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The Big Short by Michael Lewis

The Big Short (original 2010; edition 2011)

by Michael Lewis

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2,4361022,537 (4.18)90
Title:The Big Short
Authors:Michael Lewis
Info:Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc. (2011), Hardcover
Collections:Your library
Tags:kindle, Wall Street, finance

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The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis (2010)


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Makes the case that rating agencies not doing their job and bankers and money managers not facing downside risk are potent combination, which largely caused the financial crisis of 2007-2010. A case in point is the collateralized debt obligations created by in a way combining debt repayments, which were divided up into tranches according to default risk. So far, so good, however, of these "towers of debt," even when consisting of only "ground floors," as much as (the top) 80 % could be rated as AAA. And this could be done again and again... One is left wondering why so many investors seemed to pay so little attention, but the book is in any case a good and entertaining exposition of one account of the crisis. Like most of Lewis' books, recommended. ( )
  ohernaes | Mar 25, 2015 |
Have you ever wondered what the fuck actually happened back in 2008 that caused a global meltdown of debt? This book details the decline, with compelling characters telling the story of how they made millions from the total destruction of discount home lending. These few characters saw the decline coming years in advance, and shorted the lending futures accordingly, making shit tons of dough, while the entire economy collapsed.

This book reads like a novel, not some boring non-fiction. Michael Lewis tells the story as a narrative with an actual plot and fitting climax. It's an engrossing read which kept my eyes glued to the pages until the end. ( )
  gecizzle | Mar 5, 2015 |
Once again, Michael Lewis doesn't fail to deliver. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine is one of the most interesting and easy to read accounts of the 2008 financial meltdown. ( )
  kristenembers | Mar 5, 2015 |
The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine is a book by Michael Lewis. In the circles I travel in, Michael Lewis made Moneyball famous. He didn’t invent moneyball, but he did popularize the term. Also, a great movie by Aaron Sorkin and Brad Pitt didn’t hurt.

In The Big Short Michael Lewis explores the crash of the financial system in 2008.

The Big Short doesn’t really have spoilers if you were living in 2008 and had any idea about what was happening. The economy, you know what happened. Several of the largest firms in the United States, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers went under. The Big Short explores not only why they went under, but who made money and how.

The writing is instantaneously recognizable as Michael Lewis. The cadence and rhythm. It is established as clearly his own. This has its own pros and cons. For one, while it definitely sounds like him talking. Though I’ve never actually heard him talk so I can only imagine, as a writer, that this is what he would sound like, since many writers and authors inject a fair amount of their own voice into their text. This leads to one of the cons. The congenial nature of his discourse sometimes lends itself to being very confusing.

Imagine having a conversation with a friend and they are telling you a new story and they introduce seven or eight people who are also talking at once and all very important to the narrative that your friend wants to tell, but it keeps switching back and forth between them. The conversational nature of his text shines through. And while it makes The Big Short easy to read and enjoy it does means a lot of the details are lost in the process.

Another weakness is that while Michael Lewis has clearly done his best to water down the market system for those who are not involved he’s even chosen his main characters as outsiders, I suppose to make the audience bond with them. Two friends working out a garage and know nothing about the business. A man who has asperger’s and makes savant-like investments. The honest to a fault man who no one believes. Michael Lewis has chosen people who come close to caricatures without actually being caricatures.

The characters do create a certain community to its disparate collection of narrators and it gets muddled. If I were Michael Lewis I would’ve cut a couple of narrators out. Not only does this shorten the book but it also decreases any confusion generated by continuously swapping narratives. In the end, many of the characters are lost in the shuffle, with no distinct sense of what is it about them that makes them special.

What you get out of this book depends entirely on your opinion of Wall Street. A lot of people I know trust it and think it is a great way to make money. Surely, invest for the future. I’ve, personally, never seen it that way. And as I read books like The Big Short and Too Big to Fail, nothing exists to dissuade that notion. The idea that “it is all behind us” is nice and all, but nothing’s actually happened to demonstrate a change in philosophy. As several different people in the book say, it’s fraud, even if you can’t prove it in court.

