71 – The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

the-big-shortBook Title: The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine
Author: Michael Lewis
Style:
Chapter Book
Target Audience: Adult
Genres:
Non-Fiction, Modern History
Page Count:
288
Format:
eBook (library)
Reading time
: 5 hours
Date Finished
: 3/13/17
Click here to find it on Amazon (New window)

In a word: Head-spinning.

My impressions: I was greatly embarrassed a couple of weeks ago when I heard the author Michael Lewis speak at a conference I was attending. I was seated 50 feet from the man and, as I listened to him talk, realized that I had never read any of his books or watched the movies based on three of them. And what’s more, I knew it had to change, because he is the author of books like Moneyball, The Blind Side, Liar’s Poker, Flash Boys, The New New Thing and The Undoing Project, all of which are major bestsellers with big followings.

So, I started with The Big Short, which was recently adapted into a big movie and which details the financial meltdown in the housing and financial markets a decade ago. The book is extremely well-written and expertly sourced, following three groups of investors who had the foresight to bet against the market and who received massive financial rewards for their success. And yet all three emerged from the situation scarred by the fact that they profited by being smart enough to see the market’s house of cards collapsing before anyone else in the financial world would admit there was a problem. The Big Short does a great job of explaining the extremely complex and bizarre language used to make the financial markets opaque and the concepts inaccessible, and suffice it to say that the corruption it portrays is alarming and makes you wonder why more people didn’t go to jail.

Michael Lewis commented during his talk that Christian Bale spent one day interviewing Dr. Michael Burry and understood the man so completely that his portrayal of the character in the movie is spot-on. I had to watch the movie while reading the book just to see how close it was, and it was fascinating how well Bale captured the real-world character portrayed the book. Some of the other characters in the film are fictionalized versions of real people, and I found the book’s characters much more compelling than those in the movie. Many of the movie’s best scenes are throwaway lines in the book, but the same insane culture of willful lies and denial exists in both. I really need to go read Liar’s Poker (to which this book feels like a sequel) to get a better sense of Michael Lewis’s experiences working on Wall Street in the 1980s.

 

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