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A One Night Stand With Michael Lewis.

I asked a good reading friend the other day if Michael Lewis was a lightweight. The response: “Uh, yeah, pretty much”.

Okay. Shoot.
Not the response I was hoping for.

For those of you following along, I’m very suspicious of books that climb to the top of the bestseller lists (see? look! Solar by Ian McEwan is at #1 though it got panned by nearly everyone who reviewed it…)

And there is Michael Lewis, sitting pretty at the top of the list, being bought at an unprecedented pace. It took me 3 bookstores to get my copy.

So, rather than be a hypocrite (sooo distasteful), I decided to simply make an arbitrary new rule (of course, creative and fun).

New rule, people.

Everyone gets a “Celebrity Exemption” on BookSnob. You know, the Celebrity Exemption is the celebrity you would sleep with if you broke your marriage vows, and got a hall pass for one steamy night. (Answer: Jake Gyllenhaal, George Clooney, Mark Ruffalo, Bradley Cooper. Oh wait? Is it only one? Woops, sorry hon.)

Okay, well, I digress.

If we are going to be picky about books, let’s face it, we all are going to need a BookSnob Exemption from time to time.

I pick Michael Lewis.
I really don’t care if he’s a lightweight. Because he is damn entertaining.

Lewis is a consummate storyteller. I can tell you that first hand. In a past life, I actually hired him to speak at my then company’s corporate event. He came and actually played Liar’s Poker with the attendees in the evening and the next day, dazzled us with tales of how Billy Beane begged him to cut the swearing from Moneyball because his mother would not approve. He was mesmerizing and charming. One hour with Lewis was not long enough.

No doubt many of you are exposed to him through the recent The Blind Side (based on his book of the same name). But Liar’s Poker & Moneyball are just great tales. I am deep into The Big Short and remembering why I so love his books.

Midnight, 12:30a, 1:00a.
Ug! Put it down!

Lewis has this uncanny knack of delivering a very detailed analysis of an industry or a topic by breaking it down into digestible chunks. He makes you want to know more. I am not a financial industry lightweight, but the mortgage industry does get hopelessly confusing (not to mention dreadfully dull), but I am following along, people. Because Lewis doesn’t just go deep on subprime mortgages and CMOs–he lets the people involved tell the tale. He captures the human side of the story. He gives you plenty of facts, but somehow really makes you care.

You want to have some scary details about how our financial markets were hopelessly intertwined and all generally riding on the ‘greater fool’ theory–read this book. It’s fascinating. It plays like a sequel to Liar’s Poker–the steamy underbelly of Solomon Brothers, the bond department, lives another day!

Plus, Michael Lewis is funny. Oh, and I am a sucker for funny men. The proof is in this quick NPR podcast. He’s self-effacing. He has a sincere laugh. He seems like the kind of guy who would be fun to have a beer with and…ahem, discuss the book with.

Who’s your BookSnob exemption?
Your secret, guilty, decidedly unsnobbish reading pleasure?


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11 Comments Post a comment
  1. US Weekly, just kidding. sort of. I did rip through Isabel Gilles ‘Happens Every Day’ very quickly. She’s no doubt considered a lightweight by many but the story of infidelity in a midwest college town kept my interest.

    April 6, 2010
    • Sometimes that’s exactly what you need, something that will captivate you at the end of a hectic day (with twins! : )

      April 8, 2010
    • Sometimes that’s all I need is to be completely captivated–and removed from the craziness of the day.

      April 8, 2010
  2. I totally agree with your assessment of Michael Lewis. I loved Liar’s Poker, and am now thoroughly enjoying The Big Short. I’ve also found the live interviews with him very engaging, which is why I went out to get his new book to take on a trip. Let me know when you line him up to have a beer!

    April 6, 2010
    • Perfect. I am sure he has plenty of time to come drink beers with us. But I have half a mind to give it a try!

      April 8, 2010
  3. Hi Katy. I love Michael Lewis. Have a look at his “Dad Again” columns in Slate (some of which made it into a book on fatherhood a year or so ago which wasn’t so great but those were) and also the missives he wrote when he and his wife and first daughter moved to Paris, also in Slate. He’s a great, natural writer. Am DYING to read Liar’s Poker and have no good reason not to have done so already. You have inspired me to move it to the top of the “to be read” list.

    Delia Lloyd
    http://www.realdelia.com

    April 6, 2010
    • He ties the Big Short back to Liar’s Poker in the end and makes a compelling argument that was started in the bond department at Solomon was part of the culture and mindset that led us to know. I honestly think reading Liar’s Poker first and this second would be a great one/two punch.

      April 8, 2010
  4. Hi, I just stumbled upon your blog and really enjoy it. It seems we have similar taste in books and have read many of the same ones. I haven’t read this one, but have seen it around. Thanks for the review! I’m adding you to my rss feed.

    April 8, 2010
    • Julie–I checked out yours as well. And will keep tabs on what you are reading too! Thanks.

      April 8, 2010
  5. Mary #

    I want to take issue with the idea that Michael Lewis is a lightweight. Anyone that can make a reader care about something that he/she would not normally want to read about has a heavy something.

    April 11, 2010
    • I love this comment Mary! I got to the Epilogue in The Great Short and Lewis goes back and has lunch with John Gutfreund–the CEO of Solomon Brothers and the man he wrote about in Liar’s Poker. John says to Michael Lewis: “I think we can agree about this: Your fucking book destroyed my career and it made yours.” At this moment, Lewis is physically sitting on the same side of the table as John. My conclusion from the book and this high-tension moment: Michael Lewis is NO lightweight. Most definitely.

      April 11, 2010

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