Customer Reviews for

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

31 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

Informative and entertaining

Hugely entertaining look at the genesis of our current economic mess. Lewis finds the very few investors who predicted and profited from the sub-prime mortgage meltdown and follows their journey from initial realization of the impending disaster to eventual payout. Fo...
Hugely entertaining look at the genesis of our current economic mess. Lewis finds the very few investors who predicted and profited from the sub-prime mortgage meltdown and follows their journey from initial realization of the impending disaster to eventual payout. Following these eccentric characters and their interactions with the big Wall Street investment banks is at turns laugh out loud funny and head shaking incredulous. Lewis knows how to turn a phrase and does a good job teasing out the dark humor of the situations. He also does a very good job at explaining the essence of very complicated financial transactions and gives the reader a good understanding of the whys and hows of the financial meltdown. While this book is an important addition to our understanding of what happened, it isn't complete as it doesn't spend any time talking about US government policies that contributed to the crash (specifically, the special legal status given to the three rating agencies, and Fannie and Freddie's role in weakening underwriting standards). Nonetheless, this is still both an important and entertaining book.

posted by PTrubey on March 13, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

11 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

Surprisingly disappointing

I am a pretty big fan of Lewis' work and also an expert on financial markets. This book disappointed me. I cannot pinpoint my problem with this book. Maybe I'm just uncomfortable with its investigative reporting tone and what I found to be a monotonous style. I can assu...
I am a pretty big fan of Lewis' work and also an expert on financial markets. This book disappointed me. I cannot pinpoint my problem with this book. Maybe I'm just uncomfortable with its investigative reporting tone and what I found to be a monotonous style. I can assure you that I understand credit default swaps and CDOs as well as anyone and yet the explanations weren't clear. The book droned on and on until I found that I couldn't put it down just because I wanted to get it over with and move on to the next book in my stack to read. I probably would not have said all this, or said it this way, had I not just finished reading Scott Patterson's excellent book called The Quants. Same basic subject (Wall Street meltdown), but much better written and amazingly (given the title), much easier to read and follow. I wish I could be more specific about what's wrong with this book but it was just a gut feeling that this subject is done much better by Patterson. Nonetheless, I'm not recommending you don't read this. Just read them both and see if you don't wish you had read Patterson and skipped Lewis. Ok, well, if you have enough time you can afford to read both and indeed some will say the two books are complementary, not competitive.

posted by 3092400 on September 27, 2010

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  • Posted March 13, 2010

    Informative and entertaining

    Hugely entertaining look at the genesis of our current economic mess. Lewis finds the very few investors who predicted and profited from the sub-prime mortgage meltdown and follows their journey from initial realization of the impending disaster to eventual payout. Following these eccentric characters and their interactions with the big Wall Street investment banks is at turns laugh out loud funny and head shaking incredulous. Lewis knows how to turn a phrase and does a good job teasing out the dark humor of the situations. He also does a very good job at explaining the essence of very complicated financial transactions and gives the reader a good understanding of the whys and hows of the financial meltdown. While this book is an important addition to our understanding of what happened, it isn't complete as it doesn't spend any time talking about US government policies that contributed to the crash (specifically, the special legal status given to the three rating agencies, and Fannie and Freddie's role in weakening underwriting standards). Nonetheless, this is still both an important and entertaining book.

    31 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 20, 2010

    High Finance Made Accessible

    Michael Lewis does a terrific job of explaining the esoteric world of sub prime mortgages, collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps and provides a very accessible understanding of the near melt down of the financial system. The book is also highly entertaining with a cast of characters that will play well in the movie version.

    16 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 27, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Wall Street credo: "A man's word is his bond."

