"When Genius Failed" by Roger Lowenstein

Brian Gongol

One-paragraph review: Roger Lowenstein has an enviable gift for turning complex matters of money, economics, and finance into digestible stories without devolving into oversimplification or soap-opera theatrics. "When Genius Failed" explores the epic collapse of Long-Term Capital Management, a story that ought to be of enormous interest to anyone who really, truly wants to know how conditions were set in place for the financial discontents of 2000/2001 and later in 2008/2009. Showing, rather than telling, may be Lowenstein's greatest gift as a storyteller, and the real problem, as he adeptly shows it, is that even universally-acknowledged geniuses can get things very, very wrong when they don't know what they don't know. And at LTCM, they didn't know that they didn't know how easily their troubles could cascade upon one another and compound beyond control.

Verdict: Had it been a work of fiction, nobody would believe it -- but it's an important documentation of modern financial history