John Lanchester's Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay (Allen Lane, £20) did for the financial crisis what Stephen Hawking's Brief History of Time once did for theoretical physics. This is a book that manages to demystify a subject that has become increasingly wreathed in the arcana of spurious quantitative analysis and preposterous predictive formulae. The outrageously self-serving and divisive behaviour of those in the financial sector depends for its field of operations on the bewilderment of the masses, making it impossible for the general reader to understand exactly what's been going on. By restoring discussion of political economy to plain - and often very witty - prose, Lanchester has produced a very radical text. Whoops! empowers individuals. This book isn't a programme of action - it's something more valuable: a means for all of us to think constructively about our political and economic choices, or our lack of them.