Richard Davies


New York Times

The Fiction that Makes the World Go Round

New York Times

money, economics, trade, finance

I read this book over the summer and reviewed it for the New York Times. Money is a wonderful, fast-paced history, which touches on much of my writing on the origins of money, the evolution of banking markets, and on history's greatest financial criminals:

Of all the inventions we rely on to get through the day, nothing is as strange as money. Currency is a national bedrock that sits alongside anthems and flags; our cash — from pristine $100 bills to dog-eared 5 pound notes — seems solid, official and enduring. At the same time money is a confidence trick: an i.o.u. printed on cheap material that promises the holder nothing but more paper money. The evolving paradox of modern currency — foundational yet resting on faith — is the central theme of “Money,” a sweeping new history by Jacob Goldstein.

A health reporter during the mid-aughts, Goldstein describes being drawn toward money and economics by the beguiling turbulence of the 2008 crisis. Now a host of NPR’s “Planet Money,” he features that show’s trademark storytelling throughout his new book. Histories of money need lots of facts and dates; as a result many are turgid. “Money” is fast-paced and chatty: We meet all the characters an academic book would include, their ideas and innovations blended with scandal and gossip to propel the story along. The effect is a history of currency full of astonishing tales you might tell a friend in the pub.

Check out the rest of the review over at the New York Times.