2008 financial crisis reading list


The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report

Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson, and Timothy Geithner, Firefighting and First Responders

Alan Binder, After the Music Stopped

Alan Binder, Andrew Lo, and Robert M. Solow, Rethinking the Financial Crisis

Jeffrey Friedman and Wladimir Kraus, Engineering the Financial Crisis

Michael Lewis, The Big Short

Bethany Mclean and Joe Nocera, All the Devils Are Here

Gretchen Morgenson, Reckless Endangerment

Andrew Ross Sorkin, Too Big to Fail

Adam Tooze, Crashed

Martin Wolf, The Shifts and the Shocks


Martin Neil Baily, Matthew S. Johnson, and Robert E. Litan, “The Origins of the Financial Crisis” (Brookings)

Perry Anderson, “Situationism à L’envers?” (review of Tooze’s Crashed), New Left Review

Films and Videos

The Big Short, directed by Adam McKay

Panic, HBO’s Vice

Crisis on Wall Street, CNBC

YouTube: “The Crisis of Credit Visualized” (by graphixmdp), “The 2008 Financial Crisis” (by CrashCourse), “Crises of Capitalism” (RSA animation of David Harvey lecture), “The Root Cause of the Financial Crisis: The CDO” (by Paddy Hirsch), “The Financial Crisis: A Decade of Debt” (by Financial Times)

Crisis on Wall Street Extended Cut interviews: Jamie Dimon, Warren Buffett, Hank Paulson, Timothy Geithner

Radio and Podcasts

“The Giant Pool of Money,” This American Life

The extreme brevity of financial memory

From the second chapter of John Kenneth Galbraith’s A Short History of Financial Euphoria (1990):

Contributing to and supporting this euphoria are two further factors little noticed in our time or in past times. The first is the extreme brevity of the financial memory. In consequence, financial disaster is quickly forgotten. In further consequence, when the same or closely similar circumstances occur again, sometimes in only a few years, they are hailed by a new, often youthful, and always supremely self-confident generation as a brilliantly innovative discovery in the financial and larger economic world. There can be few fields of human endeavor in which history counts so little as in the world of finance. Past experience, to the extent that it is part of memory at all, is dismissed as the primitive refuge of those who do not have the insight to appreciate the incredible wonders of the present.

The second factor contributing to speculative euphoria and programmed collapse is the specious association of money and intelligence. Mention of this is not a formula for eliciting reputable applause, but, alas, it must be accepted, for acceptance is also highly useful, a major protection against personal or institutional disaster.

The basic situation is wonderfully clear. In all free-enterprise (once called capitalist) attitudes there is a strong tendency to believe that the more money, either as income or assets, of which an individual is possessed or with which he is associated, the deeper and more compelling his economic and social perception, the more astute and penetrating his mental processes. Money is the measure of capitalist achievement. The more money, the greater the achievement and the intelligence that supports it.

Further, in a world where for many the acquisition of money is difficult and the resulting sums palpably insufficient, the possession of it in large amount seems a miracle. Accordingly, possession must be associated with some special genius. This view is then reinforced by the air of self-confidence and self-approval that is commonly assumed by the affluent.