I.O.U.

Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay

LIST PRICE $10.99

About The Book

For most people, the reasons for the sudden collapse of our economy still remain obscure. I.O.U. is the story of how we came to experience such a complete financial disaster, starting with the magical proliferation of credit that led to an explosion of lending on the global and local landscapes of banking and finance. Viewing the crisis through the lens of politics, culture, and contemporary history—from the invention and widespread misuse of financial instruments to the culpability of subprime mortgages—Lanchester deftly draws conclusions on the limitations of financial and governmental regulation, capitalism’s deepest flaw, and most important, on the plain and simple facts of human nature where cash is concerned.

With newly updated, superbly written reportage, Lanchester delivers a shrewd perspective and a digestible, comprehensive analysis that connects the dots for expert and casual reader alike. Part economic primer, part fiscal and historical analysis, I.O.U. is an eye-opener of a book.

About The Author

N/A

John Lanchester is the author of the novels The Debt to Pleasure, Mr. Phillips, and Fragrant Harbor; and a memoir, Family Romance. He is a contributing editor at the London Review of Books and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Observer, and The Daily Telegraph, among others. Among several other prizes, including the Whitbread and Hawthornden Awards, Lanchester was awarded the 2008 E.M. Forster Award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in London.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (January 5, 2010)
  • Length: 272 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781439169872

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Raves and Reviews

“Lanchester's book is also noteworthy for a splendid choice of language and metaphor not usually found in writing on economics and finance…All economic writing should be so evocative.” —Benjamin M. Friedman, The New York Review of Books

“Warning to bankers everywhere in the world. You better buy every single copy of I.O.U. because Lanchester’s painted the target on you that the rest of us so desperately wanted to see." —James J. Cramer, host of CNBC’s Mad Money

“Few if any [finance] books will be as pleasurable—and by that I mean as literate or as wickedly funny—as John Lanchester's…Before you begin to cry, pick up a copy of I.O.U. Good humor and good company will be the things that’ll get us through.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“Lanchester's gift is to see the big picture in new ways.” —Dennis Drabelle, The Washington Post Book World

“[T]his elegantly crafted little book…manages to be, by turns, acidic, frightening, and sharply funny. What it is not is boring….it all makes perfect sense. A.” —Tina Jordan, Entertainment Weekly

"Lanchester understands perfectly that the man behind the curtain was no wizard–that markets, far from being God-given instruments of perfection, were human constructs. ...[He] is adept at explicating financial complexities with street level analogies."–Roger Lowenstein, NewRepublic.com

“Witty, lucid, solicitous of the average person's difficulty in grasping the conceptual underpinnings of international finance....Lanchester manages to know enough to explain the terrain clearly and yet he never loses his perspective…Lanchester had me in the palm of his hand…” —Laura Miller, Salon.com

“[A] writer with literary bona fides…[Lanchester] has the intellectual heft and the chops, as a jazz musician might say, to deliver a resounding book about the crisis….An elegant and wonderfully witty writer, Mr. Lanchester approaches his subject with a newcomer’s verve. It’s infectious….frame[s] the Great Recession in startlingly original terms.” —Devin Leonard, The New York Times, Sunday Business

“[Lanchester] brings his mischievous wit to bear on the Great Credit Crackup in his boisterous primer….His method: to boil complex instruments and linkages down to anecdotes, outlandish images and acerbic asides that strip away those layers of bank jargon. The result is the perfect read for anyone still wondering what went wrong and why.” —James Pressley, Bloomberg News

“In I.O.U., the only truly entertaining book I've read on the subject, the British writer John Lanchester theorizes that after the Cold War, capitalism could go wild because Western governments no longer had to worry about competing with communism. This is a fascinating idea…” —Jacob Weisberg, Newsweek

“The novelist John Lanchester’s short book on the finance crisis, I.O.U.,…is literary and profound….But this is not just finance-for-poets. Lanchester…is a master explainer with an excellent grasp of sophisticated finance. His book is a gem.” —Christopher Caldwell, The Daily Beast

"I.O.U. is the map to the crazed world of contemporary finance we have all been waiting for. John Lanchester's superb book is everything its subject, the 2008 crash, was not: namely lucid, beautifully contrived, comprehensible to the reader with no specialist knowledge—and most of all devastatingly funny. I urge you to read it." —Will Self, author of Liver

“Hard to imagine any book giving us a clearer, more concise overview of the global financial crisis. I.O.U. is endlessly witty, for one thing, but the wit is underpinned by a tremendous, unembarrassed anger and moral lucidity. A superb entry-level guide which will turn any reader into an expert within the space of 200 pages.” —Jonathan Coe, author of The Rotter’s Club and The Rain Before It Falls

I.O.U. is so clear and funny and cleverly written. I love the personal asides and observations and jokes and bits of autobiography that make it seem human and not text-book like. And the more and more improbable analogies for the ups and downs of the markets (a bride's nightie...a gorilla on a pogo stick). But what I like most is that it makes me feel intelligent, because I can now understand all this stuff.” —Marina Lewycka, author of A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

“From the insane and apparently incomprehensible chaos of the financial meltdown John Lanchester has extracted a compelling narrative, clearly explaining the madness of modern capitalism with razor-sharp insight, brilliant clarity and a refreshing dose of humor. A great book; interesting, accessible and witty.” —John O’Farrell, former columnist for The Independent and The Guardian, and author of An Utterly Exasperated History of Modern Britain: or Sixty Years of Making the Same Stupid Mistakes as Always

"[Lanchester's] ability to explain complex stuff in a down-to-earth and witty style makes his short book, I.O.U., ideal reading for financial novices."–The Economist

"I.O.U. provides a fine introduction to the latest financial frenzy, with a suitable degree of outrage."–Edward Chancellor,Wall Street Journal

"[R]evelatory and insightful."–Claude R. Marx, Washington Times

"Lanchester brings an eye for the ironic and a gently rolling prose style. His dark humor and wit often pop up unexpectedly.... You'll search in vain for a more entertaining guide to this world than Lanchester."–Matthew Craft, Forbes.com

"Rare is the book about modern finance that has me nodding vigorously along with every sentence, pausing at points to muse that someone has finally, really, truly gotten it.... Such was the case with I.O.U."–Moe Tkacik, DailyFinance.com

"Laypeople seeking to understand the crisis, and what it means for their own bank account, will find Lanchester's volume an oasis of understanding in a sea of partisan spin and convoluted financial language."–PublishersWeekly.com (starred review)

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