Given how poorly things have gone and just how deeply the Great Recession has effected everyone, it’s hard not to read this book and feel the anger roiling just beneath the surface. Not of the narrators, but in myself.

The Big Short is a good book. It deftly explains the details of “shorts” and “CDO”, all along the way distilling a complicated system. Just remember, hindsight is 20/20. Give yourself a good week to read and understand what’s being postulated here. ( )
  sypherhawq | Feb 28, 2015 |
Lewis is a great storyteller. Well, let me qualify that--Lewis is a great teller of stories about people. You really get a good feel for the people in his books, their ruling passions, their resentments, their insights, their foibles and eccentricities. But, in spite of the fact that Lewis worked for a while on Wall Street (see Liar's Poker), you don't get a particularly good sense of the other big characters in this story--the financial instruments themselves.

Part of this is because of the character-driven structure of the story. We get explanations of different aspects of a financial instrument--say a mortgage-backed bond or a CDO--as those particular aspects become relevant to the story of one of the people in the story. So the CDO might be 40% explained in one chapter, another 40% 50 pages later, and the rest in dribs and drabs as those particular details become important.

I know a complete explanation of CDOs would be deadly to the casual reader, and maybe even beyond Lewis's abilities (he says several times that a man like him had no business working on Wall Street), but maybe a detailed glossary might have been a good idea?

Another thing that seemed remarkable: this is a book told from the perspective of Wall Street outsiders, but even considering that, there seems to be a real lack of insider insight here--I'd have been curious to see how some of these folks would have explained their own stupid behavior, rather than have in explained by the men who were making bets against them.

Anyhow, a really good book with some very interesting subjects. ( )
  ehines | Dec 1, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 102 (next | show all)
Thinking about the subprime crisis with the benefit of da Vinci’s distance, it struck me anew how Darwinian and predatory the whole system is. One constantly has to ask, Cui Bono: “Who benefits?” And Ubi Est Mea: “Where’s mine?” One of Eisman’s traders was constantly obsessed with how the party on the other side might screw him (though “screw” was not the word used). That is probably a good attitude to have on Wall Street.
By focusing so precisely on the particular, Lewis makes the objects of his scrutiny stand for the whole of the financial world: its obscurantism, under-regulation and wildly short-termist institutional profiteering; the bank bosses’ reluctance to scrutinise the mechanics and risks of their most profitable divisions; and the general refusal to understand the connection between the profits made and the dangerous actuality they were based on: in this case, the deliberately over-complicated financial “instruments” and the poor Americans who were about to default on their mortgages.
In his new book, Lewis is neither obnoxious nor charming. The skies have fallen. The market Wall Street created in the housing debt of the very poorest Americans, so-called "sub-prime" mortgage bonds and various derivative securities, which fell to bits in 2007 and all but engulfed the world in 2008, is the greatest financial fraud since the 18th century. Men and women who once made us laugh now make us shudder. In other words, The Big Short is not half the fun of Liar's Poker, but it is more important.
added by mikeg2 | editThe guardian, James Buchan (Mar 27, 2010)
Lewis is a gifted chronicler and debunker and demystifier of the world of finance.
added by r.orrison | editBoing Boing, Cory Doctorow (Mar 18, 2010)
No one writes with more narrative panache about money and finance than Mr. Lewis, the author of “Liar’s Poker,” that now classic portrait of 1980s Wall Street. His entertaining new book does not attempt a macro view of the financial crisis, but instead proposes to open a small window on the calamities by recounting the stories of some savvy renegades who cashed in on their conviction that the system was rotten.
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The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea about them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him.  -  Leo Tolstoy
For Michael Kinsley, To Whom I Still Owe an Article
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393072231, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:48:27 -0400)

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The author examines the causes of the U.S. stock market crash of 2008 and its relation to overpriced real estate, bad mortgages, shareholder demand for excessive profits, and the growth of toxic derivatives.

(summary from another edition)

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W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393072231, 0393338827

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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