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The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game W. W. Norton & Company 1ST edition Michael Lewis

30th June 2012 History Books 52 Comments

By the author of the bestselling Moneyball: in football, as in life, the value we place on people changes with the rules of the games they play.

The young man at the center of this extraordinary and moving story will one day be among the most highly paid athletes in the National Football League. When we first meet him, he is one of thirteen children by a mother addicted to crack; he does not know his real name, his father, his birthday, or any of the things a child might learn in school such as, say, how to read or write. Nor has he ever touched a football.

What changes? He takes up football, and school, after a rich, Evangelical, Republican family plucks him from the mean streets. Their love is the first great force that alters the world’s perception of the boy, whom they adopt. The second force is the evolution of professional football itself into a game where the quarterback must be protected at any cost. Our protagonist turns out to be the priceless combination of size, speed, and agility necessary to guard the quarterback’s greatest vulnerability: his blind side.

Starred Review. As he did so memorably for baseball in Moneyball, Lewis takes a statistical X-ray of the hidden substructure of football, outlining the invisible doings of unsung players that determine the outcome more than the showy exploits of point scorers. In his sketch of the gridiron arms race, first came the modern, meticulously choreographed passing offense, then the ferocious defensive pass rusher whose bone-crunching quarterback sacks demolished the best-laid passing game, and finally the rise of the left tackle—the offensive lineman tasked with protecting the quarterback from the pass rusher—whose presence is felt only through the game-deciding absence of said sacks. A rare creature combining 300 pounds of bulk with “the body control of a ballerina,” the anonymous left tackle, Lewis notes, is now often a team’s highest-paid player. Lewis fleshes this out with the colorful saga of left tackle prodigy Michael Oher. An intermittently homeless Memphis ghetto kid taken in by a rich white family and a Christian high school, Oher’s preternatural size and agility soon has every college coach in the country courting him obsequiously. Combining a tour de force of sports analysis with a piquant ethnography of the South’s pigskin mania, Lewis probes the fascinating question of whether football is a matter of brute force or subtle intellect. Photos. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

As in Moneyball (**** July/Aug 2003), which chronicled the strategies behind the Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, Berkeley-based author Michael Lewis takes a personal look at a complicated game in his newest nonfiction extravaganza. Just as they embraced Moneyball, critics eagerly wrap their arms around The Blind Side. It’s much more than a treatise on football; it’s an exploration of the limits of conventional thinking and how strategic changes affect the value of quick-footed behemoths. However, while most reviewers are positive, something holds them back. Maybe Lewis makes it all look too easy. Or perhaps, as The New York Times charges, he takes the easy route through a complicated set of stories. That he makes it easy for his reader to comprehendand enjoyis enough for most critics to give Lewis’s latest a rousing cheer.

Copyright 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game

  • 52 responses to "The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game W. W. Norton & Company 1ST edition Michael Lewis"

  • Christina D.
    5:39 on June 30th, 2012
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    There are some off-base reviews here of people who loved the movie and figured that Michael Lewis’ book would be the perfect follow-up. For those people, please note: the movie is BASED ON the book. Movie != Book. The movie represents just one thread of Lewis’ excellent work. The sub-title of Lewis’ work is “Evolution of a Game.” Lewis’ main thesis is hinted at in the brief voice-over that Sandra Bullock (in the persona of Leigh Anne Tuohy) provides at the outset of the film: that if the quarterback is the highest-paid position in the game, then the evolution of the game is that the second highest-paid position is the one that provides insurance to that position: the left tackle….the gentleman that protects the quarterback’s blind side. Michael Oher is then presented as someone with the potential – five years in the future at of the time of Lewis’ research – to assume that role in the NFL. Thus, at the time of Lewis’ tale, we come to understand why he’s such a heavily recruited commodity. From there, Lewis peels back the onion and we come to know of Oher’s upbringing and the role of the Tuohy family.

    I have to admit: I went in cynical about what to expect in the movie, fearing the worst. But director John Lee Hancock does a wonderful job here extracting the essence of Oher’s tale. Because let’s face it: the rest of Lewis’ book – while fascinating to those of us interested in the sport – doesn’t translate well to the screen. But of Oher’s tale: it seems the stuff of a Hollywood movie. And it has the added benefit of being the truth. But, again, all credit here to director Hancock: I had hoped throughout the film that he’d have the good sense to finish the tale in the most powerful manner possible: by showing footage of the real Michael Oher selected in the 1st round of the NFL draft. And, that’s exactly what Hancock does – followed up by a series of emotional photos provided by the Tuohy family. [Stay for the credits to see them.]

