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The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine [Hardcover]

Michael Lewis
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,242 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 15, 2010

The #1 New York Times bestseller: a brilliant account—character-rich and darkly humorous—of how the U.S. economy was driven over the cliff.

When the crash of the U. S. stock market became public knowledge in the fall of 2008, it was already old news. The real crash, the silent crash, had taken place over the previous year, in bizarre feeder markets where the sun doesn’t shine, and the SEC doesn’t dare, or bother, to tread: the bond and real estate derivative markets where geeks invent impenetrable securities to profit from the misery of lower- and middle-class Americans who can’t pay their debts. The smart people who understood what was or might be happening were paralyzed by hope and fear; in any case, they weren’t talking.

The crucial question is this: Who understood the risk inherent in the assumption of ever-rising real estate prices, a risk compounded daily by the creation of those arcane, artificial securities loosely based on piles of doubtful mortgages? Michael Lewis turns the inquiry on its head to create a fresh, character-driven narrative brimming with indignation and dark humor, a fitting sequel to his #1 best-selling Liar’s Poker. Who got it right? he asks. Who saw the real estate market for the black hole it would become, and eventually made billions of dollars from that perception? And what qualities of character made those few persist when their peers and colleagues dismissed them as Chicken Littles? Out of this handful of unlikely—really unlikely—heroes, Lewis fashions a story as compelling and unusual as any of his earlier bestsellers, proving yet again that he is the finest and funniest chronicler of our times.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Although Lewis is perhaps best known for his sports-related nonfiction (including The Blind Side), his first book was the autobiographical Liar's Poker, in which he chronicled his disillusionment as a young gun on Wall Street in the greed is good 1980s. He returns to his financial roots to excavate the crisis of 2007–2008, employing his trademark technique of casting a microcosmic lens on the personal histories of several Wall Street outsiders who were betting against the grain—to shed light on the macrocosmic tale of greed and fear. Although Lewis reads the book's introduction, narration duties are assumed by Jesse Boggs, a veteran narrator of business titles (including Lewis's own 2008 book Panic!). Boggs's rich baritone is well suited to the task and trips lightly through a maze of financial jargon (CDOs, derivatives, mid-prime lending) and a dizzying cast of characters. Lewis returns on the final disc for a 10-minute interview about the crisis's aftermath, including a savvy assessment of the wisdom of the financial bailout and where-are-they-now updates on the book's various heroes and villains. A Norton hardcover. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Michael Lewis has written from the perspective of a financial insider for more than 20 years. His first book, Liar's Poker, was a warts-and-all account of Wall Street culture in the 1980s, when Lewis worked at the investment bank Salomon Brothers. Everything Lewis has touched since has turned to gold, and The Big Short seems to be another of those books, combining an incendiary, timely topic with the author's solid, insightful, and witty investigative reporting. Only the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette criticized what it felt was a rush job of writing and a failure to integrate the individual stories. Few readers will care for the message here (despite laugh-out-loud moments of absurdity), but Lewis is a capable guide into the world of CDOs, subprime mortgages, head-in-the-sand investments, inflated egos--and the big short. However, as Entertainment Weekly points at, if you're only going to read one book on the topic, perhaps this should not be the one.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 266 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (March 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393072231
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393072235
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,242 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Lewis, the author of Boomerang, Liar's Poker, The New New Thing, Moneyball, The Blind Side, Panic, Home Game and The Big Short, among other works, lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, Tabitha Soren, and their three children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1,348 of 1,413 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who knew? March 15, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Based on reading Michael Lewis' Liar's Poker and Moneyball, I wondered whether The Big Short would prove to be entertaining and informative. If you've read some of Lewis' books, you might agree that the "entertaining" part would seem to be a reasonably safe bet. It turns out, it is. The Big Short is fast-paced, straightforward, conversational and salty--very much like his earlier works. Indeed, if you didn't know Michael Lewis had written this book, you could probably guess it. It is easy reading and very hard to put down. In short (no pun), The Big Short doesn't disappoint in being entertaining.

In a sense, this book is similar to Moneyball in that Lewis tells his story by following a host of characters that most of us have never heard of--people like Steve Eisman (the closest thing to a main character in the book), Vincent Daniel, Michael Burry, Greg Lippmann, Gene Park, Howie Hubler and others.

How informative is the book? Well, it may seem that Lewis has his work cut out for himself, since the events of the recent financial crisis are already well known. More than that, lots of people have their minds made up concerning who the perps of the last few years are--banks and their aggressive managers, "shadow banks" and their even more aggressive managers, hedge funds, credit default swaps, mortgage brokers, the ratings agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Fed's monetary policy, various federal regulators, short sellers, politicians who over-pushed home ownership, a sensationalist media, the American public that overextending itself with excessive borrowing (or that lied in order to get home loans), housing speculators, etc. The list goes on--and on. Okay, so you already know this.
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1,423 of 1,622 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Big Short Falls a Bit Short March 15, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Let me get the easy part of this out of the way first. Michael Lewis is a remarkably gifted writer, and I have often found his books impossible to put down. When I first read his debut at book authorship, Liar's Poker, I literally read it straight through. I was not alone in this, as Liar's Poker rightfully made Michael a very well-respected author and a very wealthy man. Moneyball, The Blind Side, and numerous other best-sellers built on that reputation. The long-awaited newest contribution from Michael Lewis, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, is 264 pages long, and I also read this in 24 hours. However, I doubt many others will feel the same. The book was compelling, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and nothing in the book modified my view that Michael Lewis is one of the most interesting writers of this era. I simply doubt that this book evoke the same response from the masses of people who will buy it. Perhaps I am wrong. So before I begin to disect the important parts of the book (its underlying messages, etc.), I will say that it was another hard-to-put-down book from Michael Lewis. Thumbs up, and all that stuff.

