The Big Short

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 February, 2011, 12:00am

The Big Short
by Michael Lewis
Penguin HK$153

They may have been nobodies just a few years ago, but the characters who drive The Big Short are names today, and not just because of the zillions they made by being prescient about the recent credit bubble.

Michael Lewis, of Liar's Poker fame, creates antiheroes of a handful of system buckers, among them Steve Eisman, who saw the subprime mortgage market as a Ponzi scheme, and Michael Burry, who realised that the road to riches lay in credit-default swaps on subprime mortgage bonds, even though the market didn't exist in 2005 when he started pestering firms such as Goldman Sachs about them. Lewis takes a complex subject, with terms calculated to confuse the average punter, and drives basic concepts home with simple explanations.

Those who have read the slew of books about the financial crisis will be familiar with the villains, including ratings agencies that awarded triple-As to bonds worth less, and investment bankers who realised defaults on subprime mortgages were rising but did their best to hide the fact. Some books are more interesting than others. This is at the top of the pack.