Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Big Short

As you may have already realized, I’m tired of reading books about the economy. Because of that, I know I didn’t approach Michael Lewis’s book, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, with the most open mind, and therefore, this may not be the fairest of reviews. Another thing not working in The Big Short’s favor is that I listened to the audio version of the book, and the narrator wasn’t super. The waitlist on the book was very long, but no one had checked out the book on CD, so I opted for that. One good thing came out of the long waitlist, though, and so I will further delay beginning this review to tell you the story.

Early this summer, I was working behind the circ desk at the Chelsea District Library, and a patron came to pick up a book he had on hold. The book happened to be The Big Short, so I mentioned that I was on the waitlist for that book as well.
A few days later, this gentleman returned to the library and said, “I’ve read about 50 pages of Lewis’s book, and boy is it a good one. Have you read the one Harry Markopolos just wrote?”
Sure enough, I had just picked up No One Would Listen that morning. “I just started it.”
“Well, if you like Harry, you’ll like this one. They’re both ruthless.”
Now, each time this man comes into the library, he’ll tell me about the latest book he’s reading about the economy and gives me his opinion on whether it’s worth reading. Even though I know I’ll probably never read one of the books he tells me about, I love having those interactions over the circulation desk. Because of my Daily Shill mission, I’m connecting with a patron that I wouldn’t have otherwise. And I’m glad for that.

And now, for the review.

The Big Short isn’t as bad as I may have made it sound. In it, he follows the financial moves of the handful of men who realized that the CDO market was doomed to fail. These investors and hedge fund managers purchased cheap insurance on these CDOs and ended up making tons of money.

Lewis candidly writes about these men. His stories of them are filled with direct quotes, and he doesn’t fill the book with technical talk that only economists could understand. I liked how he focuses on particular investors, which gives the reader characters to follow throughout the book. If it were the first book I’d read on the economic slump of 2008, I bet I’d have remained interested. Instead, though, I found myself losing focus. Rather than listening to the book over a short time span, I ended up listening to a disc here and there over the past 3 months.

But, even though it’s not going to be a fair one, I need to give The Big Short a rating. It gets a 3/5 because even though it bored me, I could see its merits. If you want to read a book about the economy, it’s probably a good choice.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Michael Lewis

Buy the Book


  1. Hey Emily, what did you think of Jon Stewart's Big Announcement last night? Maybe you should plan a road trip to D.C. for October 30th!


  2. Oh man, I wish I could. It's Haunted Trail weekend, otherwise I would seriously consider trying to roadtrip out there.