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Losers: The Road to Everyplace But the White House

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  700 ratings  ·  50 reviews
   Michael Lewis is a master at dissecting the absurd: after skewering Wall Street in his national bestseller Liar's Poker, he packed his mighty pen and set out on the 1996 campaign trail.  As he follows the men who aspire to the Oval Office, Lewis discovers an absurd mix of bravery and backpedaling, heroic possibility and mealy-mouthed sound bytes, and a process so ridicu ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 28th 1998 by Vintage (first published May 27th 1997)
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Steve Mayberry
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Serendipitously found this book in my mother's house recently. 100% enjoyed, possibly due to my current hyper-focus on a terrible primary process / election year.

Trail Fever suggested that politics was reinvented at the end of the last century, but politicians like Bob Dole or Lamar Alexander or Phil Gramm didn't know what to do about it (to be fair, neither did non-politicians like Morry Taylor and Alan Keyes). It took a few decades for someone as perfectly empty as Trump to come along and tak
Ha Hoang
Nov 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Michael Lewis made the topic of politics become bearable and incredibly humorous. He took the sides of the losers because the winners are all boring and similar: dishonest, using big money to discredit opponents. On the other hand, "losers" have many facets: one is entrepreneurial, one is teaching, one is for social morality, but all of them are real and passionate about their causes, which make them interesting for characters analysis and more interesting as people. Michael Lewis took us throug ...more
May 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
THIS is why I’m a Michael Lewis fan. The book follows the 1996 presidential campaign trail from an unusual slant; although assigned to cover the campaign, Lewis constantly finds that there’s nothing interesting going on with the frontrunners, so he spends time getting to know the candidates who have no chance of winning. I left more highlights and notes in this book than in any other that I’ve read on the Kindle. Losers blends top-notch writing, a strange slant on political insight, and . All al ...more
(Crossposted from

As an unabashed Michael Lewis fan and reader of most of his published work, I was surprised that I had never heard of his book on the 1996 elections, which I discovered after it was namechecked by Ezra Klein as a favorite book of his in a podcast interview with Lewis (recommended).

The book is written as a chronological diary as Lewis follows aspiring Republican candidates, and then the eventual nominees around the country to caucuses, co
C. Scott
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was so happy when I found this book. I really enjoyed others I've read by Michael Lewis, Liar's Poker and Flash Boys for example. I had no idea that he had written a presidential campaign diary!

When I think of Michael Lewis I always think of the day trader who started his career at Salomon Brothers and liked to write in secret. But the truth is that Michael Lewis is one of our greatest living journalists. Just because he didn't go to journalism school or work a local newspaper beat doesn't mak
Greg Brown
Wow, I remembered this book being far better than it actually was. Theoretically a hilarious look at the losing candidates in the 1996 presidential election, it ends up being just a basket of anecdotes and quick character sketches. No arcs, but an anti-arc carving out the whitespace around Clinton's march to re-election.

I originally read it during the '08 presidential election, and I think my enjoyment then was at discovering that Keyes was just as ridiculous in 1996 as he was in 2004 and 2008.
Nick Black
Jun 03, 2010 rated it liked it
I'd likely have enjoyed this a good bit more if (a) I didn't think Michael Lewis was so freakishly awesome and (b) I hadn't read DFW's truly outstanding essay, "Up, Simba" (from Consider the Lobster). Comes off kind of mean-spirited, supercilious and unsure of itself.

NB: This was authored before Lewis married MTV VJ (and fantasy of my adolescence, well one anyway) Tabitha Soren, at least going by the omitted shout-out in the ACKs, but he does mention friend "Tabitha Sornberger", who "read and im
Aug 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's not Fear and Loathing and the election it covers is among the most insignificant in our country's history, but Lewis is a great writer and there's a lot in here that I really enjoyed. It was kind of refreshing to read about our not-so-distant past where Pat Buchanan was the most marginal candidate that the Republicans considered nominating. The truly prescient part was where professional nut-case Alan Keyes, with a platform very similar to Michele Bachmann's, said that he wasn't running to ...more
Anne Ward
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
1996 elections had some interesting characters and that is all this book has to offer--interesting characters. Lewis becomes fascinated with "The Grizz" and seems to lose his point of view for the book, which reads like a character sketch. The book makes a half-hearted attempt to make a statement about American politics as a whole, but Lewis gets so caught up in "The Grizz" that the book settles into a no-mans land between a political read and a character sketch.

