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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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2012

    True story but reads like a novel

    Very easy to read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2012

    Excellent!

    Fantastic read, hard to put down!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2012

    I could not put it down!

    Thank you for the best read I've had about Wall Street to date. Informative, suspenseful, and mind boggling. It's terrifying that so many people hold so much power over our money yet many have no clue what they are doing with it. Highly recommend this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2012

    Poopsie

    Pooooooooooooooooooooop

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2011

    Wall street

    If this book is 50% truth, scary that our system has this much distructive power. Very well written. Kept me engaged. Dont skip the afterword.

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  • Posted October 7, 2011

    Should I read this

    I'm a senior in HS who's becoming very interested in economics. I'm in AP Gov/Politics class and AP Macroecon. Would this be a good read for a starter or is too complex?

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  • Posted September 24, 2011

    Don't Miss this Book

    An eye-opening indictment of the American banking industry. It's a horror story told in a way that makes you keep turning the pages.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2011

    Very accessible for the non-finance people!

    This book did a great job covering the financial crisis from the perspective of those who say the melt-down coming. The author did a great job synthesizing the information and explaining insanely complicated financial products in an accessible way for a non-finance person. Highly recommended.

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  • Posted August 23, 2011

    Well Written!

    I could not put this down. I never completely understood what happened (and still not completely) as an outsider, but I get it now.

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  • Posted August 8, 2011

    Very informative book

    Good book, really very informative and entertaining. If you have any interest in understanding what happened to cause the recession, this book is a great way to find out and be entertained at the same time. Highly recommend!

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  • Posted June 1, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Amazing

    This book was amazing. I don't want to ruin the book, but it definitely revealed a side to the financial crisis that many of us haven't been aware of: transparency. The events that led to the Great Recession were all transparent and no one dared to stop things. Give it a try. It's a good book; however, more than anything, I love Generational Wealth: Business & Investing Guide to Building an Empire.

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  • Posted May 13, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Once Again - Lewis is Entertaining and Insightful

    A must read for anyone interested in the underlying causes behind the 2008 housing crisis and the ensuing financial meltdown. Lewis is entertaining as always. Similar to Liar's Poker, Lewis offers insights on the investment industry, this time in the housing market, the mortgage backed securities, and the impact of a few hedge funds, both large and small.

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  • Posted April 20, 2011

    Absolutely fantastic stuff

    I tend to frequently start many non-fiction books to feel good about reading thoughtful things instead of crappy science fiction, but it's extremely rare that I actually finish them.

    The Big Short is in rare company as one that I had a really, really hard time putting down from cover to cover. For about a week I was going to sleep far later than intended because I couldn't stop reading this gripping account of the lead-up to the financial crisis. Michael Lewis spins a fascinating tale from the point of view of the people who saw the crisis coming and profited from it, calling out the laziness, greed, and stupidity of the other players in the financial market that created the shocking housing bubble. I can't imagine that there is much better than the Big Short if you want to understand how and why the crisis happened.

    Obviously, Lewis has a perspective - he is much more inclined to blame the crisis on the aforementioned laziness, greed and stupidity in financial institutions than on the members of "Main Street" who took out mortgages they had no hope of paying back. But, for the most part, he makes a very convincing case - it doesn't feel slanted. The only exception to this is the coverage of the actual crash and bailout period towards the end of the book, where I felt he got a little too vitriolic without taking the time to explain why he felt that way.

    But, regardless of that minor shortcoming, I can't give any book a higher recommendation than I would the Big Short.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2011

    EXCELLENT WORK, COULD NOT PUT THIS BOOK DOWN...

    Mr. Lewis' book should be required reading for every investor -- and certainly every taxpayer. I simply hope someone who foresaw the crisis will act as a champion for financial reform. (Perhaps Dr. Michael Burry, who not only possesses the intellect, but also a keen ability to dig through and follow-up on minute details.) After all, only a major regulatory overhaul can prevent this catastrophe from occurring once again.

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  • Posted February 13, 2011

    Highly Recommended - Could no put it down

    Lewis's book combines a history lesson of the financial crisis with an engaging story about some of the people who saw the crisis unfolding and making fortunes in the process. I walked away from this book with a bit more understanding or empathy for the independent "shorters". The book only cemented my distain for the financial instituitions that created this global mess, harming millions of people, but not themselves in the process.

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  • Posted January 5, 2011

    A great read

    As a finance major in college, Michael Lewis provides a viewpoint that no textbook can provide. An excellent telling of the housing mortgage bust complete with personalities that kept me stuck to my NookColor. Definitely worth a second or third read down the road. Even after rereading a few sections I found something new.

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  • Posted December 31, 2010

    Well Worth Your Time

    I work in the financial industry, and Lewis has explained it very well. I good explaination of the way from consumer to mortgage broker to Wall Street has tank the economy. This gives a good overview of how the market psycholgy works (or doesn't) and if your are an investor, how you can help yourself.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2010

    The Big Short of Wall Street on America

    This is a true crime novel that details how so many people should be sitting in jail (government employees, rating agency idiots, mortgage originators/brokers and the bond desks of Wall Street). I now have a better understanding of how the greed of the Wall Street elite permeated all of their actions for and thoughts about a bigger paycheck and how they brought us to the horrible economic state the country and our people are in right now. It is my hope that everyone on Wall Street and in the banking sector will end up being a long term unemployed worker with little hope of finding their next scam. Thank you for the wonderful accounting this book provided.

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  • Posted August 5, 2010

    How greed and stupidity destroyed the American economy

    Not one American in a thousand can tell you just what plunged our nation into the worst depression in many generations. Most of those who can have probably read Lewis's account of how Wall Street and crooked mortgage brokers enriched themselves at everyone's expense. From small fly-by-night mortgage originators to enormous ones such as Countrywide, the poor, unsophisticated and ignorant were sold the concept that anyone could own a house without any regard to how it was to be paid for.

    There is a point of view that holds that the janitor making six dollars an hour knew exactly what he was doing when he signed up to buy a quarter million dollar McMansion and that he was consciously gaming the system. This account of the mortgage meltdown has made this reader aware that, except for speculators and other con men, most of those who bought into the system and are now facing forclosure and bankrupcy were mostly innocent of any real knowledge of what they were getting into. Their crime was wanting a piece of the American Dream of home ownership, and in this they were urged on by crooks and even American government policy. They came to the table and were told a series of lies designed to insure that they and their money would soon be parted.

    Brokers told prospective buyers that they didn't need to prove they had a certain income (hence the term "liars loans"), that they didn't need to worry about their interest rate increasing after three to five years, and that if they ever did find they were unable to pay they could always sell for a big profit and start the process anew. And this was not simple incompetence on the brokers' part. These leeches on the economic body of the nation told customers that housing prices would never fall, that they could obtain a "special" interest rate -- which was often far beyond what the borrower qualified for but made the brokers a higher commission -- and that they "deserved" the most expensive property they could be "qualified" for.

    The toxic mortgages were then bundled together and sold to investors. Had the brokers been forced to keep the loan and service them (and take the risk of bankrupcies)they would have had a powerful incentive to do things by the book; when they sold the mortgages they in effect washed their hands of all risk. But wait, if these mortgages were so bad, how did the rating agencies give them mostly triple AAA status? The answer illustrates the degree to which the situation was not a simple mistake or miscalculation, it was sheer greed done with the knowledge that the situation was a powder keg ready to explode. Moodey's and the other ratings agencies' impramaturs were legally required before the bundle of mortgages could be sold to banks or other investors. But these agencies were blissfully ignorant to the true nature of what they were given to rate, and they also knew that their fees for doing the ratings came from the agencies selling the bonds, If a rating were too low the bank or other holder of the bundle could just walk to another rater. It is hard to visualize the degree of criminality this made possible.

    There were those who recognized the situation and realized that the situation was destined to fall apart. They bet "short" on these toxic bundles, (hence the name of the book) and made millions as the economy tanked. Lewis illustrates the big picture with clarity and simple language.

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  • Posted July 27, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Fine study of Wall Street criminality

    In this fascinating book, ex-Wall Street Michael Lewis tells the story of some of those who betted against subprime mortgages, against Wall Street.

    Subprime mortgages were taken out by those least able to repay the loan. For example, a Mexican strawberry picker earning $14K was lent every cent he needed to buy a $724K house.

    Household Finance Corporation, with the biggest portfolio of subprime loans, lied to its borrowers they had an 'effective rate of 7 per cent' when it was taking 12.5 per cent. In 2002, it settled out-of-court and paid a $484 million fine. In 2003, HSBC Group stupidly bought HFC for $15.5 billion.

    Goldman Sachs was 'notorious for packaging America's worst home loans'. It paid rating agencies to re-rate BBB-rated mortgage bonds, gathered into collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), as AAA. (One hedge fund owner called the rating agencies 'whores'.) Standard & Poor's managing director of CDO ratings e-mailed, "Any request for loan-level tapes is TOTALLY UNREASONABLE!!" Wall Street contracted its credit analysis to people who wouldn't do a credit analysis. $400 billion of CDOs were never properly vetted.

    By January 2007, Morgan Stanley's star trader had bought $16 billion in AAA-rated CDOs, composed entirely of BBB-rated subprime mortgage bonds. This led to the biggest-ever trading loss on Wall Street.

    As Lewis writes, the subprime mortgage market was 'an engine of exploitation and, ultimately, destruction'. Financier Steve Eisman said, "The system was really, 'f*** the poor.'" The entire business of consumer finance, he said, 'existed to rip people off'.

    When Wall Street fell, Wall Street blamed the American people. The US government then bailed out, not the individual American borrowers, but Wall Street's firms, which had all bankrupted themselves by making dumb bets on subprime borrowers.

    Goldman Sachs lost its clients a billion dollars. Bush, then Obama, gave billions of taxpayers' money to Goldman Sachs and $306 billion to Citigroup alone. Goldman Sachs still paid $3.8 billion bonuses last year. The Fed shifted a trillion dollars' worth of bad debts from Wall Street to the taxpayer.

    Wall Street does not create wealth, just shifts it from one shark to the next. It is not rationally putting our savings and pensions to better use, but stealing them. It is a criminal conspiracy.

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