    One note about where the book and movie are very divergent: the role of Sean Tuohy. In the movie, Sandra Bullock’s Leigh Anne Tuohy is the driving force and Tim McGraw’s Sean – while agreeable – seems along for the ride. Readers of the book know this is far from the case. Lewis cites Tuohy’s special connection to high-school athletes and mentoring personality. Plus, what readers of the book don’t see: how Michael Lewis happened upon this story in the first place – he and Sean Tuohy are childhood friends and high school classmates.

  • Byron Milton
    6:49 on June 30th, 2012
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    I worked for CSFB for three years, and am still in investment banking for a smaller firm. So I have seen a part of the world that is described here. I’m not saying that this is an exact description of what I saw, because Lewis picks the most exotic creatures that he met, but the atmosphere is perfectly conveyed. This book will tell you all the stuff that they don’t teach you in an interview or recruitment visit – the pecking order, the politics, and how to get paid.

    The other reason to read this is that Lewis is a brilliant writer, with a real talent for describing people and their situations. Lots of other people have written boring books with the same raw material. For a non-specialist like my mother, the technicalities were hard work, but you don’t need a lot of special knowledge to like this book. My mother certainly did.

    Probably the best way to look at this book is like a travel book – you’re not visiting a country, you’re visiting a world. Great travel books are not word-perfect descriptions of a place, they are representations of what the author felt like when he was there, and they give the reader a feeling of what it was like to be there. If you read this book, you will understand what it feels like to work inside a big bank, and you’ll enjoy the ride, even if you have no interest in actually working there.

  • Conspirator
    7:11 on June 30th, 2012
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    An incredible human interest story detailed further below but first………the author of Liar’s Poker and Moneyball is at it again with an offbeat interesting subject, or multiple subjects which are intertwined. This is an analysis of the evolution of the left side tackle designed to protect the quarterback’s blind side, particularly from the evolution of speed rushers in the Lawrence Taylor mode. Lewis starts with an in depth analysis of Joe Theisman’s famous leg break with some interesting facts even Joe didn’t remember including who may really have been responsible. Separate stories are then presented of the new prototype Left Tackles like Jonathan Ogden whose investment banker father showed him that his value at Left Tackle would out way any interest in playing college basketball for his 6’9″ son. This part of the book is intertwined with a historical perspective of how the passing game developed mainly through the Bill Walsh West Coast offense which downplays the significance of the quarterback. This section of the book is intertwined around the personal story to be described and while extremely interesting to football fans will have virtually NO appeal the typical female fan or other casual fans.

    But what will be of greater human interest is the overlay of the story of Michael Oher, the “man/child” currently playing football at Ole Miss. Oher shows up at a predominantly white Christian school in the 9th grade with virtually no school history and horrible family background. An incredibly shy 350 pound kid struggles but ingratiates himself to faculty and staff and manages to stick around. Finally one Thanksgiving Day a volunteer assistant coach and his wife see him at a bus stop in his usual shorts and recognize that in addition to no money for food, he is traveling to the gym to watch practice just to be in a heated room. Through incredible acts of kindness and caring this young man is taken in by this wealthy Christian family who attempt to socialize and educate him for the future.

    But little did they realize that at 6′ 6″ with an incredible frame and quick feet, football coaches would see their answer to possibly the most important position on the football field and they would relentlessly come calling. This presents many problems as Oher has virtually no chance of attending college with his past educational background. Thus begins the odyssey of the recruiting wars for this individual who by the end of high school has been called the best pro prospect even though he has played in only 15 football games.

    This portion of the book dominates approximately 70% of the book. It is incredibly touching and I certainly applaud the sympathetic, caring approach by Leigh Ann and Sean Tuohy. This book is not just for football fans as the issues here are much greater. How does a child get to the 9th grade with virtually no retention of knowledge or ability to function in a social setting? What can a change in culture and caring do for this young man? And other questions will also appear such as is their potential ulterior motives for selecting this student out of so many and wasn’t the final steps to eligibility really inappropriate? As to my opinion I choose to believe that the Tuohy’s were interested in helping another human being, and in the process, it enriched the lives of their family, this young man and the possibilities that a loving, caring environment can create.

    I strongly recommend this book for football fans, sociologists, and people with interest in politics, religion, or Southern Culture as there are many issues intertwined. Once again, the weakness to this book may be that he narrowed its focus by making it a “sports book”. It’s not. Its main message concerns underprivileged kids and how a change in environment can produce incredible results.

    As a matter of disclosure, I live in Memphis, have leased Tuohy’s his plane in the past and have many mutual friends. He and his wife have exceptional reputations and I applaud their involvement in helping this man.

  • Jeccww
    9:11 on June 30th, 2012
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    I am a rather casual football fan. Outside of the interesting college bowl game or professional playoff, I tend to catch football only during odd moments flipping through channels. My understanding of the game is passable but hardly excellent; it was, therefore, nice to read Michael Lewis’s book The Blind Side. I learned things, and that is always a good thing to say after reading a book.

    The particular insight I got from this book is the importance of the offensive line, especially the left tackle. While all the glory goes to the quarterbacks (and to a lesser extent, running backs and wide receivers, it is actually the left tackle that is often the franchise player and typically commands one of the highest (if not the highest) salaries on a team. What makes the left tackle so important? Put simply, he protects the quarterback’s blind side and allows the passing game to flourish. Often a key difference between a great QB and a mediocre one is the quality of the left tackle protecting him.

    While Lewis presents a history of the position and how it helped develop the pass-happy offenses of recent years, he also tells the tale of one up-and-comer in the position. Michael Oher, more-or-less the hero of The Blind Side is at first just a gigantic teenager growing up in the worst neighborhoods of Memphis, Tennessee. At first, he seems destined for a short, unhappy life: essentially illiterate and with a broken home, he gets a chance to attend a prosperous Christian high school, where his physical abilities are noticed.

    The book chronicles his rise from his impoverished roots to a top college prospect. His success is both due to his efforts and the work of many others who realized he had real potential. Oher was a person who was almost instantly recognized as a potentially great left tackle, but he would never get to the pros without assistance.

    The book concludes after one year of college ball at the end of 2005, so (as of this date of this review), he would still only be a sophomore and in the physically perilous world of football, his future in the game is possibly good, but also possibly short. In the past, however, the game was his only possible chance at real success; now, however, with the help he has received, he has the chances to do other things beyond the game.

    Lewis writes with the easy assurance common to good sports writers. Occasionally, he meanders about, going off on tangents before resuming the narrative. Fortunately, the tangents themselves are also informative. The Blind Side is a book on evolution: the evolution of a game (it says so right on the cover), but also the evolution of an individual. It is a good book and recommended for any fan of football.

  • laura sweet
    10:59 on June 30th, 2012
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    I really enjoyed this book, read it one sitting, and then read all of the reviews just to justify continuing to think about it. Some of the reviewers didn’t rate the book as highly as I did, but I can understand their complaints. The (minor, in my opinion) errors of fact are annoying, but probably only to a pretty serious football fan. And yes, if you consider the title only narrowly, you might be disappointed to find a book that is not just about football strategy and how the game has evolved. But, and I may be stretching a bit here, if you consider the title more metaphorically, there are other “blind sides” and “evolutions” at work here than just right-handed quarterbacks and the role of left-tackles.

    I love football and probably have a slightly higher-than-average knowledge of the game (for a chick who was never allowed to play on a real team!) but this book taught me a few things about both the game and the business of football, on the college and professional levels.

    Another “blind side” is the view of some serious holes in our society: that such desperate poverty exists alongside such immense wealth; that a child can be lost for YEARS without housing, education, health care, or any measure of security; that most of us really ought to be both more generous and more clear-minded about our responsibilities to each other and our ability to be of use. For me, this book’s view of the generous acceptance, and the limits of the generosity and acceptance of a Southern Evangelical Christian community was alone worth the price of admission.

    And perhaps “evolution” also includes the gaming of the ridiculous NCAA eligibility/compensation system, the dance of altruism and self-interest among some of the characters, and the growth of the young man at the heart of the story. But maybe I’m over-reaching.

    I’m thinking of the old expression “neither flesh nor fowl nor good red herring.” This book is like that; it’s about a lot of different ideas. I think Michael Lewis does a terrific job of telling the story, without a tidy conclusion and without telling us the motivations of the people involved, instead letting us decide.

    Personally, I applaud the Touhy family, here’s a quote from the book by the adoptive mother: “I want a building…we’re going to open a foundation that’s only going to help out kids with athletic ability who don’t have the academics to go to college. Screw the NCAA. I don’t care what people say. I don’t care if they say we’re only interested in them because they’re good at sports. Sports is all we know about.”

    If you want just one thing from a book, a football strategy guide, a tale of unlikely success, or a primer on Ole Miss, you might be disappointed. But if you want to take a deeper, closer look at a piece of our society (and you don’t think that sports are a waste of time) I think you will be richly rewarded by this book. I was.

