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Publisher's Summary

Featuring an exclusive audio interview with Michael Lewis

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 number-one best-selling Liar’s Poker. "Who got it right?" he asks. Who saw the ever-rising 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 best sellers, proving yet again that he is the finest and funniest chronicler of our times.

©2010 Michael Lewis (P)2010 Simon & Schuster

Critic Reviews

“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)
"[Michael Lewis] is the finest storyteller of our generation.” (Malcolm Gladwell)

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  • Overall
  • Josh
  • Venice, CA, USA
  • 05-11-10

Bit dry for me

Perhaps because I've read SO much good journalism about this and heard Michael Lewis speak on it so eloquently on radio & TV, the pace of this account was hard for me to get into. I found it slow, with explanations of default swaps and collateralized debt obligations and short sells that I've become bored of since the crash. I suspect the written book trumps the audio because you can skim dry economic explanations whereas the narrator has to plod through them slowly. You'll need to be willing to put in time and effort for this one. I'm not.

20 of 26 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

awesome

This is a great book, really well read.
Several years ago we refinanced our home and it stuck me how ridiculous it was that banks were just begging me to take a loan and no one was even checking if I had any income. Unfortunately, I did not have the foresite of some of the characters in this book, and they are truly characters. The basic tenet of the whole book comes down to that: if it seems to good to be true, it probably is, and just basic common sense indicated that the system was unsustainable. I just wish I had a background that would have allowed me to make billions off the same basic gut feeling the protagonists did.
If you want to read one book that makes you understand what this whole mess is about, and how greed led us into this mess, this is the book to read. It is a clear articulation of what the fundamentals the led to this economic crisis were mismanaged. I hope some senators read this.
Its also great insight into the human character. AS the author said on NPR, its amazing what one can overlook when you are being paid huge sums of money to overlook things.
It is also an interesting insight into human nature in that these "outsiders" who placed huge bets against the financial system and came up huge winners now all of a sudden are having trouble “trusting” their own thoughts/ideas, as they have become entrenched in their own thinking and sort of “insiders” now. It reflects that sometimes the most innovate freshest thoughts come from people who might be least expected to produce these insights.
This is the first Michael Lewis book i have read but from excerpts of other books this seems fairly consistent with his style. A great great fast entertaining but very insightful read. For the first time I felt like understood what the last few years have been about. If I could give it more than 5, I would.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Anthony
  • Grand Prairie, TX, United States
  • 04-15-10

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

If you read only one book about the causes of the recent financial crisis, let it be Michael Lewis' The Big Short. The thing that makes his story so great is that he tells it through the eyes of the 4 groups of men that had the courage to take a position that opposed the smartest men in the financial industry and, sad to say, our government. They were some of the first to see the fraud behind the subprime meltdown and found a way to make a fortune off the financial systems' crash.

Michael Lewis'; new book gives a slightly less complicated view into the disaster by recounting the stories of these savvy renegades who cashed in on their belief that the system was rotten. In doing so, we end up rooting for people who helped bring about the catastrophe that put a lot of good people out of work.

Still, the stories of these men make clear the greed, stupidity and double standards of a system lacking in grown-up supervision. A system, refueled by tax payer billions, that continues to be filled with the same firms, the same super rich executives, and the same destructive thought processes that disdained the need for government regulation in good times, but insisted on being rescued by government in bad times.

This is a fascinating book that should be read by anyone that wants to better understand the causes of the recent financial crisis. Be careful, as one reader put it, "Don't read this if you want to mellow out. This book will make you furious."

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Loved This!

Wonderful and enlightening. My favorite buy this year.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

At last, the subprime mortgage explained.

Michael Lewis takes the biggest financial collapse in history and then unravels its root causes and masterfully explains them. The Big Short answers the many questions about the meltdown and will make a Wall Street cynic of you if you're not already one. It will also make you ask over and over again, "Why did no one go to jail? Surely there should have been hundreds in jail and billions of dollars in fines." Instead no one goes to jail and the criminals were handed billions more in tax payer bonuses. Eye-opener of a book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Required Reading

This should be required reading in business schools and for anyone who wants to buy a house, invest, or just save money.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Words Fail

The manipulation of the masses by the financial industry for the purpose of amassing wealth almost killed our economic and social systems worldwide. We the people were massively used. And then WE paid for the bailout. AND those responsible got richer. No real accountability. Still none. And the people who unearthed the madness appear to be the only ones left feeling guilty.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Great story, well told!

Michael Lewis tells the story of the greatest financial catastrophe in history through detailed subplots involving hedge fund managers and financial analysts who figured out what was coming and made big bets on the outcomes.

The only missing piece (and it's a big one) is the lack of commentary on federal government policies that made the sub-prime mortgage market inevitable by forcing mortgage lenders to downgrade or eliminate credit standards and mandating FannieMae and FreddyMac to insure or buy sub-prime mortgage debt.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very enjoyable

This is a good solid 3. I have absolutely zero finance knowledge so I sometimes felt I would have been better off with a physical book so I could take my time and read over some parts again. Interesting characters and well written.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
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Excellent

Any additional comments?

I thought it might be difficult to follow the story of what went wrong in the 2008 financial crisis in an audio version, but Michael Lewis, as usual, does such a great job making the convoluted and estoteric understandable I had no problem following the sordid and sorry tale, helped by Jesse Boggs excellent reading.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful