New Book: The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, by Michael Lewis ’82 (W.W. Norton)
The author: Lewis, whose book The Blind Side was made into a movie for which Sandra Bullock won an Academy Award, has written about his experiences as a new father in Home Game and about pro baseball in Moneyball. Twenty years ago he first chronicled the emerging excess of Wall Street in Liar’s Poker, based in part on his own experiences as a young investment banker for Salomon Brothers. His new book, The Big Short, serves as a sequel to Liar’s Poker, exploring the financial meltdown.
The book: Lewis tells the tale of the current global financial collapse through a group of investors who saw the trouble coming, weren’t fooled by the soaring house prices, and bet money on the boom going bust.
Lewis describes “an odd collection of brilliant misfits who recognize that Wall Street is wearing no clothes, become convinced a massive calamity is nigh, and seek feverishly to profit off of their understanding,” wrote Salon.com. Among the protagonists are Steve Eisman, a one-time stock market analyst who switched into hedge funds and bet against subprime mortgage lenders, and Michael Burry, a reclusive bond-market expert who was among the first to explore the money-making possibilities of credit default swaps.
From chapter one: “Eisman entered finance about the time I exited it. He’d grown up in New York City, gone to yeshiva schools, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania magna cum laude, and then with honors from Harvard Law School. In 1991 he was a thirty-year-old corporate lawyer wondering why he ever thought he’d enjoy being a lawyer. ‘I hated it,’ he says. ‘I hated being a lawyer. My parents worked as brokers at Oppenheimer securities. They managed to finagle me a job. It’s not pretty but that’s what happened.”
Review: Andrew Leonard of Salon.com wrote, “The Big Short is superb: Michael Lewis doing what he does best, illuminating the idiocy, madness, and greed of modern finance. … Lewis captures protagonists who put their money on the line. That they did so by employing Wall Street’s latest financial innovations against itself makes the story all the more fascinating.” By Katherine Federici Greenwood