I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay by John Lanchester
John Lanchester’s I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay is a smart, bitingly funny book that is very successful at it stated goal: making the causes and consequences of the 2008 crash comprehensible to the average reader. Given the dry, if not depressing, nature of its subject matter, it is also remarkably entertaining.
Early in the book Lanchester states, "Many bright, literate people have no idea about all sorts of economic basics." I would count myself among those bright, literate people and thank Lanchester for making me feel better about my ignorance while, in the end, enlightening me. Before reading I.O.U. I could recognize much of the terminology used to describe the financial crisis--“credit default swaps”, “zombie banks”, “toxic assets”, etc.--but would have been hard pressed to define it, let alone use it to construct an explanation. After reading I.O.U., I could begin to do both.
Lanchester is the author of three novels including Fragrant Harbor. His skills as a novelist are evident in the pacing and plotting of I.O.U. You want to keep reading to find out what happens next, and all of the book’s narrative strands come together in the end. He is also a deft and witty creator of metaphors and cultural references—good at making a point clear while making the reader laugh.
If this hasn’t convinced you to read it, check out Dwight Garner’s excellent review in the New York Times.
Jacob - Adult Services