    It seems ridiculous for me to urge you to read this book. Don't read it. You'll sleep better. But please don't go investing on Wall Street if you don't read it. This book took my breath away. I learned things and feel oddly vindicated and cheated at the same time. I knew dumb people were making money with my money: vindicated. I thought some people in the government might be smart enough to realize what happened and know what to do: cheated. Michael Lewis did the plebian job of untangling a very messy ball of knotted threads and on the other hand did a herculean job of elevating the discussion above the rock-slinging and shouting to which some angry losers are wont to resort. His characterizations of those involved on both sides of the trades are intimate enough to involve our emotions as well as our interest, but I think what really charmed me was the absurdity of some phrases that matched so perfectly the absurdities he was describing: 'Inside Morgan Stanley, the subprime lending boom created a who-put-chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter moment.' (p.201) Osama and his team of bombers couldn't have done what our own Wall Street firms and their rating agencies and regulators did to the to the U.S. people and to the credibility of the U.S. government: 'It was as if bombs of differing sizes had been placed in virtually every major financial institution. The fuses had been lit and could not be extinguished. All that remained was to observe the speed of the spark, and the size of the explosions.' (p.225)

    14 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 17, 2010

    A page turner!

    After having listened to Michael Lewis on Charlie Rose for the hour, I went out to buy this book, and could not put it down. It reads like a "who dunnit", and you will now not believe the players who say no one knew what was going on. It is unbelievable what they did. Lewis has written this like a narrative, using the players to tell the story of the great financial hoax, and it is a literal page turner. A terrific book that everyone should read.
    Suzabelle

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 15, 2010

    rousing good story... too bad it's true

    I've already given this book to several people who tell me they've enjoyed it as much as I did. Lewis has an accessible style that makes me feel like I have an insider friend who's telling a rollicking good story just to me. He does it by focusing on some of the "characters," who saw the mortgage meltdown coming and figured out ways to make money on it. Lewis makes credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations understandable to non-finance types like me. Who knew the roots of the recent financial upheaval - the mess that decimated my savings - could make for such good reading! Now that our government is considering regulations to stem the abuses, we all need a good primer on what went wrong. Lewis' book is a sweet way to digest a bitter pill.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 5, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Lewis Doesn't Disappoint

    I've read almost all of Michael Lewis' previous work, and The Big Short doesn't disappoint. I feel like I have a much firmer grasp on the financial meltdown now that I've finished this book. Not only was it informative, it was also very entertaining. The way Lewis paints the characters in this story is remarkable. I feel like I know each one of them. I could not put this book down, and would highly recommend it for anyone who has even the faintest interest in how this whole mess happened.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 25, 2010

    As fiction it would be incredibly entertaining; as reality, it's decidely sobering.

    Outstanding story teller that he is, Michael Lewis conveys the essence of the subprime mortgage debacle in a unique, captivating manner. While other "tell all" books on the subject focus on Paulson, Bush, Bernancke, Obama, et. al. Lewis instead portrays some of the mid-level traders and analysts who properly identified the approaching meltdown. Although each character arrived at his conclusion differently, each of them share the same queasiness about betting against the masses and are constantly trying "reality checks" as a result of the overwhelming giddiness surrounding the subprime mortgages and their derivatives. The reader can feel their trepidation as they continue as candles in the wind while the frenzy grows. I alternated between wanting to read it in one sitting and not wanting to finish it so that I'd have something to look forward to each night.
    Once you read this it will readjust your opinion of the "sophistication" of wall street analysts and will absolutely ruin your faith in the debt rating agencies. It also turned on the light bulb for me as to how interwoven all of the trades became and why backstopping some of the Bulge Bracket firms was even considered.
    The average reader with some familiarity with financial products will find this a fascinating read. Wall Street types may believe that it is beneath their level of understanding, but who cares? Their mendacity and hubris led them down the primrose path in the first place.
    The Big Short is right next to Liars' Poker and Moneyball on my list of favorite reads.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    THE BIG SHORT... THE FOX WAS IN THE HEN HOUSE

    This will be a challenging read.

    PAGE 77 with Dear Reader is the turning point in understanding of turning LEAD into TRIPLE AAA RATED GOLD.

    Michael Lewis spins the complex financial system into a compelling story... the PLAYERS... the COMPANIES... the RATING AGENCIES.

    when you read this think KISS... keep it simple. THINK of my simple thoughts:

    COMPLEX is BAD.

    OPAQUE is BAD.

    MISREPRESENTED is FRAUD.

    TURNING LEAD INTO MIS-RATED TRIPLE A RATED GOLD IS FRAUD.

