It’s Christmas time again and with this our last issue of the year the Mortgage Strategy team has picked its favourite books and films of the year. From management and politics to analysing the sub-prime crisis, if you’re looking for a gift for the office Secret Santa, the below could be just what you’re looking for.
WHO MOVED MY CHEESE?
Times have been tough over last year so this illustrated fable by Dr Spencer Johnson about managing change struck a chord with everyone at Mortgage Strategy.
The story is about four characters that live in a labyrinth and feed off a large lump of cheese. Scurry and Sniff are two mice and Haw and Hem are two humans. The lump of cheese disappears and the story is about how the different characters adapt.
With the mortgage market falling off a cliff, it’s easy to see it as the lump of cheese. The survivors still in the market are ultimately the ones who’ve been able to survive and thrive in the current market.
THE THIRD MAN
The three kings of New Labour came bearing gifts this year with memoirs of their time in office after the party lost the general election in May.
Tony Blair’s personal memoir, A Journey, mixed peace in Northern Ireland with cuddles with Cherie and war in Iraq with time spent on the toilet.
Needless to say there were no such personal insights into Gordon Brown who focussed on the crisis and the economic future of the world. Beyond the Crash had some fascinating insights into what it was like at the heart of the 2008 crash and the bank bailouts.
But the two Prime Ministers’ books come up short compared with Peter Mandelson’s The Third Man, which offers the most interesting insight into the previous government. While the former PMs seem to hold something back and trying to justify themselves Mandelson’s book appears honest.
THE BIG SHORT
Another favourite was Michael Lewis’ The Big Short. Lewis wrote the New York Times bestseller Liar’s Poker, which charted his time as a bond salesman at Salomon Brothers and exposed the aggressive sales culture that epitomised Wall Street in the 1980s.
In The Big Short Lewis returns to his old stomping ground to talk to those who staked vast sums on sub-prime’s downfall. Lewis is
brilliant at drilling down into complicated trades without forgetting to tell a good story.
WALL STREET 2
Our final pick of the year was by Oliver Stone’s Wall Street 2. The first Wall Street was meant to be a modern-day morality fable based on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. But this backfired when the villain of the film, Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gekko, became a poster-boy for a generation of yuppies with his mantra “greed is good”.
Part of the problem was the ending of the first film – Charlie Sheen’s character Bud Fox is the one hauled off to jail and Gekko seems to get off scot-free. Wall Street 2 was a partial redress to this with Gekko coming out of jail without a penny or friend to his name.
His manipulation of new friends and family in the film to claw his way back to the top in the middle of the credit crunch makes for compelling viewing.