The Big Fail: What the Pandemic Revealed About Who America Protects and Who It Leaves Behind (Hardcover)

The Big Fail: What the Pandemic Revealed About Who America Protects and Who It Leaves Behind By Joe Nocera, Bethany McLean Cover Image

The Big Fail: What the Pandemic Revealed About Who America Protects and Who It Leaves Behind (Hardcover)

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From the collaborators behind the modern business classic All the Devils are Here comes a damning indictment of American capitalism—and the leaders that left us brutally unprepared for a global pandemic

In 2020, the novel coronavirus pandemic made it painfully clear that the U.S. could not adequately protect its citizens. Millions of Americans suffered—and over a million died—in less than two years, while government officials blundered; prize-winning economists overlooked devastating trade-offs; and elites escaped to isolated retreats, unaffected by and even profiting from the pandemic.

Why and how did America, in a catastrophically enormous failure, become the world leader in COVID deaths? In this page-turning economic, political, and financial history, veteran journalists Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera offer fresh and provocative answers. With laser-sharp analysis and deep sourcing, they investigate both what really happened when governments ran out of PPE due to snarled supply chains and the shock to the financial system when the world's biggest economy stumbled. They zero in on the effectiveness of wildly polarized approaches, with governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Ron DeSantis of Florida taking infamous turns in the spotlight. And they trace why thousands died in hollowed-out hospital systems and nursing homes run by private equity firms to “maximize shareholder value." 

In the tradition of the authors’ previous landmark exposés, The Big Fail is an expansive, insightful account on what the pandemic did to the economy and how American capitalism has jumped the rails—and is essential reading to understand where we’re going next.
Bethany McLean is a journalist and contributing editor for Vanity Fair. She has co-authored multiple bestselling books, including The Smartest Guys in the Room with Peter Elkind and All the Devils Are Here with Joe Nocera. She resides in Chicago with her children.

Joe Nocera is a columnist for The Free Press. His business journalism has appeared in numerous publications, including Esquire, Bloomberg, and The New York Times. He also wrote and produced the hit podcasts The Shrink Next Door and Agatha Christie and the Dandelion Poisoner. His books include All the Devils Are Here and Indentured. He lives in New York City.
Product Details ISBN: 9780593331026
ISBN-10: 0593331028
Publisher: Portfolio
Publication Date: October 17th, 2023
Pages: 448
Language: English
“Brilliantly written, this book uncovers a side to the pandemic that sparks fascinating questions and will make you think differently about one of the biggest events of our lives.”
Morgan Housel, bestselling author of The Psychology of Money and Same as Ever


“We all lived through the pandemic, but only now can we really grapple with its lessons. The Big Fail rises above the political fray to do just that, with Nocera and McLean as clear-eyed, brilliant guides for a fast-paced tour of America’s greatest policy failure in modern times. This book is shocking, revela­tory, and ultimately indispensable.”
Christopher Leonard, bestselling author of Kochland and The Lords of Easy Money


“Lucid, balanced, and stunningly comprehensive, The Big Fail will gratify some and infuriate oth­ers—but it will give everyone a profound education in the humbling complexities of the pandemic and the deeper, wider fault lines it exposed. This book challenges us to do better.”
Diana B. Henriques, bestselling author of Taming the Street and The Wizard of Lies


“This important, thought-provoking book compels us to confront our individual and collective responses to the pandemic—from the accomplishments of Operation Warp Speed to the intensifica­tion of economic, health, and social disparities that eat away at our societal cohesion. Read The Big Fail not just for an engaging and timely analysis of the recent past, but also for valuable insights on how we can work toward a better future.”
Mohamed A. El-Erian, president of Queens’ College at the University of Cambridge, Bloomberg and Financial Times columnist, and bestselling author of When Markets Collide and The Only Game in Town


The Big Fail is a wide-ranging and devastating critique of the way the United States dealt with the COVID pandemic. As Nocera and McLean chronicle the litany of missteps and misrepresentations, the lack of transparency, and the frequent changes of direction by state and federal authorities of both parties, one begins to understand why the most significant legacy of the pandemic is a deep mistrust of government.”
Liaquat Ahamed, bestselling author of Lords of Finance and winner of the Pulitzer Prize


“Nocera and McLean show how America’s response to the COVID pandemic exposed and exacer­bated preexisting issues and share crucial lessons as we prepare for future crises. The Big Fail is both important and enjoyable.”
Gregory Zuckerman, bestselling author of A Shot to Save the World and The Man Who Solved the Market


“The pandemic was like a scrim pulled up to show us all the economic and political vulnerabilities in our system. In The Big Fail, master storytellers Joe Nocera and Bethany McLean connect the narrative dots between fragile supply chains, faulty foreign policy, Wall Street greed and public sector dysfunction, weaving a cautionary and highly readable tale.”
Rana Foroohar, Financial Times columnist and author of Homecoming


“Nocera and McLean have written the book we’ve all been waiting for. The Big Fail is the story of a calamity, and the rays of hope that emerged amidst it, told by two of the finest storytellers at work. If you want to understand what happened to us, all of us, this is the book you need to read.”
Charles Duhigg, bestselling author of The Power of Habit and Smarter Faster Better


“First-rate reportage with astute big-picture analysis. It’s among the best reports to date on America’s botched pandemic response.” —Publishers Weekly


“Eye-opening…Conveyed in cogent prose, with an impeccably researched timeline.” —Kirkus Reviews


The Big Fail does a great service in critiquing those who stifled debate and in demanding a full public accounting of what happened–an accounting that has yet to take place.”—Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution