If you're a fan of gripping, edge-of-your-seat nonfiction, then you need to read Michael Lewis. From his early days as a bond salesman on Wall Street to his coverage of the most recent financial crisis, Lewis has always had a knack for finding and telling the most interesting stories.
Here are summaries about 18 of his best books including Moneyball, The Blind Side, The Big Short, and The Premonition.
Most people know Michael Lewis solely as a writer. However, he had a very different life before changing his career. He initially worked at Salomon Brothers on Wall Street during the 1980s. He explains how these men became top-level bond salesmen and were raking in millions. However, this was happening because of traders and bondsmen selling junk bonds, knowing that they could fail.
As one would imagine, during this time, the people on Wall Street were primarily macho white males, allowing for a fraternity-like community. Even with the possible fallout, the cavalier way they did this allowed them to be less apprehensive as they all supported each other mentally.
Even though the book was written decades ago, it highlights many issues that allowed this to happen and how little has changed.
Compared to the other books on this list, this one is relatively quick and an easy read. Lewis follows two businessmen, one from the USA and one from Japan, and the differences in their lives.
The intersecting of these two men, and the two cultures, are exciting and intriguing. This includes Lewis flying to Japan and seeing how the culture works personally.
This book is primarily a grouping of Lewis's essays in newspapers and magazines before writing Liar's Poker. He goes over many of the same issues regarding how traders would be inappropriate in any way they wanted because of the club-like atmosphere. They also didn't seem to care what would or could happen to others as long as they became rich. And lastly, you will see more about mistakes made that caused the economy to fail.
Last but not least, he looks at Japan's economy and how it differs from the USA's. Being that he discussed this in his previous book, Pacific Rift, the other book is more practical. It is primarily a primer for it and Liar’s Poker, Both of which have better reviews and is more in-depth.
This book focuses explicitly on the presidential election of 1996 and the players involved in it. Instead of just following around the more famous candidates, he focused on the lesser-known Republicans. Some candidates include Pat Buchanan, Steve Forbes, Alan Keys, and others. One of the more interesting and almost totally forgotten candidate is Maurice "Morry" Taylor.
He spent over six million dollars, hired people who seemed competent, and ran raffles to get votes.
Some of the other candidates are more obvious in their desires and plans, such as Buchanan and Forbes, but Lewis has a way of reminding us what the Republican party used to look like. You will also find yourself being stunned by Alan Keyes and his views.
The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story is a book chronicling the rise of the digital age. The story follows Jim Clark, a serial entrepreneur who founded companies such as Netscape and Silicon Graphics, and his journey to create new industries.
Although the book focuses on Clark's story, it also provides insights into the culture of Silicon Valley and how it has changed over the years. Some of the stories include Clark’s desire to have a robotic ship and also his desire to be richer than anyone else.
If you're interested in learning more about the history of Silicon Valley or want to get a glimpse into the mind of a tech visionary. In telling Clark's story, Lewis offers readers an intimate view of the culture and characters that have helped make Silicon Valley one of the world's most innovative and influential regions.
As technology becomes more and more integral in our lives, there are bound to be issues and problems that arise from it. We see propaganda being promoted on many social forums in today's world, and it is hard to know truth from fiction. In this book, Lewis also shows that this was true back in the 1990s. It is not a new phenomenon.
Lewis does this by interviewing a number of characters who could "game" the system. This includes a fifteen-year-old kid, Jonathan Lebed, who became wealthy using fake press releases for a company.
There is also the story of another fifteen-year-old who became a master of legal advice online even though he had no experience.
Lastly, he delves into how the web can be abused, as we are seeing in today’s world, because of the anonymity of many of the players.
Moneyball is the story of how Billy Beane, general manager of the low-budget Oakland Athletics, used advanced analytical techniques to assemble a competitive team in baseball's toughest division. Despite having one of the smallest payrolls in the league, Beane's Athletics consistently won more games than their wealthier counterparts.
Drawing on Lewis’s exclusive access to the team, Moneyball tells the story of how Beane and his staff assembled a winning roster using unconventional methods that flew in the face of conventional wisdom.
If you are looking for a true David vs. Goliath story, this is a must-read for you. In an industry where success is often measured by how much money teams spend on players, Beane proves that there is another way to win.
This is a very quick read, coming in at under 100 pages and still entertaining. It basically is an autobiography of Lewis when he was young and how his coach influenced his life. As he was called, Coach Fitz was a tough guy who wouldn't let his kids get away with anything. That being stated, he believed that many of them could achieve much more than they imagined.
This happened explicitly when Lewis was called on to pitch during a game, even though he had never done it before, and Fitz gave him the courage to win.
Lewis states that it has empowered him throughout his life and allowed him to push through barriers that he otherwise wouldn’t have. It also delves into the idea that Coach Fitz was too hard on his players and how techniques have changed in today’s world. Examples of these are the helicopter parents who constantly protect their children from being challenged and dealing with losses.
In The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, Lewis tells the story of how offensive tackle Michael Oher became one of the most highly coveted players in the National Football League. Oher, born into a family of poverty and dysfunction in Memphis, Tennessee, was taken in by a wealthy white family and given an opportunity to play football at an elite private school.
However, this is just the start of the story. This book looks at how class and privilege interact in US society and what this means for a poor kid from the wrong side of town. Beyond that, it explains the American football game and why someone on the "blind side" of the quarterback is so important.
Oher became a first-round draft pick and plays for the Baltimore Ravens. This is an inspiring story of overcoming adversity and realizing one's potential. If you have seen the movie, you will be surprised since they are very different from each other.