  • bibakim
    12:25 on June 30th, 2012
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    The true story about an upper class family who adopts a 16-year-old boy who weighs 345 pounds and came from the other side of the tracks. They gave him a first class education and found creative ways to get him into college on an athletic scholarship. He went on to become a first round draft choice in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens (2009). There may be too much football in this book for some, but a good story nevertheless. Some bad language – so not for children (the reason I rated it down)

  • Queeftastic
    14:31 on June 30th, 2012
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    Almost everyone who is graduating is tempted by the glamour and large bonuses of Investment Banks to wonder what it would be like to work in a large investment bank on Wall Street and actually consider it as a serious career option. LIAR’S POKER provides an irreverent, bird’s eye view of the whole process. This is an extraordinarily funny but thought provoking account of a money focussed guy’s innings at a venerable Investment bank Salomon Brothers, starting as a $48,000-a-year trainee in 1984 to go on to become an institutional bond salesman in Salomon’s London office earning $225,000 in 1987. Far from just being entertaining the book gives lots of insight into the intense cutthroat investment banking industry and makes it accessible for even the naivest of readers the intricacies of the milieu. An insider’s look at the inside of an investor banking firm, with no holds barred, which makes it probably one of the most recommended books for anyone considering more than a passing acquaintance with the investment banking industry.

  • timmy
    14:45 on June 30th, 2012
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    An intriguing book. For someone with little exposure to the financial sector or Wall Street, this is a fascinating introduction to how a big brokerage house gets to be big. Sell! Sell! Sell! And let the buyer beware! Hilarious, scary and infuriating, it’s enough to make you cash out your portfolio and put your money somewhere safe, like Vegas. Highly recommended.

  • Gopal Mishra
    15:10 on June 30th, 2012
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    Liars’ Poker is the quintessential business novel. Everyone businessman I know has either read it or heard of it. So, I decided that I should check it out.

    This book is an account of Michael Lewis’ time at Salomon Smith Barney in the mid 80s, at the height of the junk bond craze. He perfectly describes the atmosphere of competitiveness and the vast rewards everyone was reaping as a result of the boom.

    What came as a surprise to me is that Lewis describes the mortgage bond market, an obtuse and vague instrument, very clearly and in a way most non-business people could also understand. This explanation also serves to show why these junk bonds ultimately collapsed.

    Then, of course, are his hilarious descriptions of his orientation, his bosses and coworkers. To read about these outlandish characters is worth the price of the book alone.

    So, to close, this book is a classic for a reason. It is informative and well written, but manages to be hilarious at the same time, a feat few authors can achieve. Read this book at all costs.

  • Fatesrider
    15:42 on June 30th, 2012
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    I am not a football fan, nor do I understand the game. I came to this book before I saw the movie, believe it or not, based on a recommendation from a girlfriend. Barb is a football fan, and she even knew what a left tackle was and his importance to the game, at least in a Bill Parcells era (I live near NYC so at least I know who Parcells is).

    That being said, this is a story of human triumph over odds that simply defy description. After I read the book and saw the movie I realized that even Hollywood couldn’t overdramatize the horrible circumstances of Michael’s early life that brought him, through the grace of God or the grace of Leigh Ann Tuohy, to a better life that only Hollywood could invent (but it didn’t).

    This is a story of renewal, humanity and generosity of spirit that needed to be told, and Michael Lewis does a superb job of relating it with a journalist’s objectivity and a romantic novelist’s sensitivity that will touch you in ways hard to describe.

    My only reason for not giving it 5 stars is the early detail on football, which I found excrutiatingly hard to push through. Even some football fans, I think, will find that distracting from the story that must be told.

    Overall, bravo.

  • Willena Gata
    16:14 on June 30th, 2012
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    My expectations of this book were perhaps mislead. I thought that this would deal with more the generalized view of Wall Street. However, it really concentrates on the lives of traders.

    Lewis does shed some light on Wall Street trading in general, including a good description of mortgage trading and junk bond trading. However, this book sort of throws it into the mix. I wasn’t sure what Lewis was trying to do. Sometimes it felt like a history book, sometimes a biography, sometimes an economics lesson, sometimes a comedy. It felt haphazard and lacked direction, and with the writing style presented, it lacked a certain amount of fluidity.

    It was fun to learn the different people in Wall Street. From the obese, abusive traders, the short sighted and greedy executives, the brown nosers, to the “back row” trainees. It’s basically a fun little description of office life at Solomon Brothers in the eighties, not an exciting expose on the finance industry as the cover would like you to believe.

  • scarab
    16:59 on June 30th, 2012
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    In Liar’s Poker, Michael Lewis writes about his journey in becoming a bond salesman and his two years of work experiences at Salomon Brothers. While the book does offer some information about the finacial innovations driving the bond business in the 1980s, I think the principle thrust of the book is an examination of the culture and the personalities of Wall Street trading desks. The first chapter story, which is the basis for the title of the book, involving John Gutfreund and John Meriwether encapsulates the nature of this world.

    This book is an important read for anyone who thinks they might want to become a trader/salesperson on Wall Street. If not, it is still a very interesting peek into a world that most people do not understand.

