Book Review: Liar’s Poker

Simply the best. In the short list of the best books about Wall Street, Liar’s Poker needs to be on top. Can you remember the first time you met The Human Piranha? How about a Big Swinging Dick? Have you wondered where and when and who created mortgage bonds on Wall Street? Have you read the single best set of unforgettable Wall Street characters ever penned by an insider?

Michael Lewis wrote Liar’s Poker before he was Michael Lewis, after just two short years as a sales geek on the Solomon corporate bond desk in London. He packs more wisdom and wit into his story of Wall Street in the 1980s than anyone before, or since.

Greg Smith resigned from Goldman to much fanfare in March 2012, claiming the culture had changed during his 10 years, between 2002 and 2012. Goldman, Smith argued, went from a firm in 2002 that cared about its culture – and cared about serving clients – not just maximizing its own profits.

No, Greg, I’m sorry, you’re wrong. You haven’t read your Liar’s Poker.

Mike Mortara, a star character and Big Swinging Dick in 1986 at Salomon in Liar’s Poker, ran Goldman’s Fixed income Department when I joined in 1997. The leadership of Goldman in my experience strongly resembled the leadership portrayed in Liar’s Poker, albeit a few notches more refined by the passage of time and the increasing respectability of sales & trading.

But most importantly, it was all about the money then, just as it had been in 1986. 25 years later, nobody’s written a better Wall Street story than Michael Lewis.

 

Also see my review of Michael Lewis’ Boomerang – Funny, if not terribly substantive

and my review of Michael Lewis’ The Big Short – A great place to start to understand the 2008 Credit Crunch and mortgage/CDO debacle.

And…The Undoing Project, about behavioral finance.

Please also see related post, All Bankers-Anonymous Book Reviews in one place.

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I founded Bankers Anonymous because, as a recovering banker, I believe that the gap between the financial world as I know it and the public discourse about finance is more than just a problem for a family trying to balance their checkbook, or politicians trying to score points over next year’s budget – it is a weakness of our civil society. For reals. It’s also really fun for me.

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