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The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine Hardcover – March 15, 2010
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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.
“No one writes with more narrative panache about money and finance than Mr. Lewis....[he] does a nimble job of using his subjects’ stories to explicate the greed, idiocies and hypocrisies of a system notably lacking in grown-up supervision....Writing in faintly Tom Wolfe-ian prose, Mr. Lewis does a colorful job of introducing the lay reader to the Darwinian world of the bond market.”
- Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Superb: Michael Lewis doing what he does best, illuminating the idiocy, madness and greed of modern finance. . . . Lewis achieves what I previously imagined impossible: He makes subprime sexy all over again.”
- Andrew Leonard, Salon.com
“One of the best business books of the past two decades.”
- Malcolm Gladwell, New York Times Book Review
“I read Lewis for the same reasons I watch Tiger Woods. I’ll never play like that. But it’s good to be reminded every now and again what genius looks like.”
- Malcolm Gladwell, New York Times Book Review
“I recommend everyone within the sound of my voice to read [this] book.”
- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
“I’ve joined a lot of other people in just finishing Michael Lewis’s book, The Big Short, and it’s really an eye-opener of what was going on at the time that this real estate bubble was created.”
- Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)
“I read it, marked it up for my staff, underlined it, made copies and asked them to read it.”
- Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.)
“[A]n incredible piece of commentary on Wall Street.”
- Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.)
“If you’re wondering if there’s importance or an urgency to this issue, read the book The Big Short by Michael Lewis, and then, when you’re finished reading, come back to the floor and say that you support this amendment [on financial reform].”
- Senator Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota)
Top customer reviews
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As soon as I finished watching the 2015 movie “The Big Short,” I immediately decided to read Michael Lewis’ book “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine,” which forms the basis for the film. Lewis, who was himself a Wall Street bond trader in the 1980s and 90s, is the author of several non-fiction books, many of them dealing with the world of finance.
“The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine” isn’t so much “about” the financial crisis as it is about what caused the meltdown in the first place. Lewis tells his story through the actions of four separate investment groups: Scion Capital; managed by Dr. Michael Burry; FrontPoint Partners LLC, led by Steve Eisman; Cornwall Capital, co-managed by James Mai and Charlie Ledley; and Greg Lippmann, a bond trader with Deutsche Bank. These investors, each working independently from each other, correctly foresaw the collapse of the housing markets in the United States in 2007. Nobody else saw it – or wanted to, for that matter.
For years, many of the world’s biggest investment and commercial banks had been investing heavily in high-risk subprime mortgages. This caused housing prices to rise, and a “housing bubble” to form. But soon, variable interest rates on these mortgages would begin to rise sharply, and massive numbers of people with little or no income would begin to default on mortgages they could no longer afford. Our four investors each decided to “sell short” the housing markets by investing in “credit default swaps” – a form of insurance against mortgage defaults. They essentially were betting against the housing markets: when (not if) the housing markets failed, the investors would end up making millions…
“The Big Short” is a very well written book. It’s fast-paced, easy to read, and short (less than 300 pages). Michael Lewis’ story is very much character-driven. His profiles of the main players are surprisingly detailed, brutally honest, and fascinating. Some people who start out looking like villains end up as quite heroic and admirable figures. Others do not fare so well.
One of the things Michael Lewis does best is explain many of the technical aspects of the financial system in a manner that I could easily understand. Although I’m sure “mortgage backed securities,” “credit default swaps,” and “collateral debt obligations” are probably a lot more complicated than even Lewis presents them, I found his explanations simple, straightforward, and very useful. As a result, I gained a better knowledge of the financial crisis.
“The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine” is a very informative and entertaining book. For those looking to understand the basics of the 2008 financial crisis, this is one very good place to start. Highly recommended.
Lewis takes us through the events and circumstances that led to the biggest financial crisis of our live times (well... so far)
And he does it in a humorous and non-technical way. The language is very accessible, all the complicated concepts are explained in detail and easy to understand.
The book is driven by the characters who take on a human form instead of being some anonymous trader behind a Bloomberg screen.
It reads like a novel, too bad the events and their consequences were totally real.
And even though it's almost a decade after the financial crisis, the book is still very relevant.
In 2008, it was all about the sub-prime mortgages. Today we have sub-prime auto-loans and pay-day loans.
When there's so much money to be made on the back of the less-than-perfect borrowers, do you really think the Greedy Wall Street traders have learned its lesson?