An accessible and thorough story of a nation’s financial collapse.



Debut author Bibler offers an insider’s account of a banking scandal that roiled the Icelandic economy.

In 2004, the author moved from New York City to Iceland inan attempt to “escape the increasingly oppressive world of mortgage-boom Wall Street.” He found a job at Landsbanki, the country’s oldest financial institution, in portfolio management. Before long, he says, he discovered disturbing trading irregularities that compelled him, as a matter of conscience, to resign from the firm. In 2008, a major Icelandic banking crisis occurred—a catastrophic “earthquake that leveled the financial fortunes of a whole country,” as Bibler puts it. The country’s three major banks collapsed, the national currency followed suit, and many people’s savings were wiped out. After some lean times, Bibler was hired as an investigator by Iceland’s FME, the “financial regulator of the land,” and he writes of how he and his colleagues discovered an astonishing scandal—the three major banks, including his former employer, were buying up their own shares in order to artificially generate demand for them, effectively manipulating their prices. They then used shell companies both to conceal those shares and dispense loans made against their value. In the case of Landsbanki, he says, this unscrupulous practice dated back to 1998. The author captures the unseemliness and audacity of the gambit in memorable, vivid prose: “It would be something like as bad as if a supermarket owner, seeing that nobody is buying his well-rotted tomatoes, hired dozens of actors to queue outside his store, buying up his produce with the store’s own cash.”

Bibler is uniquely positioned to explain the scandal, as he assumes a dual perch as both an insider and an outsider. He not only captures the financial skulduggery in precise detail, moving seamlessly from nuts and bolts to big-picture analysis, but also depicts it as a cautionary tale—a case of “unregulated Wild West capitalism.” In this way, the book goes beyond a mere portrayal of a specific crime and its far-reaching ramifications and becomes a moral tale about the depths of human greed. It shows how, even in a nation as thoroughly egalitarian as Iceland, crimes of avarice are possible—especially when regulatory agencies are less than vigilant. Furthermore, he provides engaging insights into Iceland’s unique culture, including the difficulty of precisely assigning responsibility for wrongdoing: “the Icelandic language offers up a third, middle way of describing the making of a mistake as if it took place in a vacuum and never involved a living soul, the way electrons magically pop into and out of existence in the vastness of space….With it, Icelandic politics and business can seem magical worlds, bereft of human influence.” That said, Bibler’s account isn’t without its longueurs; his descriptions can be redundant, and the pace of the book, as a mixture of financial commentary and personal remembrance, is often languid. Nonetheless, it’s an admirably rigorous account of a complex event of great contemporary importance.

An accessible and thorough story of a nation’s financial collapse.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-85-719899-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harriman House

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2021

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A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.


A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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Even if they're pie-in-the-sky exercises, Sanders’ pitched arguments bear consideration by nonbillionaires.


Everyone’s favorite avuncular socialist sends up a rousing call to remake the American way of doing business.

“In the twenty-first century we can end the vicious dog-eat-dog economy in which the vast majority struggle to survive,” writes Sanders, “while a handful of billionaires have more wealth than they could spend in a thousand lifetimes.” With that statement, the author updates an argument as old as Marx and Proudhon. In a nice play on words, he condemns “the uber-capitalist system under which we live,” showing how it benefits only the slimmest slice of the few while imposing undue burdens on everyone else. Along the way, Sanders notes that resentment over this inequality was powerful fuel for the disastrous Trump administration, since the Democratic Party thoughtlessly largely abandoned underprivileged voters in favor of “wealthy campaign contributors and the ‘beautiful people.’ ” The author looks squarely at Jeff Bezos, whose company “paid nothing in federal income taxes in 2017 and 2018.” Indeed, writes Sanders, “Bezos is the embodiment of the extreme corporate greed that shapes our times.” Aside from a few passages putting a face to avarice, Sanders lays forth a well-reasoned platform of programs to retool the American economy for greater equity, including investment in education and taking seriously a progressive (in all senses) corporate and personal taxation system to make the rich pay their fair share. In the end, he urges, “We must stop being afraid to call out capitalism and demand fundamental change to a corrupt and rigged system.” One wonders if this firebrand of a manifesto is the opening gambit in still another Sanders run for the presidency. If it is, well, the plutocrats might want to take cover for the duration.

Even if they're pie-in-the-sky exercises, Sanders’ pitched arguments bear consideration by nonbillionaires.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593238714

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023

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