Out last week, Louis Hyman's book Borrow: The American Way of Debt aspires to be a biography of debt in the United States. It's an interesting story (Henry Ford is a main character) and it also serves as a biography of American retail and grocery stores. American debt has a meaningful effect on civil rights and feminism, and the story expands in scope from a neighborhood affair to a matter of global importance.

I just wish Hyman told this story with a little more skill. As a narrative, Borrow is weighted down with clunky language and a broken structure. We hear the same pieces of information again and again, each time framed as though we were hearing it for the first time. Certain explanations aren't clear enough for readers—like myself—who have a hard time understanding complicated financial matters. As a concept for a book, it's great. As a piece of writing, it's unfortunate.

If you're interested in the concept of debt as a player in the history of humanity, I'd like to again turn your attention to David Graeber's book Debt, which Charles Mudede writes about in this week's books lead. It's wider in scope than Borrow, and a lot more forceful in its opinions. And it's a better piece of writing, besides. Something that publishers of non-fiction need to remember is that the quality of language in a piece matters; Borrow feels like a lashed-together raft of ideas, and Hyman's perspective suffers because of that. Debt has been crafted as an argument and as a piece of writing, and that's why it's the book we'll be discussing ten years from now.