Updated: May 15, 2020
REVIEWER: James Pressler
BOOK TITLE: Liar’s Poker
AUTHOR: Michael Lewis (Boomerang, The Big Short)
In the 1980s, the investment firm Salomon Brothers took an incredibly dull part of the banking industry and overnight turned it into a money-making machine, creating massive profits for the firm and investors alike. As their creation spread through the industry, bond traders evolved from simple creatures into financial hybrids, egotistical BSDs (read the book to find out that meaning) with their own culture, mannerisms and financial ecosystems, generating amazing wealth and eventually their own demise.
Along with following how Salomon Brothers changed the financial world, this is also the story of one man’s experiences during the company’s metamorphosis. He watches the industry become wealthy, powerful, and then reckless, all in the name of greater profits.
Liar’s Poker is not some industry piece written for those already in banking. This explains how the financial world changed in layman’s terms, describing the slow, gradual shift that redefined the world, all with a nod toward its impact on the lives of everyone around – often for the worse. Particularly nowadays, when it seems we cannot escape discussions about money, the economy, and who to blame for things, this provides critical background information from an industry insider.
HOW WAS THIS BOOK SIGNIFICANT FOR YOU? HOW WILL IT AFFECT YOUR WRITING?
I read this shortly after college as I entered the financial world with a statistics degree. My background was science-based, so I knew nothing about the banking world, but this was an eye-opener. Not a cynical look at the world, nor a justification for what happened, but an explanation of the good, the bad, and the disturbing.
Above all else, this story showed me as a writer how to take a complex subject –something well beyond the average reader’s comprehension or interest – and introduce it in a simple way without being condescending. With this simple tool, I could write about the most intricate subjects yet feel confident that my readers will be right there with me, knowing everything necessary to enjoy the story but not getting bogged down in the non-essentials. Lewis made the complex into the simple, which should be every writer’s goal.