Well guys, 2012 is drawing swiftly to a close and I have nothing to show for myself except a sweet new job and the collective knowledge of ~53 finished books (52.3 if I’m being honest about Les Mis, 58.3 if I count the Gone series and all three FSOG books). A productive year indeed.
Last week I posted the mathematically irrefutable Best Books of 2012, a labor on which I spent an undisclosed number of hours (like five) but after a little rest, relaxation, and weirdly mortifying perusal of my own ramblings from the last 12 months, I’d now like to share a more important list: the books I read this year that made the biggest impact on my little reality-TV-filled brain. Few of these titles were released in 2012, a byproduct of my resigned refusal to spend $27 on hardcovers, but sometimes it’s nice to read a book a few years after its release, when you can absorb it in the vacuum of irrelevance.
So here are the books that touched my shriveled-up heart this year, in dramatic countdown order. Happy reading!
In the world of financial news, last week’s completely badass op-ed from (now former) Goldman Sachs executive Greg Smith, titled “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs” was, well, pretty huge. Like a real-life Jerry Maguire-ing, minus the pilfering of goldfish or a pleasantly pre-surgery Renee Zellweger. Smith’s diatribe—which you should definitely read—basically lamented the moral unhinging of a firm that, if always greedy, at least used to be that way on behalf of its clients.
“It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off,” Smith wrote. “Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as ‘muppets,’ sometimes over internal e-mail. Even after the S.E.C., Fabulous Fab, Abacus, God’s work, Carl Levin, Vampire Squids? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated products to clients even if they are not the simplest investments or the ones most directly aligned with the client’s goals? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.”
The op-ed sparked a great deal of backlash, some of it from people who mocked Smith for an alleged naivete about how the banking sector works. NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg popped over to Goldman’s offices to reassure them—because doesn’t this firm just scream insecurity?—that he’s still their friend, and Bloomberg News (yes relation) published its own opinion piece scoffing at what they considered Smith’s perception of banks as “existing only to bring light and peace and happiness to the world.”
Me, I was riveted by the whole thing. Not only because Smith broke the first rule of Wall Street—you do not talk [honestly] about Wall Street—but because when the op-ed appeared I was smack in the middle of Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia, a book spawned in part by the Rolling Stone reporter’s now-famous article about Goldman (the source of the also-now-famous “vampire squid” moniker.) It was the nonfiction equivalent of reading Twilight and then having a sparkly vampire show up at your front door, bitching about immortality and the wet-dog smell of all those fucking werewolves. Continue reading “Goldman Suchs”