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Liar's Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street (1987)

by Michael Lewis

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4,035633,018 (4)44
Biography & Autobiography. Business. Finance. Nonfiction. HTML:

The time was the 1980s. The place was Wall Street. The game was called Liar's Poker.

Michael Lewis was fresh out of Princeton and the London School of Economics when he landed a job at Salomon Brothers, one of Wall Street's premier investment firms. During the next three years, Lewis rose from callow trainee to bond salesman, raking in millions for the firm and cashing in on a modern-day gold rush. Liar's Poker is the culmination of those heady, frenzied years??a behind-the-scenes look at a unique and turbulent time in American business. From the frat-boy camaraderie of the forty-first-floor trading room to the killer instinct that made ambitious young men gamble everything on a high-stakes game of bluffing and deception, here is Michael Lewis's knowing and hilarious insider's account of an unprecedented era of greed, gluttony, and outrageous fortu… (more)
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» See also 44 mentions

English (60)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  All languages (62)
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
Kind of interesting but at the end of the day I didn't want to read about a bunch of overgrown white frat boys.
  xfitkitten | Jan 21, 2024 |
I was recommended this book in 2018 by a friend who was writing code for financial derivatives in Tokyo in the 1980s. I looked around for an audio edition at the time, but came up empty-handed. I just checked again, and it has just been re-issued by the author! Apparently the original copyright had expired, and the author saw the opportunity for a re-issue.

If you respect Lewis' later work, such as "The Big Short," and "Moneyball," you'll love this early look into his start on Wall Street in the 1980s! Unlike his later works, this is technically a "memoir," as it is a first-hand account of Solomon Brothers while Lewis was employed there.

You should look for the companion podcast if you read the book, "Other People's Money," although I was only able to find it on YouTube (for some reason it seem to have been blocked from podcast apps).

In the podcast, Lewis mentions that he had written the book as an indictment of Wall Street, when many of his readers have taken the opposite interpretation, iconizing the era. You might call this the naïve of "critical thought." When we give something attention, we implicitly center it. It is like the thought experiment, "don't think of the pink elephant," which, inevitably brings such a creature to mind. Ultimately, there is no way to both name something, and decenter it (this is part of the magic and power of language and attention). So a book about Wall Street—even if it illustrates what some might call juvenile tendencies—has the effect of valorizing Wall Street.

Lewis also discusses in the retrospective: Wall Street today is both nothing like and everything like what is described in the book. There is something about myth here. Lewis was able to capture something about the essence of Wall Street in this book. Even if the people and the landscape look totally different now, you can still see a living lineage in evolution. In one discussion, a female financier posits that Wall Street was more inclusive in the 1980s than today, and suggests that this might be because "diversity and inclusion" has now been siloed off. I think there is something to this: diversity and inclusion need to be addressed at the core of a business operation, not as an add-on (you could say the same about sustainability).

If you haven't heard already, this book is also a prescient view into the origin story of the subprime debt crisis, in that Solomon Brothers (specifically Lou Ranieri) invented the securitization of mortgages (with the prompting from the Federal Reserve).

I will say—one thing that bothers me about Lewis' tone in the book: he speaks as though he doesn't "have a horse in the race," as though he was an innocent bystander. Yes, he was young, but no, you can't say that he was powerless. Sometimes (I see this a lot in Silicon Valley), the more power someone has, the less they feel like they have the ability (or the responsibility) to affect the trajectory of their industry. You could say that Lewis ultimately did step up, not as a fiduciary, but as a journalist. But, as I point out above in the critical thought paradox, this doesn't actually have the ability to change anything. ( )
  willszal | Aug 25, 2023 |
Druhou ze tří Lewisovek, kterou jsem přečetl během svého "Lewisova měsíce", je Američanův knižní debut Lhářův poker. Prvním překvapením bylo, že se Lewisův styl během pětadvaceti let mezi Lhářovým pokerem a Jako blesk takřka vůbec nezměnil. Stejná lehkost pera doprovázená poněkud slabším humorem panuje v obou autorových knihách a já si říkám, jak je možné, aby někdo autorsky zůstal po čtvrt století stále na stejném místě.

Ne, že by byl Lhářův poker špatnou knihou, čte se velice dobře a ve své době asi Lewis umožnil čtenářům nahlédnout tam, kam se veřejnost za normálních okolností nepodívá. Na rozdíl od Jako blesk navíc Lewis čerpá z vlastních zkušeností a tak má příležitost postavy vykreslit o něco barvitěji, jenže to je občas až na škodu knihy, neboť mnozí její hrdinové (vlastně padouši) působí spíše jako komiksové postavičky a já si opakovaně při čtení říkal: takhle se nikdo ve skutečnosti nechová!

Lhářův poker popisuje autorovu cestu mezi prodejce nechvalně proslulé banky Salomon Brothers. Pokud byste si mysleli, že jde o cestu obyčejnou pro každou korporaci, tedy že přes pohovor projdete do výcvikového programu, který vás vykopne jako nováčka přímo do víru dění, pak máte pravdu a bohužel vám značná část knihy moc nedá, zejména když Lewis vyprávění a školícím programu prokládá dlouhými odbočkami k vysvětlení toho či onoho pojmu. Zajímavý tak Lhářův poker začne být ve své druhé části, v níž autor popisuje život na obchodním parketu banky. Právě zde se nacházejí mnohé zajímavé až neuvěřitelné postavy.

Nejsilnější stránkou knihy pak pro mě není samotný popis dění na finančních trzích a chování jednotlivců, jež se na něm snaží vydělat, nýbrž krize Salomon Brothers. Lewis zde dobře zachytil korporaci v jejím rozkladu, kterak křečovitě drží stejný kurz zatímco její nejlepší lidé odcházejí. Tato zkušenost má obecnou platnost a rozhodně by měla být poučením mnohým generálním ředitelům, kteří se snaze ušetřit na lidech a investicích prodají vlastní budoucnost.

Popis světa financí Lewis zvládá dobře, ovšem s téměř třicetiletým odstupem již asi málokoho šokuje. Kdyby byl Lhářův poker o polovinu kratší, díval bych se na něj asi o něco pozitivněji, takto musím říct - za ten čas to stálo, ale jen tak tak. ( )
  zajus | Jul 13, 2023 |
Repetitive. Not nearly as entertaining as his other books. ( )
  markm2315 | Jul 1, 2023 |
A good book about the late 20th century bond market. I drifted off a lot near the end, but for the most part, it's a good read. ( )
  aashishrathi | Jul 1, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
It doesn't hurt that Lewis is a fantastic writer with a particular talent for explaining the minutae of investment banking without making you want to gouge your own eyes out.
added by lampbane | editBoing Boing, Cory Doctorow (Oct 3, 2008)
 

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Biography & Autobiography. Business. Finance. Nonfiction. HTML:

The time was the 1980s. The place was Wall Street. The game was called Liar's Poker.

Michael Lewis was fresh out of Princeton and the London School of Economics when he landed a job at Salomon Brothers, one of Wall Street's premier investment firms. During the next three years, Lewis rose from callow trainee to bond salesman, raking in millions for the firm and cashing in on a modern-day gold rush. Liar's Poker is the culmination of those heady, frenzied years??a behind-the-scenes look at a unique and turbulent time in American business. From the frat-boy camaraderie of the forty-first-floor trading room to the killer instinct that made ambitious young men gamble everything on a high-stakes game of bluffing and deception, here is Michael Lewis's knowing and hilarious insider's account of an unprecedented era of greed, gluttony, and outrageous fortu

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