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The Big Short

Michael Lewis ("Liar's Poker" author) makes a brisk, illuminating story out of the run up to the 2008 financial collapse.

The Big Short:
Inside the Doomsday Machine
By Michael Lewis
W.W. Norton
288 pp., $27.95

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This spring the US Congress will finally vote on legislation to address the weaknesses in the financial system that enabled the 2008 collapse. In that light, it is hard to imagine a stronger case for reform than the one implied by the brisk, illuminating story Michael Lewis (author of “Liar’s Poker”) tells in The Big Short, his chronicle of the three years leading up to the bursting of the subprime bubble.

Lewis’s account revolves around two men – Steve Eisman and Michael Burry – who as early as 2005 saw what few others on or off Wall Street did: that the entire subprime apparatus, from the million-dollar mortgages extended to minimum-wage workers, to the bonds manufactured from those mortgages, was a house of cards. It was each man’s eccentric personality, says Lewis, that led him to this contrarian insight. Eisman is described as a profanity-spewing fund manager whose hypersensitivity to the venality of others caused him to view his trades as a crusade on behalf of Americans suckered by the subprime hucksters. Burry, by contrast, is a recluse with Asperger’s syndrome and a glass eye, whose life circumstances had conditioned him to look at the world differently from everyone else.

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