Two stars: I expect more from Mi
Stefan Fergus
Feb 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
3.5* - not as fluid as the other books of his that I've read (understandable, though, given its genesis). Some great moments, but also some moments that dragged just a little. In that respect, though, it represents the moments of mind numbing dullness that can occur on the campaign trail. Still recommended reading, though. ...more
Jun 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Disclaimer: I'm writing this review a good nine months after I finished reading the book, because of procrastination and general laziness...

I almost considered putting this on the "humour" shelf, because it's an examination of the eccentric, the absurd, and the normal people (who are also crazy, just for the record), when it comes to the 1996 election campaign. This book is what happens when you send a reporter to follow a campaign, but then let him wander wherever he wants, rather than followin
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing

I had forgotten how good Michael Lewis is at taking a subject that is nominally boring and infuse it with wit and humor. He's also great at unpacking what's going on - I'm always a little bonked on the head by political campaigns - Lewis gets inside the campaign and talks to the people involved and really seems to get to the meat of the thing.

The subject is the 1996 Presidential Election. He was assigned to write dispatches from the road, a la Hunter S. Thompson style
Jon Green
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book enthralling in a way I didn't expect from the start. I was expecting a book that focused on the nitty gritty minutiae of the 1996 Presidential campaign. While there is a bit of a week-by-week narrative about who went where and how the race unfolded Michael Lewis makes it clear from the onset of the book that he ultimately viewed the race with disdain in large part because the politicians who ended up in the general election (Clinton and Dole) couldn't compare to the eccentric c ...more
Geoff Grant
Jul 13, 2020 rated it liked it
I should preface my review with two key notes:
1) I love politics
2) Michael Lewis is one of my favorite writers

That said, this was not a great book. If I could give it 2.5 stars, I would. I just googled to see how many books Lewis has written and landed on, where they have a ranking for all of his books. Losers was ranked 14th out of 17 books. So maybe that is just confirmation bias, I don't know. I do know the first 200 pages were interesting and the final 100 pages were a disj
Feb 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a gold mine that lies on my bookshelf for years and I didn't bother to open it. And the minute I read page one I know it's going to be a good read. Yes Lewis never let me down.

His beautiful writing style, the sense of cool and humor, the interesting idea of spending a whole year for keeping record of following campaign candidates in 1996, all combined well in this book.

I am really not familiar with most of the names in the book, except Clinton. Back in 1996 I had no idea about Ame
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
not the greatest Lewis, I have read, but a fascinating insight into politics as it is practiced at the Presidential level, and as a precursor to the 2016 race. Lewis notes that Buchanan whips up a fervent support base on economic fear, in the midst of a boom and wonders, what could happen if we had a downturn, or a war.

Well, we have seen it.
Aug 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Reading this at this time in history was apropos as the links between the way the Democrats ran Clinton's re-election campaign and how the Republicans have learned from that and gone next level is quite scary.... A brilliant snapshot in time and some great perspectives on people who don't get the attention these days for what they did in the lead up to 1996. ...more
Sep 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
The book is good because its enjoyable to read Michael Lewis' writing.

Its an absurd experience, however, to read this book in 2017 and wish for the bland politics that Lewis appears to dislike so much.
Jamin Godwin
Michael Lewis is the best
Dec 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So good
Nikki Golden
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting look inside modern-day politics.
Mar 06, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great 50-page article that goes on for another 250, unfortunately. Great stuff about Steve Forbes robotically making his way through a buffet and the chaotic early days. Then distraction after distraction. Some businessman nobody has ever thought of since 1996 (Morry Taylor) runs a quixotic populist campaign that actually doesn't sound much like what we're suffering through now--he's basically a libertarian, but actually one who lives up to the ideology at its fullest. He thinks women have the ...more
Oct 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yeah, Michael Lewis is great.

So, this is Michael Lewis' look at the 1996 election via the Republican primaries, some of the minor candidates, and a little Clinton.

Lewis isn't a political writer, and this doesn't have a lot of political theory in it - more campaigning theory, and strikingly non-partisan.

I found out about this book by listening to old episodes of This American Life, and loving Lewis' Moneyball. This wasn't quite the pageturner that I found Moneyball to be, but for a book about a 1
Alan D Granger
Dec 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read this book the first time three years or so ago. I was looking at Michael Lewis books on his website or some other site. In any case, I read an excerpt from it that spoke to me about this past presidential campaign. So I reread it. This time I could see the seeds of Trump being sown by the two political parties. He writes of the disengagement of the two major candidates. Morry Taylor and to some extent, Pat Buchanan's candidacies rolled into to one were forerunners of Trump, albeit without ...more
Aug 27, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quick review: This is a book I read several years ago for book club and so I don’t remember all that much but it’s part of my series of reviews that are more impressionistic (and based on my faulty memory). I loved this book because A) I chose it for book club so I’m self-interested; B) I like politics; C) this guy has a great eye for the absurd and then flawlessly describing what makes it absurd. He knows how to use the English language and does a great job of describing scenes the candidates a ...more
Jan 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: extemp
This is an account of the 1996 election, written by a non-political writer who is decidedly outside of, and disenchanted by, the normal political reporting process. He shows how normal behavior is lampooned as weird by the same media and political system that ignores some of the strangest, unnatural habits imaginable.

In a way it's very similar to the Joan Didion book, Political Fictions, but he's more funny and witty, and less dense and depressing. Didion tends to be hated by anyone under the a
Dec 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great look at the 1996 election that left me with the distinct impression that the candidates were the least interesting part of it. I would be fascinated by the same book about the most recent election.

Lewis - who is NOT a Republican - reminded me that the McCain who ran in 2008 was not the same one I liked. I could have voted for the one I liked and the one Lewis liked. McCain wanted to be president too much by 2008 and let the 'rented strangers' do what they did to Dole...who I also didn't
Jackie Harrison-jewell
Michael Lewis is currently making a big name for himself writing books about money. Moneyball, The Big Short and, most recently, Boomerang. All good stuff. REALLY good stuff. This book, Trail Fever, is about the 1996 presidential campaign, and I was absolutely captivated by it. His campaign trail anecdotes had me laughing out loud at times, and his depiction of the raft of Republican candidates for the position which would eventually go to Bob Dole as the Republican challenger to Clinton's secon ...more
Ankur Maniar
Jan 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Anybody other than Michael Lewis and this book would have been a complete drag. Its Lewis's writing style combined with his extraordinary wit and knack of seeing through things which has made this book entertaining. Its essentially a diary,not a book with structured narrative. His travels, experiences and interviews with politicians during the 1996 presidential elections have been described in this book. Sure, for an American citizen and keen follower of American politics it would be a more usef ...more
Mar 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An interesting account of the 1996 Republican Primary followed by Presidential election. Michael Lewis acknowledges the common critisms of the modern political campaign, but attacks the system but not the participants. The novel does not provide any radical or original fixes to the current political problems of America. However, it does provide an illuminating inside account that is less cynical than that of many political journalists.
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Michael Lewis, the best-selling author of Liar’s Poker, The Money Culture, The New New Thing, Moneyball, The Blind Side, Panic, Home Game, The Big Short, and Boomerang, among other works, lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife and three children.

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“Those who are attracted to Dole’s vision of life in Russell, Kansas, need to spend a little time here. It turns out there’s a reason ambitious people like Dole have been fleeing the place in droves: while its mythical counterpart grows in stature, the actual Russell has been slowly withering. A bleak local economic history could be written from inside any store on Main Street. For example, the biggest and oldest store—a department store called Bankers, for which Dole modeled clothes—opened in 1881, ten years after Russell was founded, beside the new tracks laid by the Union Pacific Railroad. It prospered through the oil boom of the 1920s and the farming boom of the 1940s, reaching its apogee in the 1950s, when it stocked three full floors of dry goods. Since then the store’s business has gradually waned so that it now occupies barely one floor, some of which is given over to the sale of Bob Dole paraphernalia. Where once there were gardening tools there are now rows of Dole buttons, stickers, T-shirts, and caps. The oldest family-owned business in Kansas will probably soon close for lack of business and of a family member willing to live in Russell. “I’d manage the place,” says one of the heirs, who lives in Kansas City, “but only if you put it on a truck and moved it to another town.” 0 likes
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