Peter Sharkey: Diary of a share punter

Imagine, if you can, a television critic suggesting that 'comedian' John Bishop is not actually very funny, or someone in public office resigning after being found with their trousers down / fingers in the till / making a complete hash of their job (delete as appropriate). How about the Turner Prize being awarded to a talented artist rather a con-artist, or North Korea's 'glorious leader', Kim Jong-Il denouncing nepotism?

You get the picture. Incredulous is the word that comes to mind.

It would be wrong to place ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the same category as Kim Jong-Il, one of the world's most notorious dictators. In fact, when he initially ascended to 10 Downing Street, I thought he was a decent bloke, though it didn't take long for his less attractive politician alter ego to emerge.

As you may know, Mr Brown has written a book about the financial crisis, entitled Beyond The Crash.

'Well,' I mused when I heard about this tome, 'perhaps he is a decent sort after all. How refreshing that he's admitted in print just how he managed to make a mess of things after announcing that Britain's days of 'boom and bust' were over.'

I couldn't have been more wrong. I received the PR bumf accompanying publication of the book from Mr Brown's publishers earlier this week.

It reads: 'the book… offer[s] measures Brown believes the world should adopt to regain fiscal stability. Long admired for his grasp of economic issues, Brown's book will be a work of paramount interest during these uncertain financial times.

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'The book offers …innovative ideas that will help create a sound economic future and…help readers understand what really has happened to our economy.'

I'm not having you on. This is actually what it says. Incredulous was just one of the words that came to mind.

If you're after a book which deals more credibly with the financial crisis, take a look at John Lanchester's Whoops!, a surprisingly amusing account of how the economy almost went completely pear-shaped. Lanchester doesn't pretend to be an expert, which makes Whoops! such an entertaining read.

Readers seeking a more substantial (and fascinating) storyline may prefer Greg Zuckerman's The Greatest Trade Ever which details how John Paulson made an astonishing $20 billion for Goldman Sachs by betting against the market. Michael Lewis's The Big Short, another US-focused book dealing with impending financial collapse explains how a collection of bankers, traders, home-owners and others cheated with dodgy mortgage applications in a partially successful attempt to get rich. It was only when everyone started doing the same that the system came apart at the seams.

Finally, those seeking Yuletide hope should read Capitalism 4.0 by Anatole Kaletsky. In a thought-provoking read, he argues that we should not abandon capitalism as its most effective period my soon be upon us. It's the most credible read of the lot…

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