    My last comment is a minor criticism of Michael Lewis. Lewis writes in the first person and is obviously a very self-involved individual with an extremely high opinion of himself. This is more evident in his later writings and columns for various periodicals (e.g. his NY Times article on Long-Term Capital was sickening). Despite this criticism the book is still very enjoyable.

  • Susan J. Wyne
    18:00 on June 30th, 2012
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    Our womens Book Club is based on a group of middle aged women in a Methodist Sunday School class in Texas. We selected the Blind Side for our book this month. It was a huge success. The story is heartwarming and you finish the book (and the meeting) upbeat and hopeful. Only one member is a big football fan, but most of us work as teachers, lawyers, or in social services. The author did a wonderful job telling a compelling story of “the social services/education system” as well as the game of football and the left offensive tackle position (not that most of us could identify that position on the field, even after reading the book).Many, many laughs at our meeting concerning our ignorance which seasoned the other serious messages in the book concerning the hypocrisy of college athletics, the culture of poverty, and the Religious Right of the South. We recommend this to any womens book club.

  • Letty Hallack
    19:36 on June 30th, 2012
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    The Blind Side by Michael Lewis continues the discussion started in Moneyball about assessing the value of athletes. This story begins by discussing the role of passing vs. running, the way that a one or two gifted linebackers could put a passing game in jeopardy, and – therefore – the need for even more gifted offensive linemen to stop those linebackers. Since the most vulnerable line of approach for the quarterback is from the right linebacker, then the left offensive tackle is now exceptionally valuable. The title The Blind Spot refers to the, usually right-handed, quarterback’s blind spot to his left as he prepares to pass.

    However, in a very real sense, this book is really about our inability to see the inherent value in the people who are around us every day. Michael Oher – pronounced like oar – is the left tackle profiled in the book. Through a series of unlikely events Mr Oher goes from being a gentle giant of a teenager with no family, no education, and no future except, perhaps, as a bodyguard to a functional college student with tremendous potential as a professional athlete and/or businessman. This is the real story of The Blind Side.

    The real question that must be asked after reading this book is how much human talent and capital is being wasted because we simply can not see it in front of us. If we could only find and develop that talent, how much richer, healthier, and free would we be as a country? The answer is not clear.

    Nor is the story of Mr Oher completely finished yet. At the risk of passing a judgement that I’m not qualified to give, Mr Oher seems to have had some sort of mild autism, which ironically protected him from some of the more unsavory elements in his environment. Even so, the hardest challenges may be yet ahead of him. Many gifted athletes from Jim Thorpe to Mike Tyson have allowed fame and wealth to destroy them.

    This is a thought provoking book that can be read on many levels. Strongly recommended.

  • Jayzn Johns
    21:07 on June 30th, 2012
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    The story of Michael Oher is one of the great, touching personal stories coming out of the 2009 NFL Draft. From a homeless child born to a drug-addled mother to his early days with a wealthy Tennessee family and onward through high school and college, Michael’s tale is remarkable, poignant and touching. It would be difficult to imagine reading this and not being moved by it.

    But it is the story of the history of the left tackle position as well as the story of a young boy growing into a man. While it could stand on its own as a ‘coming of age’ tale, it is in the skilled talents of Michael Lewis and his deft wrapping of the individual threads of history and modern thought with personal challenge, effort and triumph that makes this one of the best sports reads of the decade.

  • The Ponz
    22:11 on June 30th, 2012
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    Somehow Michael Lewis went from Art History major at Princeton to investment banker with Salomon Brothers. In this book he shows that he understood what these markets are all about, in a way that eludes the grasp of people who may spend years majoring in finance, going to law school or business school and slaving away in these same markets without a clue as to how the whole thing hangs together.

    Using bond trading theory to trade whole companies and industries, as Lewis explains Michael Milken, is especially helpful, and it suggests that Warren Buffett is doing the same thing–buying companies by acting as a “preferred” lender.

    The “us v. them” relationship between an investment bank and its customers was interesting, and in our current market times, I see a lot of this in how financial planners do the same kind of petty ripoffs that Lewis describes using bigger dollars and bigger customers. It’s possible that today’s minor aspiring financial planner types could read this book and aspire to be an even bigger malefactor of great wealth. It’s refreshing that Lewis bailed out of the business, and this book stands the test of time as a continuing accurate diagnosis of the problems with sinners running markets. The trouble is , there will never be anyone else to run them.

    At the end of the book, he seems to have a weakness for praising John Meriwether. Isn’t that the guy who lost a huge sum of money in the recent “Long Term Capital” hedging disaster? Even that proves the point of this book, which is that none of these guys care at all about anything but the dollars to be made in front of their nose at the moment. Exactly as Adam Smith said.

