Like everyone else, the PYMNTS staff is working from home and using the weekends to catch up on books, streaming and movies. Here’s a sample of some of the more relevant selections we recommend.
What We’re Reading, Fiction: “The End of October” This novel from “The Looming Tower” author Lawrence Wright is about a pandemic. While that might not be too appealing right now, the book doubles as an insightful look at the history of contagions and their treatments. It follows the travels and work of Dr. Henry Parsons as he races to find the source and cure of a mysterious virus sweeping the globe.
What We’re Reading, Nonfiction: “The Fed and Lehman Brothers” In case anyone needed a reminder of what a financial crisis looks like, this book is a well-written, well-documented and entertaining read. Ever since the bankruptcy of Lehman in 2008, one of the pivotal events of the financial crisis, the question of why the Fed didn’t bail out Lehman as it did other banks still remains. Laurence Ball gets to the bottom of the conspiracy theories and concludes (spoiler alert) that the Fed could have rescued Lehman but chose not to because of political pressures.
What We’re Watching, Movies: “Inside Man” We write about banks and banking, so we’ve been playing against type during the pandemic. This is a great New York City bank heist movie from Spike Lee and Denzel Washington. Denzel plays a cool-in-the pocket bank robber who decides to hit a Manhattan bank at the corner of Wall Street and Broadway. Clive Owen and Jodie Foster co-star.
What We’re Watching, Movies (Part Two): “Outbreak” There are a lot of bad movies about pandemics, but this has a lot to recommend it, including Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, Morgan Freeman and a solid cast of supporting actors. The fictional story is about a virus that originates in Africa in the 1960s and spreads to America by a monkey released into the forests of California. The disease spreads as far as Boston but is more or less contained in the small town of Cedar Creek, Calif., and that’s where the cure must be found. Hoffman plays an Army doctor leading the team.
What We’re Watching, Documentaries: “The Ascent of Money” It’s one of those movies about the financial system that has readily available information, but is packaged in a compelling film narrated by British writer Niall Ferguson. He goes through a complete history of the financial world, from the ancient city of Babylon all the way to the 2008 global financial crisis.
What We’re Watching, Documentaries (Part Two): “All Things Must Pass: The Rise And Fall of Tower Records” Retailing is a complex game that travels through phases of business history. This film is a brilliant snapshot of Tower Founder Russ Salomon, who first opened a record store in 1960. He built it into a retail monolith with 200 stores in 30 countries across five continents. Tower Records made $1 billion in 1999, but filed for bankruptcy in 2006. What went wrong? Everyone thinks they know what killed Tower Records — the internet. But that’s not the story. The story is the force of Salomon and the things he couldn’t control.
What We’re Bingeing: “Supermarket Sweep” No curbside pickup here. Netflix is showing a ‘90s version of this show, which got its start in the ‘60s. And it’s getting a reboot later this year with Saturday Night Live’s Leslie Jones as host. The concept: Teams of two contestants, usually friends or related, race around a supermarket and fill their carts with the priciest items. The team that wins the “Major Sweep” gets a chance at the final round for bragging rights and cash prizes. It’s the ‘90s in all its manic glory and fun to watch when considering that if it were held today, these contestants would have to race around six feet apart.