Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin

October 3, 2013

too big to fail Summary (from the publisher): In one of the most gripping financial narratives in decades, Andrew Ross Sorkin-a New York Times columnist and one of the country’s most respected financial reporters-delivers the first definitive blow- by-blow account of the epochal economic crisis that brought the world to the brink. Through unprecedented access to the players involved, he re-creates all the drama and turmoil of these turbulent days, revealing never-before-disclosed details and recounting how, motivated as often by ego and greed as by fear and self-preservation, the most powerful men and women in finance and politics decided the fate of the world’s economy.


I was excited by the prospect of reading an inside account of the financial crisis told to the author by many of the major players from the biggest brokerage houses and banking firms on Wall St. But while Sorkin’s high level of access is clearly evident, it mostly reveals itself in minute details that don’t have any bearing on the truly important questions. So we know what certain people ate for lunch or dinner on certain days or how they were sitting or what they were wearing when some of the critical events unfolded, but we get very little analysis of what was going on as the action happened.

Another thing I disliked about the book was how repetitive it was. And I’m not just talking about certain words or phrases, either, but entire scenes. This made the work feel rough and unpolished, and had me wondering where the editor was. At 500 pages, there was certainly room for cuts.

While I was reading, I couldn’t help thinking that the author was highly sympathetic to the financial figures involved in the mess, including Dick Fuld, Jamie Dimon, and even Tim Geithner. He wasn’t exactly singing their praises, perhaps, but there weren’t any scathing denunciations either. And towards the end, with Lehman Brothers and AIG already in the toilet, Sorkin made the rest of the bankers seem positively heroic for trying to save the financial system.


Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin does contain a lot of inside information, but it’s mostly presented in a slapdash, confusing way and doled out in long scenes that serve to obscure the time frame even more. This book provides a rather superficial account of the “battle to save the financial system”, missing many opportunities for deeper analysis. I give it 2 stars out of 5.

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