So what did I really think of the book? Well, Lewis should be commended for writing a book on the 2008 financial crisis from the most unique perspective thus far. Rather than focus on the major characters that a plethora of other books have focused on (Paulson, Bernanke, Geithner, etc.), Lewis tells his story using some extremely obscure characters as his lead actors: A handful of hedge fund managers who made massive bets against the subprime industry (and by hedge fund managers, I am not referring to high profile, well-known hedgies; I am talking about very, very minor players).
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50 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BookForum review March 23, 2010
Format:Hardcover
In the run-up to the housing collapse of 2007-2008, houses weren't merely expensive, they were insanely expensive. Yet just when it seemed that prices couldn't go higher, some fool would come along and pay an enormous sum for a glorified hovel. You didn't have to be a genius to realize that American real estate was overvalued. It did, however, take something special to figure out how to make money off the madness. A group of between ten and twenty people did just that, making the bet of a lifetime that author Michael Lewis calls "The Big Short"

The cast of characters in Lewis's highly readable chronicle of the collapse (and what led to it) includes a misanthropic former medical resident, a money manager who saw himself as Spider-Man, and a pair of men in their thirties who started with $110,00 in a Schwab account they managed from a backyard shed in Berkeley, California. "Each filled a hole," Lewis writes. "Each supplied a missing insight, an attitude to risk which, if more prevalent, might have prevented the catastrophe."

Ever since he left Salomon Brothers to write Liar's Poker, the classic 1989 account of his years as a bond salesman, Lewis has been waiting for a day of reckoning. Little did he realize that the Wall Street he once knew now seems quaint. By 2007, it had morphed into a financial Frankenstein, a "black box" filled with hidden risks on complicated bets that could destroy its creators, but only if the government allowed it to do so.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful writer.
Another readable and intellectually exciting book by Michael Lewis. Few non-fiction writers today are able to take what seems to be a dry topic and make it come alive as vividly as... Read more
Published 1 hour ago by Jeffrey Escoffier
5.0 out of 5 stars The book engaged me from beginning to end. Fast ...
The book engaged me from beginning to end. Fast paced and enjoyable it explained the causes of the financial crisis.
Published 1 day ago by Tobin Lottering
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Required reading for every American.
Published 3 days ago by John D. Tuttle
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Was my first Michael Lewis book. Loved every minute of it. Couldn't put it down. I enjoy "high finance" as a personal investor and observer so the book was very enjoyable.
Published 3 days ago by Steve W
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very insightful. Scary to hear how truly corrupt the big banks and the government are.
Published 3 days ago by gregg kattermann
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book!
This was a wonderful book! Complicated, and dry, material explained in lay men's terms and through the voices of those involved in the crash.
Published 5 days ago by Jeremy Grimm
1.0 out of 5 stars Lost in the mail
This book was never delivered to me
Published 6 days ago by walter staab
3.0 out of 5 stars So So
It's a good read. I was expecting a lot from this book because of the buzz but it's an average book.
Published 9 days ago by Sneh Sheth
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent writing but less insightful now that we all have the benefit...
If I had read this book when it first published, I would have enjoyed it more. In the intervening time, more information about the crisis has been published and the outcome of the... Read more
Published 9 days ago by James R. Flanigan
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Item...
Great Item...
Published 10 days ago by Lborjal
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The Layman's Guide To Trading Stocks
59 bucks for your book? Seriously? Is there a $7 Kindle edition available?
Apr 10, 2011 by SNRS |  See all 5 posts
Why so expensive
Could you post your cost. I haven't had time to put in my overseas address ... as I'm back on the mainland temporarily!!!

I do know that the publishers had been setting Kindle prices fairly high recently. Perhaps in the US we can''t get the kindle version simply because we wouldn't pay for... Read More
Mar 16, 2010 by Reed N.D. Dark |  See all 5 posts
Kindle?
I love it, B. Blanton. The Kindle-addicts are downrating your post about book-sharing, used books (which are more eco-friendly than mfg millions of Kindles) b/c they don't want any alternatives to their format of choice. Hypocrisy, much?
Mar 18, 2010 by z_bookworm |  See all 27 posts
How to handle spoiled-brat Kindle owners
There is already a "quick way to tell the publisher": a link on the product page RIGHT UNDER THE PICTURE OF THE BOOK that says "Tell the publisher you'd like to read this book on Kindle" or words to that effect. Using the review system to complain about the publisher's... Read More
Mar 16, 2010 by Christopher Dee |  See all 142 posts
why is The Big Short not yet available on Kindle?
I am getting sick and tired of finding every book that I want to read not being available on Kindle. Amazon will blame the publishers and the publishers blame Amazon. However, we are the customers that believe it or not make the whole damn thing work. So get real both or you. Unless the middlemen... Read More
Mar 19, 2010 by David Pring |  See all 16 posts
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