  • Dailey
    0:21 on July 1st, 2012
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    I picked up a copy of this book after reading Moneyball – Michael Lewis’s book on the business of baseball (an excellent book that I have now read several times). Although Wall Street does not hold the interest to me that baseball does, this is an entertaining and informative book on big money trading in the 80′s. I was engaged from start to finish with the personalities of the folks at Salomon Brothers (the firm which Lewis trained and worked for). Although I am not familiar with the details of bond trading, this was a facinating journey and well told. Fun to read about Milken, Perelman, Icahn from the days when they were only known by readers of the Wall Street Journal and not household names. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys finding out about corporate culture and how the personalities of the individual can shape and effect the whole. Then pick-up Moneyball and see how a maverick personality has started to effect change in baseball.

  • Ex-Aol'r
    0:49 on July 1st, 2012
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    **** I read this book in my last undergraduate year of college.At that time, Lewis provided me with an eye-opening, first-hand glance oflife in the high-flying world of finance (1980′s) and the personalities that drove that period forward. It was relevant reading material since I was intending to pursue a career in the financial services industry, and here was a book written by a former bond salesman in the New York and London offices of Salomon Brothers. **** Nevertheless, this book is not limited to only those interested or involved in the world of business. This book is for anybody who is curious how the S&L crisis emerged; how the Reagan administration’s deregulations affected the salaries of a select few in the US financial industry; how much the tax burden of the average American citizen grew as a result. This book is perfect for those who dislike the dry writing found in historical textbooks. **** Lewis’s anecdotes will leave you in stitches! I am now working in the financial services industry. Most of the people I run into seem to have read this book at an earlier age and most enjoyed it as much as I did. **NOTE** Other “financial history” books that could be compared to “Liar’s Poker”, but written with very different writing styles: “Merchants of Debt” by George Anders; “Barbarians at the Gate”.

  • Mary Ann
    1:15 on July 1st, 2012
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    Liar’s Poker is a memoir of Michael Lewis’ brief career as a bond salesman with Salomon Brothers, which was the largest investment bank of its era (think Goldman Sachs today). While the book is often humorous and insightful, it lacks direction at times. The book begins and ends with Lewis’ own experience, but jammed in the middle is a brief history of Salomon Brothers and the decisions they made in the 1980s. The most interesting and humorous narratives in the book come from Lewis’ own experiences.

    In addition to being a humorous take on Wall Street and its culture, the book also serves as a primer to anyone who is interested in the Wall Street today. Liar’s Poker documents the creation of some of the financial instruments (mortgage bonds and CMOs)that are directly responsible for the financial mess American finds itself in today.

    The book is a great, easy read, but you should borrow it from the library; the book isn’t worth owning; you will read it once and never open it again.

    RECOMMENDATION: Read, but don’t buy.

  • Plunk
    2:40 on July 1st, 2012
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    If you like Michael Lewis, football, the biblical story of the Good Samaritan, or a good “rags to riches” story, you will love Lewis’ latest work, “Blind Side.” The book is the true story of Michael Oher, a black kid from the poorest, drug infested part of Memphis (Tennessee), who broke from the cycle of being hopelessly poor to making it as a highly recruited college football player. His is an unusual story because it was the white world that had so unusually aided and abetted his rise.

    “Blind Side” tells the story of how Oher’s odds in life changed dramatically with the help of a coach, Big Tony, who promised Oher’s dying grandmother he would make sure Michael got a good Christian education. Big Tony landed Michael on the doorstep of a rich, evangelical, Republican Memphis family, the Touhy’s. “He left a neighborhood in which he could drive all day without laying eyes on a white person for one where a black person was a bit of a curiousity.”

    Illiteracy, bad grades, car crashes, a night with the Memphis police, and NCAA investigation, men in the street who offered to become his agent could have all sent Oher back to his former home, Hurt village, the prison of his past, if it were not for his social connection to white people. Instead, the world that had once taken no notice of him was now so invested in him that it could not afford to see him fail.

    The problem for Michael, as it is for many children mired in the world of poverty, was not intelligence, but rather, access to the system. While sports is the closest thing to a pure meritocracy in America, five of six public school kids with the ability to play college sports (the way out) fail to gain access due to academic disqualification. “Blind Side” is the story of academic and emotional support culminating in access.

    Lewis is generous in developing the key figures in Michael’s life. The book is full of interesting storylines relating to people responsible for his impoverished background, and for his unusual journey out of poverty. Lewis also devotes considerable space to the emergence of the left offensive tackle (he protects the “blind side”) as the second most valued, after the quarterback, position in professional football. The rising importance of the left tackle position is another convergence that plays a key role in Michael’s successful outcome.

