By Liaquat Ahamed (Penguin Press)
The economic debacle of the early 1930s is usually explained as a domestic disaster. Recently, though, economists have begun to pin the blame on a gold-based global monetary system that worked well until World War I but caused only problems after that. That's the argument behind Lords of Finance. But the book also transcends economics to tell the tragic tale of four fascinating (and not at all dumb) central-bank chiefs who were unable to see beyond the orthodoxy of the day. It's gripping, beautifully written history and awfully timely too.