Book Review: Ghosts of Manhattan

July 22, 2013 Books to Read, Business, Fiction 0

Ghosts of ManhattanGhosts of Manhattan: A Novel
by Douglas Brunt, Fiction (Released October, 2012)
Bottom Line: Read it.
Summary: Amid the 2005 mortgage bubble, thirty five year old Bear Stearns bond trader, Nick Farmer, faces disillusionment with his career decision, personal life, and strategy decisions at Bear.
My Thoughts: My in-laws were the first people to tell me I should read this book and I was a little skeptical because I’d read so many “Wall Street excess tell-alls” that they had started to run together in my head and ceased to be interesting. There’s only so many times you can read about money, drunkenness, cocaine, and hookers before it becomes a bit repetitive. But, this book was different…in a good way! First, it’s fiction and the author was not a Wall Street trader, so it’s technically not a “roman a clef” about his real experience. But, obviously the setting and characters are based on what Wall Street was generally like in the middle of the mortgage bubble. Second, Brunt’s observations about the social hierarchy in the banking/trading/finance world and the situations and characters you encounter there are witty, spot-on, and well said. I would go so far as to say that Brunt comes close to Tom Wolfe territory with his social commentary. Though Brunt does include his fair share of partying, drugs, and prostitutes, it’s the social commentary and his PERFECT analogies that were the most entertaining for me. Nick is also having an inner struggle with his career choice and the effects of that lifestyle on his marriage, which gives the novel more depth than your average Wall Street excess tell-all and makes Nick a more sympathetic character. Finally, this book deals with a theme that a lot of people my age (35, like Nick) are confronting. What happens when you choose a career right out of college, without knowing much about what that career really entails, and thinking you may do that job for a couple years before moving on, then wake up fifteen years later still doing this thing that you never intended to be your life’s work? How do you make a change at age thirty five when many people have families to support and how do you figure out what you really want to do with your life? These are difficult and relatable questions and Nick goes through the range of emotions and thought processes as he’s working this out. Ghosts of Manhattan successfully crosses the Wall Street excess tell-all and the Tom Wolfe-style social satire for a great summer read…particularly for guys. It’s going on my Books for Guys2013 Summer Reading, and Business Books lists.

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