    “Blind Side” is a great, thought provoking read. It may challenge your thinking about those born into poverty and their inability to escape their environment to gain access.

  • johnnym
    4:22 on July 1st, 2012
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    Liar’s Poker is a personal account of life at Wall Street’s most successful firm in the 1980s: Salomon Brothers. The novel follows the wild roller coaster ride that was Salomon Brothers; from their ascension to the top of the mortgage-backed securities market led by the charismatic Lewis Ranieri to their eventual descent into Wall Street mediocrity. The author, Michael Lewis, chronicles his personal experiences starting with Salomon’s frat-like trainee program and following his career across the Atlantic to the London offices of Salomon Bros. Along the way he describes the competitive, cut-throat atmosphere of bond trading at Salomon and fills in spaces with a variety of colorful, charismatic characters.

    One character that stood out to me was the “father of securitization” Lewis Ranieri. Ranieri, a college dropout, got his start in Salomon Bros mailroom in 1968 and managed, in 10 years, to become the head of their Mortgage department. At the time the rest of Salomon Bros looked down their noses at Ranieri and his blue collared group of mortgage traders. Their department made less money and was comprised of fat, obnoxious, loud traders. Lewis Ranieri personally traversed the country selling the idea of MBS to investors and politicians and ultimately lobbying in Washington D.C. His hardwork paid off as he created a market and made Salomon Brothers hundreds of millions of dollars. His hardwork and success was paid back by Salomon when they fired him in 1987. Such a shame.

    Back to the story though…Lewis’s retelling of the raucous, juvenile attitudes that purveyed at Salomon is hilarious. Certain portions of the book get a bit too technical when Lewis over-explains stock market intricacies. Unfortunately some parts read like a textbook. I almost put the book down about halfway through due to the boredom I found reading the ins and outs of junk bonds, MBS and other trader jargon.

    Thankfully I didn’t put the book down. I perservered and was rewarded with an engaging, enjoyable second half of Liar’s Poker which focuses on Lewis’s evolution from trading floor “geek” to his final status as the ultimate trader, a “Big Swinging Dick.” Excellent book whether you’re into the stock market or not. Lewis isn’t the world’s greatest writer, but he certainly gets the job done.

  • Believe it
    5:49 on July 1st, 2012
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    I think when most people think of Michael Lewis, they think of Moneyball – the book that rocked major league baseball. I also think of Liar’s Poker, an interesting look into the bond business in the eighties. Heck, I still quote “Equities in Dallas” from time to time. Anyway, when I saw this, I was excited because football is the most strategic of all sports, and this could have shed a lot of light on such a fascinating subject.

    Unfortunately, that was not the case. It is an interesting book, but the “Evolution” of the game is that left tackles are now considered pretty important. That’s the evolution. Sorry I gave it away. There is some history of football, recruiting, the west coast offense, and the development of the offensive line, but it’s not that much.

    Most of the book is a touchy feely story of an offensive tackle who is adopted by a rich white family and through their help, turns his life into an living afternoon television special. While somewhat touching, it got a little too bogged down in the details and turned pretty much into a sappy drama.

    Yes, it is readable, and fun, but really nothing to recommend.

  • T. A. Whiston
    7:52 on July 1st, 2012
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    Book: A nonfiction book without graphs, charts, or pictures that is a combination biography of Michael Oher and an examination of the NFL from the late 1970s to today.

    Review: The author of Moneyball, Michael Lewis, returns with another sports book, this time focused on football (the USA version of the word). Lewis tracks the changing nature of the NFL, and the changing importance of certain positions. As time advanced the manner in which the game is played evolved, lead by the strategists (as opposed to the brute force school), mainly Bill Walsh. The strategists pushed an offensive system that used a more organized systematic method of offensive production (a more “chess board” approach) that increased the average yards per pass, increased the total number of passes, relative to total and to percentage of plays vs. run plays, and, oddly enough also increased the completion rate at the same time. This new method, which has been called by some the “West Coast Offense”, coupled with a new player/management system that allowed free agency, drove one particular position to the forefront.

