Thursday 14 April 2016

The Big Short by Michael Lewis

I have been wanting to read this book for a while. When I saw the movie was out, I moved it up in my pile of "to read" so that I could finish it before the movie - it's important, that.

Alas, the movie came and went, and I was lying in bed ill, with no desire to see it anymore. I'll have to catch the DVD on an evening when the whole family has other plans, because none of them will join me.

But what about the book? Well, The Big Short is the story behind, or inside, if you like, the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). It tells what happened, who did what, how fortunes were made and lost, and explains how the US housing market fits in, how all the complex financial instruments were constructed and how they worked.

Michael Lewis is gifted at telling stories. I reviewed Flash Boys last year, and it got 5 stars. I loved it. He understands that even non fiction has to have character development and a plot. There is lots of dialogue and that makes the reader engage with the story. I think non fiction should read like a novel, but be (almost completely) true. 
However, The Big Short, in trying to explain the story from every single angle, lost me a little bit. It got repetitive - each point of view was told, and although each was distinct, it wasn't different enough to cast a contrasting light on the story. 

The insights were great though - don't invest in instruments you don't understand, and not every financial institution that does the wrong thing gets away with it. (Some people in them do, however.)

A great history lesson on the GFC - one of the most important and devastating events in our financial times.

3 stars

ISBN: 9780393353150

You may also enjoy Flash Boys by Michael Lewis or The Only Game in Town by Mohamed El Erian


E J Frost said...

Excellent review and I completely agree - "Flash Boys" was a bit better and "Big Short" got repetitive, but I did understand the crash better after finishing it ("Too Big to Fail," which is also brilliantly written, explains it from the perspective of the bank regulators who somehow had to stop the crisis from taking down the entire banking system but doesn't really get into the whole business of "shorting" stocks). I really like Michael Lewis's writing style, though, and will be on the look-out for his books in the future.

Bev Bouwer said...

Thanks, I will look out for "Too big to Fail."