Saturday 18 November 2017

Top seven can stand the test of time

LAST year's bumper crop of Irish books trying to explain the financial crisis has not been repeated this year. There have also been a notable number of lemons which are unlikely to stand the test of time or do their author's reputations much good.

However, here are seven that are well written and might be welcome additions to a Christmas stocking.

  • 'Breakfast With Anglo' by Simon Kelly -- A surprisingly good account of what it was like to be a developer at the height of the boom. If you ignore the self-serving elements, you can often get a real feeling for how much fun it must have been to trash the country's finances.
  • 'Bust' by Dearbhail McDonald -- An examination of what went wrong by the Irish Independent's legal editor. The book includes compelling chapters about many of the people who lost large fortunes but the real eye-opener is the slow response of the forces of law and order to the wealthy. An angry and well-researched book.
  • 'Wasters' by Shane Ross and Nick Webb -- A well-written book detailing waste in the public sector. This will provide ammunition for both the bar-room bore who hates every element of the public sector and the IMF mandarins who will soon be looking for inspiration when they need to cut again. Readable and entertaining.
  • 'The House Always Wins' by John McGuinness -- The Fianna Fail TD and Kilkenny businessman who couldn't get on with Mary Coughlan in Trade and Industry writes another scathing book about the public sector. While a useful description of how difficult it is to reform the system, McGuinness offers few suggestions for reform, leaving the reader feeling helpless and deflated.
  • 'The Honohan Report' by Patrick Honohan -- This report, which can be downloaded for free from the Central Bank's website, is perhaps the best description of what went wrong and who was to blame. Honohan is perhaps a little easy on the Financial Regulator but this masterly and clearly written report should be the starting point for anybody who wants to understand the origins of the crisis.
  • 'Ireland's Malaise' by Michael Casey -- Another book by a central banker. Casey, who was the bank's main economist for much of the boom and the public face of the bank, gives his take on the crisis. Casey always had a gift for not getting too technical but some of this book tends to be a little too anecdotal. Entertaining but lacks gravitas or a coherent argument.
  • 'A Mobile Fortune' by Siobhan Creaton -- The long-overdue portrait of Denis O'Brien follows Creaton's well-received and bestselling biography of Michael O'Leary. Painstakingly researched, it paints a detailed picture of one of the country's most successful businessmen, with a strong emphasis on his achievements in the Caribbean and other parts of Digicell's far-flung empire.

Thomas Molloy

Irish Independent

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