Jonathan's Reviews > The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

The Big Short by Michael Lewis
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Sep 14, 10

Read from September 10 to 14, 2010

I read this book hoping to really understand what happened during the financial collapse triggered by the subprime mortgage industry, and at that end the book was only a moderate success. Lewis does not explain where all of the money went and spends very little time in the end figuring out who won and who lost, except that the folks responsible for the collapse went home with tens of millions of dollars in their personal accounts while taxpayers sort of got it in the shorts.

But that's not the focus of this book. It follows several folks who actually saw what was coming and started betting on it, using newfangled financial instruments. Lewis is great at writing characters, and this book is full of them. The people behind the credit default swaps and big investment banks and hedge fund become somehow more ordinary when you realize that they are everyday people, with funny last names and glass eyes and, frequently, a shocking inability to understand and/or accept the world for what it is.

Don't read this hoping for a clear, back-to-basics explanation for the financial instruments that caused the collapse. There are lots of infographics on this "Internet" thing that will do a better job of that, and in less time. Read it for a well-told tale of what the collapse looked like from the perspective of an unlikely cast of characters who watched it happen from the inside, and a reassurance that--sometimes--the emperor really is naked.
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