Sheila Bair's 6 favorite books

The former chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. recommends works by Harper Lee and Edmund Morris

Sheila Bair

To Kill a Mockingbirdby Harper Lee (Grand Central, $8). As a kid, I was in awe of Atticus Finch, Lee's country lawyer, who defends an innocent black man against bogus rape charges. What I admired most was how Atticus defends his black client's truth against the white power structure of the time. Inspired by Atticus, I started my career as a civil rights lawyer, and to this day, I try hard to speak truth to power and stand up for people who need a voice.

Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris (Random House, $18). I wanted to be Atticus Finch as a kid, but when I grew up, I wanted to be Teddy Roosevelt. He had that fierce, independent populist streak that is so missing these days in our political leadership. He supported business, but he also brought down the big trusts when he saw the threat they posed to the rest of the nation.

13 Bankersby Simon Johnson and James Kwak (Vintage, $16). These next four are some of the best books about the financial crisis (after mine, of course). Powerfully written, 13 Bankers puts the 2008 crisis in historical context. Unfortunately, we've been struggling to keep the banking system in check since the days of Jefferson. And it's still not getting fixed.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Reckless Endangerment by Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner (St. Martin's, $16). This book shows how mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac used their financial clout and implicit government backing to take outsized risks, capturing not only politicians and regulators with their largesse, but also academics, community groups, and the media.

All the Devils Are Here by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera (Portfolio, $17). McLean and Nocera show just how badly our "self-correcting" markets and government fell down on the job. There are plenty of devils to blame for the 2008 debacle.

Fool's Goldby Gillian Tett (Free Press, $16). A more technical book, Fool's Gold is best at explaining credit default swaps, essentially a form of insurance that gave banks a false sense that they were protected against losses on their mortgage investments.

Sheila Bair's new book, Bull by the Horns, offers a first-hand account of the government response to the 2008 financial crisis, plus her prescriptions for reform

To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us