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But despite this finger-pointing, Mr. Paulson acknowledges that his original diagnosis upon assuming office contained a glaring omission. While at Camp David during his first major briefing to Mr. Bush, Mr. Paulson writes, “Notably absent from my presentation was any mention of problems in housing or mortgages.”

Indeed, Mr. Paulson later admits that under his chairmanship, the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets placed misguided focus on hedge funds, some of the most stable financial institutions amidst the market turbulence.

“I’m a candid person by nature, and I’ve attempted to give the unbridled truth. I call it the way I see it,” Mr. Paulson writes. True to form, his plain-spoken prose is straightforward and largely accessible, except for his discussions of financial-instrument minutiae. However, Mr. Paulson’s details give the lay reader an insider’s view and shed some light on a convoluted financial system desperately in need of repair.

Carrie Sheffield, a former editorial writer for The Washington Times, is a graduate student at Harvard’s Kennedy School.