by MARTIN MAYER
566 pages. We/bright & Talley. $15.
Despite the confident, conservative tone of their advertising, banks are no longer simply depositories and prudent lenders of other people's money. The past decade has seen most major banks turn into high-powered financial conglomerates ardently pursuing the Great God Growth. But with their brighter balance sheets have also come greater risksa disturbing fact that was dramatically demonstrated in the past year by an unusual string of bank failures in the U.S. and Europe.
Understanding the changes that have taken place inside the sleek temples of modern finance would require a cram course in...