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Reading List: Understanding the Housing Crisis

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It's easy to get fuzzy on exactly how we got here. In 2010, we see it happening every day. Even the most powerful professionals we know are coming down with it: Crisis Fatigue. We've been reading about "The End of the Economy As We Know It" so often, for so long, that it's easy to start feeling lost...even when you're at the top of your game. 

With temperatures dropping around the country, now is a good time to stock up on some Fall reading. The focus for this week's Reading List is the Housing Crisis, or Mortgage Meltdown, that completely changed the shape of our economy in the last few years. Today, I have an entire bookshelf devoted to it. I read way too much, but I'm here to share the best of the best: the top three books on an important and complex subject.

Chain of BlameThe single best book I found was Chain of Blame, by Paul Muolo and Mathew Padilla. If you're looking for a one-stop textbook, this is that. Mr. Muolo is the editor of National Mortgage News and has been covering the industry all along, and you can bet this experience is a huge advantage. The book is well-written and explains the unfolding crisis as a page-turner narrative, but yet it has more details and background information per square than anything else you can read this year. They stay focused on the exact spot where Real Estate and Banking went out of control and started the tsunami. The insider perspective makes a huge difference because Muolo and Padilla had direct access to all the key players, and they can explain every detail of the mortgage business without ever being boring.

The Big ShortIf you're looking for a quicker read, the most entertaining and perfectly told version of events was the Michael Lewis book The Big Short. His focus is different, too: Lewis is telling the story of the guys who bet against the housing market. This is a perfect book to read after Chain of Blame because it's the next step in the disaster, where Banking finally had to face the market consequences of their bad decisions. It's an amazing story where a small handful of visionaries and insiders made billions of dollars off a single strategy. All of the characters are fascinating and larger than life, and few writers can make finance as interesting as Michael Lewis. This is our top recommendation for professionals who have a short attention span and a long a flight in the near future. In terms of getting you up to speed in the shortest amount of pages, nothing beats this book.

Too Big to Fail The best guide to the carnage on Wall Street, the response from Washington DC is called Too Big to Fail. This was a huge best-seller and by far, the most popular book about the economic crisis.  It's by a young writer named Andrew Sorkin...who also happened to write a script that became the number one movie in the country right now, The Social Network. Sorkin explores the last phase, after the house of cards came down, the global economy went into red alert, and billions of dollars got thrown at a problem nobody really understood. His portrait of the men who broke the world and got away with it is guaranteed to provoke some healthy outrage. Who knows -- it might also be a movie soon.

Leave a comment if you think I missed something. I always appreciate book suggestions!

Also, please feel free to shoot us suggestions for future installments of The Reading List. We view blogging as a service, not an advertisement.
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