Michael Lewis, the author of bestsellers including the big short and liar’s poker, is taking on a topic perhaps even more corrosive than Wall Street: Coronavirus.
In a short extract shared by the publisher, Lewis writes: “‘it’s foreboding,’ she said. ‘a knowing that something is looming around the corner. like how when the seasons change you can smell fall in the air right before the leaves change and the wind turns cold.’”
The book’s editor, tom Penn said it was “a powerful reminder of what happens when our systems fail us and a revelatory exploration of the fallibilities and possibilities of the human mind.”
In his debut, liar’s poker, Lewis revealed the excesses of 1980s wall street, looked at the traders who bet against the market leading up to the 2007-8 financial crisis, and explained sports analytics in Moneyball. The fifth risk took on trump, and in an interview with The Observer in 2019 to promote it, he predicted a pandemic might do it. He said it could affect millions of people indiscriminately and from which you could not insulate yourself even if you were rich.
Lewis is not the only author readying themselves to tackle covid-19. New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright has interviewed more than 100 people, including dr. Anthony Fauci, for the plague year, which is out in June. publisher Knopf said it would offer “the first clear-eyed assessment of this ongoing catastrophe,” as wright “takes us inside the center for disease control and the White House, into a hospital Covid ward, into the realm of prediction specialists, and even inside the human body, diving deep into the science of how virus and vaccines function.”
Meanwhile, British palliative care doctor Rachel Clarke gives an inside account of hospital life in the Covid era is breathtaking, which is just out. Sunday times investigative journalists Jonathan Calvert and George Arbuthnott will look at “the inside story of Britain’s battle with coronavirus” in failures of the state, to be published in March. Meanwhile, in September, Adam Tooze’s shutdown will explore how covid shook the world’s economy.
The author is currently researching and writing his next book, the premonition, which will be rushed out by Allen lane in the UK and Norton in the us in May. Subtitled a pandemic story, the book will open in January 2020, as people started dying from a new virus in Wuhan when the magnitude of what lay ahead remained unclear to most people.
It will be, said its publishers, “the extraordinary story of a group who anticipated, traced and hunted the coronavirus; who understood the need to think differently, to learn from history, to question everything; and to do all of this fast, to act, to save lives, communities, society itself.”
“I’ve effectively been quarantined with my characters, three of the best characters I have ever had, and it has been as unsettling for them as it has been delightful for me,” said Lewis, who has not revealed their identities. Allen lane described them as “a small group of scientific misfits who in their different ways had been obsessed all their lives with how viruses spread and replicated, and with why the governments and the institutions that were supposed to look after us kept making the same mistakes time and again.”
Meanwhile, famous bestselling nonfiction writer Adan Tooze already came out this week with his assessment. Deftly weaving finance, politics, business, and the global human experience into one tight narrative, a tour-de-force account of 2020, the year that changed everything, from the acclaimed author of Crashed.
The shocks of 2020 have been great and small, disrupting the world economy, international relations, and the daily lives of virtually everyone on the planet. never before has the entire world economy contracted by 20 percent in a matter of weeks, nor in the historical record of modern capitalism has there been a moment in which 95 percent of the world’s economies were suffering all at the same time. Across the world, hundreds of millions have lost their jobs. And over it all looms the specter of the pandemic and death.
Adam Tooze, whose last book was universally lauded for guiding us coherently through the chaos of the 2008 crash, now brings his bravura analytical and narrative skills to a panoramic and synthetic overview of our current crisis. By focusing on finance and business, he sets the pandemic story in a frame that casts a sobering new light on how unprepared the world was to fight the crisis and how deep the ruptures in our way of living and doing business are. The virus has attacked the economy with as much ferocity as it has our health, and there is no vaccine arriving to address that.
Tooze’s special gift is to show how social organization, political interests, and economic policy interact with devastating human consequences, from your local hospital to the world bank. he moves fluidly from the impact of currency fluctuations to the decimation of institutions, such as healthcare systems, schools, and social services, in the name of efficiency. He starkly analyzes what happened when the pandemic collided with domestic politics (China’s party conferences; the American elections), the unintended consequences of the vaccine race, and the role climate change played in the pandemic. Finally, he proves how no unilateral declaration of ‘independence” or isolation can extricate any modern country from the global web of travel, goods, services, and finance.
The Covid-19 pandemic may be the starkest example of globalization that history has ever provided. It was not just that the virus spread rapidly around the world. As governments reacted by imposing shutdowns, almost 95% of the world’s economies suffered a simultaneous contraction in GDP per head.
Even the millions of workers who have been furloughed from their jobs will have struggled to find the time to keep up with all the ramifications. So Adam Tooze, a history professor at Columbia University, has taken on the ambitious task of producing an instant history of the pandemic’s economic fallout. As with his previous book, “Crashed,” about the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, Tooze displays a remarkable ability to master the detail. And his reach is extensive. This is truly a picture of the global impact of the crisis; it covers the disruption in the financial markets and the ins and outs of government policy.
To readers buffeted by the news, one advantage of this instant history is that Mr. Tooze reminds them of what public figures said in the early stages of the pandemic. On February 3rd, 2020, Boris Johnson, Britain’s prime minister, warned of the danger that new diseases would trigger panic, leading to economic damage. Within two months, he had locked down the British economy. On February 25th, 2020, Larry Kudlow, an adviser to President Donald Trump, said that we had contained this, cheerfully adding: “I don’t think it’s going to be an economic tragedy at all.”
Central banks were quicker to grasp the implications of the disease. As Tooze notes, they acted not just on an unprecedented scale but with great speed. “In 2008, there had still been a note of hesitancy about central-bank interventions. In 2020 that was gone,” he writes. Governments ended up backing this monetary stimulus with fiscal policy. The $14trn-worth of support they had provided by the end of 2020 was much larger than the stimulus they had offered in the wake of the global financial crisis.
Developing countries, meanwhile, suffered less economic damage from the pandemic than would have been expected. Since 2000, emerging markets have largely avoided two important and connected risks: pegging their exchange rates to the dollar and borrowing in foreign currencies. This saved them from the dilemma of imposing high interest rates to defend their currencies or devalue and risk bankrupting those companies and banks that had borrowed in dollars. Many emerging-market central banks were able to cut interest rates in response to the covid-induced slowdown; their borrowing costs in the international bond markets spiked only briefly before falling back to where they were before the pandemic.