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On the Shelf

Published February 6, 2007


Reviews and tidbits about biz books

When Washington Shut Down Wall Street

By William L. Silber

Princeton, $27.95, 232 pages

Remember how U.S. financial markets closed for an unprecedented four business days after the terrorist attacks of 9/11? Well, not so unprecedented, it turns out. In this fascinating work of financial history, Silber recounts the heroics of Treasury Secretary William McAdoo, who closed the New York Stock Exchange for more than four months in 1914 to avert a larger economic crisis. European powers had begun to sell off their U.S. stock holdings and convert their dollars into gold, which they shipped back home to finance World War I. But rather than let the desperate Europeans force the United States off the gold standard, the Treasury secretary brandished the NYSE "like a sledgehammer" against the gold drain and simply shut down the exchange. It was, as Silber explains, a brilliant exercise of arbitrary power that helped propel the United States toward global financial supremacy.

Ego Check

By Mathew Hayward

Kaplan, $24.95, 272 pages

Robert Nardelli. Jeffrey Skilling. If only they had read this book. Maybe they would have recognized, as Hayward argues, that hubris and overconfidence can kill a successful career. He fills his book with examples of people he says suffered from a destructive personality, including former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who failed to recognize the dangers of going it alone, and former American International Group CEO Hank Greenberg, whose obsessive leadership so alienated supporters they asked him to resign. Michael Dell is one of Hayward's good examples of a successful leader. Why? Because he delegates.

[Last modified February 5, 2007, 23:09:04]

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