Book review: 'Gimme Shelter'


Now that the housing boom has gone bust, get ready: There will be an infinite number of books well-timed to coincide with the increased interest in how it happened and what can be learned from it.

Last week on DailyFinance, I wrote about Edmund L. Andrews' Busted, a lame attempt to cash in on his own financial nightmare. Now comes a similar memoir-with-bits-of-current-events-research effort: Gimme Shelter: Ugly Houses, Cruddy Neighborhoods, Fast-Talking Brokers, and Toxic Mortgages: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream.

To begin with, it should be noted that this book is very, very New York City specific: That market is unlike just about any other market in the country, and if you're not familiar with New York's geography and neighborhoods, you'll probably find yourself bored for a good portion of the book.

The second problem that will limit Gimme Shelter's appeal is that it is almost entirely autobiographical, with only passing references to statistics and the broader circumstances of that era.

This has a nice "show, don't tell" flavor and for capturing what it was like to be a regular person trying to keep up with New York's ever-rising real estate market, this book is certainly successful. But the amount of ink devoted to child-rearing issues, relationship concerns, the freelance copy editing business etc. makes this a tiresome read for those of us who mostly just want to learn about the real estate market.

If you're a young couple looking to buy a home in a city sometime soon, you'll probably find a lot to relate to in this book -- even if you don't learn anything.