The Alchemists by Neil Irwin
Three Central Bankers and a World on Fire

58%

5 Critic Reviews

The book mentions but never really explores concerns by more conservative bankers that the central banks have fatally jeopardized their independence by plunging into political thickets beyond their brief.
-NY Times

Synopsis

When the first fissures became visible to the naked eye in August 2007, suddenly the most powerful men in the world were three men who were never elected to public office. They were the leaders of the world’s three most important central banks: Ben Bernanke of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Mervyn King of the Bank of England, and Jean-Claude Trichet of the European Central Bank. Over the next five years, they and their fellow central bankers deployed trillions of dollars, pounds and euros to contain the waves of panic that threatened to bring down the global financial system, moving on a scale and with a speed that had no precedent.

Neil Irwin’s The Alchemists is a gripping account of the most intense exercise in economic crisis management we’ve ever seen, a poker game in which the stakes have run into the trillions of dollars. The book begins in, of all places, Stockholm, Sweden, in the seventeenth century, where central banking had its rocky birth, and then progresses through a brisk but dazzling tutorial on how the central banker came to exert such vast influence over our world, from its troubled beginnings to the Age of Greenspan, bringing the reader into the present with a marvelous handle on how these figures and institutions became what they are – the possessors of extraordinary power over our collective fate.  What they chose to do with those powers is the heart of the story Irwin tells.

Irwin covered the Fed and other central banks from the earliest days of the crisis for the Washington Post, enjoying privileged access to leading central bankers and people close to them. His account, based on reporting that took place in 27 cities in 11 countries, is the holistic, truly global story of the central bankers’ role in the world economy we have been missing.  It is a landmark reckoning with central bankers and their power, with the great financial crisis of our time, and with the history of the relationship between capitalism and the state. Definitive, revelatory, and riveting, The Alchemists shows us where money comes from—and where it may well be going.
 

About Neil Irwin

See more books from this Author
NEIL IRWIN writes about economics and the Federal Reserve for The Washington Post. He has covered these topics since 2007 and was one of the paper's lead reporters on the 2007–2009 recession, financial crisis, and government response. He appears regularly on television, including on MSNBC, CNBC, and the PBS NewsHour, analyzing economic topics. Irwin has reported for the Post since 2000 and has also covered the Washington regional economy, commercial real estate, and Internet companies.
 
Published April 4, 2013 by Penguin Books. 465 pages
Genres: Business & Economics. Non-fiction
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for The Alchemists
All: 5 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 2

Kirkus

Good
on May 05 2013

The most complete and authoritative account to date of the response of the central bankers to the global financial crisis.

Read Full Review of The Alchemists: Three Central... | See more reviews from Kirkus

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Fred Andrews on May 04 2013

The book mentions but never really explores concerns by more conservative bankers that the central banks have fatally jeopardized their independence by plunging into political thickets beyond their brief.

Read Full Review of The Alchemists: Three Central... | See more reviews from NY Times

WSJ online

Below average
Reviewed by Raymond Zhong on Apr 28 2013

The power to print money is a vast one indeed...The tougher question is whether, in doing so, it has forestalled longer-lasting cures. "The Alchemists" dodges this question and ends up as a largely uncritical defense of the central-bank status quo.

Read Full Review of The Alchemists: Three Central... | See more reviews from WSJ online

Financial Times

Above average
Reviewed by Claire Jones on Apr 21 2013

The book is scattered with titbits offering insight into the clubby, privileged, globe-trotting lifestyles of leading monetary policy makers.

Read Full Review of The Alchemists: Three Central... | See more reviews from Financial Times

The Economist

Good
on May 18 2013

Mr Irwin’s sweep is impressive. He uses anecdotes from the main historic crises to explain financial jargon which is not only thick, but changes over time.

Read Full Review of The Alchemists: Three Central... | See more reviews from The Economist

Reader Rating for The Alchemists
83%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 103 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review

Reader reviews & activity

Malinda Charter

Malinda Charter 22 Jul 2014

Added the book to custom list '2013 NPR'

×