed the problem in terms of Wall Street mistakes and miscalculations, and occasionally greed.
Wrote Satyajit Das, author of Traders, Guns & Money : "The number of books on the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) has reached pandemic proportions -" the World Health Organization (WHO) is investigating. With the decorum of vultures at a carcass, publishers are cashing in on the transitory interest of the masses (normally obsessed with war, scandal or reality TV shows) in the arcane minutiae of financial matters."
Few authors indicted the system; fewer still focused on intentionality-" crime in the suites, the subject I explore in my film PLUNDER The Crime Of Our Tim e and the more detailed companion book The Crime of Our Time (Disinfo).
In the meantime, I tried to keep up with the hype and a flow that is still flowing.
Here are twelve books most worth reading:
- The Pecora Investigation: Stock Exchange Practices and The Causes of the 1929 Stock Market Crash . This is the just reissued actual text of the US Senate Committee on Banking and Currency in the days before the Congress was bought and sold. Pecora had said "Legal chicanery and pitch darkness were the banker's stoutest allies."
- So far, in today's crisis there has been only ONE real Senate hearing, by Senator Levin questioning ONE deal by Goldman Sachs who denied everything until the bank reached a $550 MILLION settlement without admitting any wrong-doing. Clearly we still need a new Pecora-like investigation, not a tepid Congressional inquiry commission
2. Matt Taibbi: Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids and the Long Con that is Breaking America (Spiegel & Grau). As Rolling Stone readers know, Matt is a bold reporter and brilliant stylist turning his rage into brilliant prose and giving no mercy to the Goldman Sachs gang.
3. Nomi Prims: It Tales A Pillage: Behind the Bailouts, Bonuses and Backroom Deals from Washington to Wall Street .' An elegant writer, Nomi knows the financial world up close because she's "been there and done that' with high paying stints at Bear Stearns and Goldman Sachs. You can see her brilliance in my film, PLUNDER . Her book goes much deeper.