Anne Applebaum

Anne Applebaum’s books of the year

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Snowdrops, A. D. Miller’s literary thriller, has to qualify as the book I was ‘most unable to put down’ this year. It’s set in a contemporary Moscow which I instantly recognised — glamorous, vicious, amoral and terrifying all at once. Miller puts his finger right on what makes modern Russia so compelling to outsiders. When his main character, a bland Englishman, allows himself to be enticed into a scam involving beautiful girls, phony building permits, and enormous amounts of money we intuitively understand why.

For those who prefer their scams closer to home, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, Michael Lewis’s book on the 2008 sub-prime mortgage crash is a brilliant read, and highly educational. I confess that I really didn’t understand how the Lehman Brothers’ crash happened until I read Lewis’s explanation. Besides, he has a novelist’s gift for evoking the weird world of money management, of people who sit in dark rooms and play with vast sums of money on their computers. They don’t seem to have as much fun as Russian gangsters, but much of what they do amounts to the same thing.