In Home Game, Lewis explores his own feelings of being a father candidly and comically. Lewis freely admits he isn't a perfect parent, but he tries his best (most of the time) and tends to succeed finally. Instead of constantly feeling love for his children, he realizes that he can go from happy, to sad, to enraged in just a matter of moments, depending on the situation.
The stories that he relates are usually hilarious, and if you are a parent, you will absolutely relate to them. If you aren't a parent, it might give you a glimmer of what is coming down the road when you decide to be one.
The subprime mortgage crash in 2007 and 2008 was devastating for so many people since they lost everything they owned, including their house because some Wall Street firms couldn't care less about them. The way this was done was to have someone who didn't have the means to pay a loan get approved since that would keep the housing prices rising constantly.
However, the problem with this is that the mortgages defaulted when the loans couldn't be paid, and everything would crash. And being that many of the big Wall Street houses had been writing them, they brought the economy down with them. Some people tried to warn the government, but most of the players just wanted to become rich.
With over 70 percent of the loans given to people whose credit was horrible, it was easy to see what would happen…if only the people running the markets want to do that.
This book follows Lewis' travels to four different countries: The USA, Ireland, Greece, and Iceland. He explores how each economy at one point failed because of numerous reasons. Some, such as in Greece's case, were when the banks loaned the government 30 billion Euros which were then squandered or stolen.
On the other hand, Iceland has issues, such as when Alcoa wanted to build a new aluminum plant, but they had to search for elves (yes, elves) before making it.
Germany had loaned money to other countries that couldn't pay it back, and we all know what happened in the USA because of the subprime mortgage scandal. As we've seen from his other books, the ability for those that are supposed to be watchdogs rarely do their jobs.
And, when they try to do their jobs, they are often blocked because of incompetence or greed. It is interesting to see how this plays out in these different countries.
The controversial new book Flash Boys by Lewis explores the world of high-frequency trading on Wall Street. This type of trading is done by computer algorithms that can execute trades in milliseconds.
The reason why is that those who have the fastest computers can buy stocks at a specific price, knowing that someone else is trying to buy them and then sell them for a thousandth of a cent more. This seems like almost nothing, but if you do millions of transactions a day, it adds up very quickly.
The book alleges that this type of trading gives an unfair advantage to those with access to the best technology and information. Lewis also writes about Brad Katsuyama, who tries to figure out how to beat the system because you could trade thousands of shares at a time.
Therefore, the other traders and programs wouldn't buy them and then resell them to you at a higher price. It is a difficult concept to imagine, but that is what makes this book so important.
This is a book about two men, who became friends even though they were entirely different, and how they changed the world regarding how humans tend to think using biases. Some of these include the "availability" heuristic, which means that the more easily something comes to mind, the more likely we will believe it. This impacts our daily life in more ways than we can even imagine. Lewis uses this and others to examine how many choices we make are not based on evidence but on "gut feelings."
As mentioned above, it is also the story of two men, Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist, and Amos Twersky, an economist. Even though it would seem as if they had nothing in common, they find themselves drawn to each other and using science to improve how humans think and make decisions.
An excellent example of this would be Billy Beane in Moneyball, who uses statistics instead of just relying on what he sees or hears.
This book takes a fascinating look behind the scenes of our every changing weather. Lewis's books offers a well researched and analyzed look everything from tornados to tsunamis.
You'll also get a deep dive into how this data is tracked and used by the government. He shares the risks and ethics behind using this data to generate profits when lives are involved.
Lewis profiles two scientists who changed the way weather is predicted and the accuracy of our warning systems.
It's a fascinating look at all the aspects of weather in our society today.
Simply stated, when Trump was elected president, he did as little as possible to have a reasonable transfer of power. He left the position unfilled, questions unanswered, and seemed as if he couldn't have cared less about the country that just voted him into office. Which, in this book, we find out is precisely the case.
Then when they finally did transition, the people that Trump and his cabinet put into power seemed to have absolutely no idea how to do their job. They were just winging it and hoping for the best.
However, Lewis also examines the departments, and people, who can overcome these issues and keep the government running. It is utterly relevant to how our government is run and how the wrong people can abuse it.
This easy and short audiobook looks at how competitive sports have changed today. Instead of just enjoying a sport, as many kinds used to do, it is now big business. People spend thousands upon thousands of dollars buying gear, taking lessons, traveling to tournaments, and Lewis tries to figure out why.
He looks into how the people running the sports are winning while the kids, especially the underprivileged, are losing in this game. Lewis is one of the parents who play this game, and his daughter became a high school softball player, and it ended up helping her get into an Ivy League school.
It is an interesting balance between how sports should be played and how they are less straightforward.
When you think about pandemics, this book is probably one of the best you'll ever read on it. Lewis examines how COVID came to be, how it spread, and how it seemed to be like other pandemics.
In it, he looks at what went right and what went wrong during its stages. Some of it includes how the CDC basically ignored what was happening, how Trump downplayed and lied about the horrors to come, and how a small group of dedicated people could help save the day.
This group, known as "The Wolverines," decided to go rogue and not just do what their bosses told them to do. Instead, they would work together, examine all the data possible, and give recommendations. Some of their suggestions were social distancing, masks, closing schools, and other ideas that are now obvious.
These dedicated heroes probably saved millions more no matter how many people have died. And if their ideas were listened to instead of being ignored, there is no question that it would have never reached even the level it did at any point.