I have a brother aspiring to work on Wall Street. He recommended Michael Lewis’ book Liar’s Poker to me as required reading for anyone who wants a glimpse of the mania of the trading floor, and also as a primer for the current economic fallout we are experiencing in America. Lewis is a wonderful writer–also the author of The Blind Side and The Big Short–and here he tells a great story.
As always, that’s what I wanted. Story. Well, this is a good one. Lewis spent four years working for the trading firm Salomon Brothers, up until the crash of 1987. Liar’s Poker is a story about excess, filled with larger than live, excessive characters. I will never forget the chapter about how much candy certain departments ate each day. It nearly became a requirement for working in the department.
I will also not forget the obscene amounts of money being made by young people who were making the rules up as they went along.
I will also not forget the hilarious descriptions of the new hire orientation sessions Lewis went through during his training. Or the bizarre manner in which he was hired. Or the foul-mouthed glory of a man known as the Human Pirahna. Or the monetary ramifications of the phrase “get your face ripped off.”
I learned a lot about Salomon Brothers that I didn’t know. I got a clearer picture of the greed that has led us to out current unenviable economy. But I wasn’t looking for that. I already have plenty to be outraged by if I want it. I like Liar’s Poker because it is a hell of an entertaining read.
So, you can read it as “the rise and fall of (insert something)” or you can read it as a book that is, in my opinion, about 75% humor. Or you can groan at the excess and greed of the traders, which will tie right in with your feelings about Barbarians At The Gate if you have read that in preparation for our book club discussion. Or you can not read Liar’s Poker at all, but I hope you will! It’s a very strong book from a very strong and talented writer.
Who has read it? What did you think?
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