    RECURSIVELY TURNING THE LEAD SCRAPS INTO MIS-RATED TRIPLE A RATED GOLD IS COMPOUNDED FRAUD.

    as a free market kinda guy i don't think you can successfully regulate... legislate... oversee... three simple concepts, HONESTY... INTEGRITY... ETHICS...

    ; BUT a good JUSTICE DEPARTMENT can put crooks in jail.

    would love to know what you think

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 15, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommended

    Excellent reading if you want to know why the mortgage meltdown took place this is the book for you. Very well written and informative.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2011

    A very engaging recount of the subprime mortgage / financial crisis

    A very engaging recount of the subprime mortgage / financial crisis. Frustrating to be sure, and never boring, the story is told with good pace, relevance, and in a way that is understandable to the lay person. Highly recommended to anybody that wants the behind-the-scenes picture of the seedy underbelly of the US financial system.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    If you want to understand the meltdown, ignore the posers

    Learn what caused the sub-prime financial meltdown from the few who saw it for what it was...a crazy scheme to make money for nothing. The people who actually unraveled this mess couldn't stop it, but they did the next best thing...they made a killing off it's Wall Street perpetrators.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2010

    Excelente!

    Una entrenida forma de leer la crisis.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 21, 2010

    Fantastic Read

    Michael Lewis tackles a weighty subject in The Big Short and he does it extremely well. This is an absolute must read for anyone even remotely interested in learning about the subprime mortgage crisis. Lewis takes very complicated concepts and makes them accessible to his reader. I have read criticisms that his "heroes" in the story were actually responsible for drawing out the madness leading up to the crash, but I don't think he ever suggests that they did not play that role even going so far as quoting his characters as admitting they "fed the monster." But his characters did what good investors do, they did not create the mess, and it was not their job to try to prevent it. In the end I think that Lewis does an amazing job of giving a balanced account of who did what and it's impact in the collapse. Fantastic book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Guess it's business as usual

    I had seen Michael Lewis on Charlie Rose. He said he wrote narrative, not an explanation. Me, I like stories.


    When I saw the book in the store, I read the preface and read some passages. It was not intimidating, the shards of dialog were colorful, and the style was story-like.


    I read it in three days. Loved it. It just carried me along. I've recommended it, and offered to lend it to my 30-ish young (compared to me) nephew and niece. The characters are well-fleshed and vivid.


    I still can't quite fathom short's on mortgage bonds, basis points, and how the money was made. But I'm working it. But that single point does not diminish my good feelings from a story well told.


    Wish I had made some money too.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2010

    Excellent Book: Informative and Entertaining

    I had been looking for an interesting book on the financial crisis that would also help me understand it just a little better. This book does not disappoint. It reads as an unfolding drama and explains many aspects of the subrpime mortgage mess along the way. Although this book focuses mainly on the subprime mortgage aspect of the crisis, it provides other valuable insight into how the financial firms operate and think. I'm sure there are other books out there which cover other contributing factors to the current financial crisis, but I'm not sure how many would be as enjoyable to read. Overall, this is a very interesting and entertaining account of how several individuals were able to see what almost nobody else could or wanted to, and ultimately profit from it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 5, 2010

    Big Story

    Lewis has written another great book with a wonderful cast of characters, clear explanation of topics that can be as dry as dust to those who don't work in the financial pits, and an accurate assessment of where Wall Street has gone wrong.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2010

    The Big Short

    Excellent reading if you want to know why the mortgage meltdown took place this is the book for you. Very well written and informative.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2014

    Recommended

    I had a firsthand view of what happened during this time in financial history. To be honest I was hesitant to go back and visit this trying time in everyone's life who were so close to the action. I bought it and read in a matter of days. Michael did a fantastic job of making the book entertaining and enjoyable. It's a must read if you really want to know what it felt like.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2013

    Very informative and well written

    Highly recommend

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2013

    Excellent insight into the collapse of our economy.

    I have read this book twice so far and would like to have it on audio CD. It is an excellent read on the collapse of our economy and how it went down, and how a couple of very bright men were able to capitalize on Wall Streets greed and blindness...

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