Tuesday, October 09, 2012
Adam Michaelson, a marketing executive at Countrywide, was intrigued when he was invited to a meeting at the Vault - a nuclear bunker deep underground. He listened in amazement to a presentation advocating mortgages that actually increased the amounts which people owed on their houses. This was based on the premise that house prices would keep rising.
Michaelson immediately imagined a scenario in which house prices began to decrease and the forthcoming disaster. "Are you nuts?" he asked the presenter.. He loved working for Countrywide and he developed the "Realize Your Dreams" campaign. Michaelson really felt that this huge company was helping people do just that because it loaned people money to help them buy houses and apartments. Even the image of the campaign - a nice house with white picket fence - was the embodiment of the Great American Dream.
Disillusionment set in, however, when he realised what was going to happen and he watched the company go into free fall.
Some of these business tomes are boring, but this is a fast-paced, exciting book which puts the reader right into the heart of the bubble. Michaelson describes the rise of Countrywide and how it all went wrong. He still defends capitalism, however, arguing that too much market control and watching over people is the beginning of totalitarianism. I agree!
He has helpful suggestions to stop this disaster happening again. Unfortunately, I don't think that any of them are being put into practice.
Michaelson's outline of his career is also useful for anyone interested in marketing, especially his handling of job interviews.
Monday, October 08, 2012
John Quincy Adams by Harlow Giles Unger is a gripping biography and highly recommended. Every American should read this enlightening and exciting book about the great diplomat, lawyer and president who suffered great tragedy in his life and overcame it with aplomb and resilience. (I am Australian but I like American history). You will fall in love with this learned crusader who was a pioneering advocate of free speech and abolition. The biography is never boring and reads like a novel.
Adams's wife, Louisa, was also a strong and clever person. I am interested in reading more about her.
I had to read this on my Kindle but I'm very grateful to Net Galley for giving me a free copy.
Saturday, October 06, 2012
This is a wonderfully interesting and inspiring book. A mixture of historical profiles about powerful women such as Saint Teresa and Nellie Bly and autobiographical essays by modern women, this is a great book that you will want to read a few times.
I got a free copy from Net Galley on my Kindle but I will probably buy it in paperback as well.
This is a fairly dry and factual biography of Faith Whittlesey, a formidable woman who was Reagan's Ambassador to Switzerland twice and a prominent member of his Senior Staff. It covers her rise to fame and her somewhat tragic personal life well. I also found the details of her time in Switzerland interesting.
When Whittlesey arrived in Switzerland the first time, Reagan's policies were extremely unpopular and there were large protests in the usually quiet country. Whittlesey did a lot to win over the Swiss with her charm, her social events, and her enjoyment of Swiss sports. She travelled through the country explaining Reagan's policies and she also went out of her way to make friends with important Swiss businessmen, who are apparently the 'rock star's of Swiss society.
Whittlesey's influence helped to negotiate an acrimonious settlement between Swiss banks and American law enforcers over insider trading. This was extremely difficult. This part of the book was a bit dull, I thought.
Whittlesey, a staunch Conservative, had a fraught time in Washington because of leaks and accusations of corruption that were false. She annoyed feminists and some 'moderate' Republicans because of her anti-abortion views.
I didn't finish the book but Whittlesey certainly had an interesting career and achieved great success. She pointed out that: "Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels." Whittlesey showed that this is possible, even in politics.
Tuesday, October 02, 2012
I started this book but I didn't like any of the characters very much. They seemed to be gossipy women who were too interested in other people's business. The writing wasn't bad, but it was a bit wordy.
It's a pity because it has got such good reviews.
It's a pity because it has got such good reviews.
I haven't finished this delightful book by Amy Hill Hearth yet, but I'm enjoying it more than any book club that I've joined! Set in the turbulent times of the 60's in a small town in Florida, it involves a diverse set of interesting characters, including literary housewife Jackie, divorcee Doreen, and a murderess. Their lives are turned upside down by joining the book club founded by Jackie, a newcomer to the town who also secretly becomes 'Miss Dreamsville'. As 'Miss Dreamsville' she stars on a night-time radio programme and plays music to fit her mood. This 'wakes up' everyone in town - they all wonder who she is.
Women were expected to get married and become housewives in small-town Florida in the 60's so the formation of the book club upsets a lot of people and the members start getting into trouble. The one who runs the most risk is Priscilla, an African-American maid, who has big ambitions...
Written in a charming and gentle way with touches of irony that would please Jane Austen, Miss Dreamsville is well-worth reading.