Sovereign Debt: The Reading List

April 23, 2012

To coincide with the symposium that my law journal is holding on Friday I will try to make several posts on sovereign debt. I am not an expert in the topic but I have read much and over the weekend I sent out an unofficial suggested reading list to my fellow law journal members. The selection of readings and audio programs are ones that I’ve listened to and found helpful, so I hope you enjoy them as well.

Sovereign Debt — Pre-Symposium Reading List

National Debt for Beginners – Simon Johnson and James Kwak (Planet Money 2009)

For background on the various terms and concepts that are used Simon Johnson and James Kwak have a great page with links at

When Irish Eyes Are Crying – Michael Lewis (Vanity Fair 2011) — This article provides a great backgrounder on what is happening in Ireland with focus on the impact of their housing/construction bubble. It also provides perspective on the impact of Ireland guaranteeing its banks and how the Irish people reacted to that.

455: Continental Breakup – Ira Glass and Alex Blumberg (This American Life 2012) — This is an hour show that does a great job explaining what is happening in Europe. If you want to get caught up on Europe you should listen to this (though it’s now a few months old). The focus here is mostly on Greece.

Obama v. Boehner: Who Killed the Debt Deal? – Matt Bai (NY Times 2012) — This article explains the negotiations between Barack Obama and John Boehner and is a fantastic political backgrounder on national debt in the United States.

The Way Greeks Live Now – Russell Shorto (NY Times 2012) — This article shows the impact of Greece’s financial crises on its country and people.

France and Germany A Love Story – Zoe Chace (NPR Planet Money 2011) — This goes over the tension between France and Germany and their reaction to the financial crises in Europe.

Longer Version:

It’s the Economy, Dummkopf! – Michael Lewis (Vanity Fair 2011) — This article tells the story of the crises on the German side, with lots of Lewis’s usual flair and embellishment (or for some reason that is unclear we really needed lots of paragraphs about the role of shit in German culture).

459: What Kind of Country – Ira Glass (This American Life 2012) — This episode of This American Life visits towns in the United States and does a good job of explaining the impact of austerity in individual cities and towns.

Europe Turns on the Bat Signal – Zoe Chace (Planet Money 2011) — This episode is a nice quick explainer on the role of European Central Bank and explains the idea of quantitative easing.

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