    In the past everyone that played on the offensive line believed himself (as indicated in the book) to be playing a position that was non-individualistic (more team-focused), and interchangeable (play Center, Guard, Tackle, left-right did not matter). Adding in the lack of measurable production numbers, the pay for players on the offensive line reflected this “throw any body in there” mentality. Then things began to change, both with an offensive system that advanced the use of the pass to the point where it became much more feasible to stress the pass over the run and win games, and with advent of the counter to this system. The advanced pass system opened up a new realm of offensive production, but also opened up the quarterback to danger. Why? Because the blockers who would normally be back for the run, are forward as potential targets for a pass (not specifically the same players). This allowed players like Lawrence Taylor to run forward and clobber the QB (though, he likely would have been able to do so anyway, there were just fewer people between him and the quarterback after the change in offensive systems). The position pushed to the forefront by the changes in the game? Left tackle. Why left tackle as opposed to any other position on the field, like say right tackle? Because the left tackle guarded the quarterback’s blind side (right-handed quarterback, and most are right-handed). While the system was in transition, most salaries remained the same for offensive linemen, while an increasing number of quarterbacks became injured, sometimes with career injuries. Then free agency came about, and everyone awaited the avalanche of money to fall on quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. Oddly enough, a good portion of this free agent money, though, went to left tackles. GM’s realized that they needed a great left tackle to protect their quarterback, and without one, even the best quarterback will have lower production.

    This realization flowed down to the college level, and somewhat down to the high school level. Especially down to one particular kid by the name of Michael Oher. Oher was a gigantic black kid from the poorest area of Memphis when he joined a private high school and began his rise up the social-economic ladder.

    Lewis’ book examines this change in the NFL system, while spending the majority of his time following the career of Michael Oher up to the present (2006) as a sophomore in college. The sections with information about the changes in the football world are intermixed with sections on the life of Michael Oher (includes: life in a very poor section of Memphis, introduction to a private high school and figurative, then literal adoption by two rich white people, the transformation of a young man from having an IQ of 80 to roughly having an IQ of 110, and advancement from high school to college football).

    I enjoy sports, including football, but am most familiar with the inner-workings of baseball. I tended to follow the same fan path as noted in Lewis’ book in which most football fans follow the ball, and pay less attention to the other action on the field that is sometimes more important in moving the ball (like the offensive line-defense battle). This particular book provided me with a great deal of insight into an area of the football field that I had never really considered, and never really understood.

  • Bernard Moon
    9:06 on July 1st, 2012
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    In short, reading Michael Lewis’ account of his tumultuous two-year stint at Salomon Brothers in the mid-1980s delivers all the pleasure and enjoyment of reading good pulp fiction. Lewis is — much to my surprise, I must admit — an extremely talented writer with a gift for metaphor and the art of character description and analysis.

    One of the endearing things about this book, I think, is that it is laced with a certain self-deprecating tone. Lewis’ basic thesis (although I don’t think he really believes it) is that the the most glaring sign of Salomon’s impending demise was that it started hiring people such as himself. Despite many self-effacing comments, however, Lewis points out repeatedly that he was the highest paid — and thus best producing — young bond salesman at Salomon during his tenure and seeks to assure the reader that he isn’t some scorned ex-employee who couldn’t hack the perils of life on the trading floor.

    Lewis dedicates a few chapters to explaining the rise of the mortgage trading desk at Salomon and the junk bond market under Michael Milken at Drexel Burnham, although neither have much to do with Lewis’ career as a government bond salesman in Salomon’s London Office. Did the author think this gave proper perspective and background to the telling of his personal story or was it an effort to pad out an already short piece of work? Probably a bit of both, is my guess.

    In sum, if you approach this book (as I did) as a roman a clef, with all the exaggerations and artistic license associated with fiction, rather than a legitimate memoir, you’ll probably get a lot more enjoyment out of it. It is funny, fast-paced, often incredible — and will quickly expunge any thoughts you once had of being an investment banker, no matter how high the salaries might be.

  • Estela Zagami
    10:19 on July 1st, 2012
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    Hilarious book, pretty insightful to the machinations of bond trading and the excess of the’80s. A definite recommendation for avid business readers and all other readers alike. The story however is reads like a tale versus other typical business books

  • Abe Miskelly
    11:52 on July 1st, 2012
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    Having read Liar’s Poker and Moneyball, I expected this book to be in the same genre: Exploration of a niche of an industry intertwined with profiles of a few illustrative players. This is _not_ a book about an aspect of football, but rather about people whose involvement with football is a peripheral part of this book. As other reviewers here have noted, the evolution of the offensive left tackle is only a small portion of the book – I would refer to it more as a synopsis than as an account. And a badly flawed one that indicates that the author has inconsequential knowledge of, or interest in, football. For example, in explaining Bill Walsh’s system, the author is dismissive of the skills of Joe Montana, ignoring that he was widely reported as being exceptional in his ability to quickly and accurately move through “the progression” (the potential receivers) and this was critical to making Walsh’s system work, as were Montana’s leadership and motivational skills.

    As for the individuals followed, this is not so much a story of Michael Oher, but more of the Tuohy family that take him in and plays a critical role in getting Oher past the obstacles. This is understandable: Oher is portrayed as a very difficult interview plus Sean Tuohy is a childhood friend of the author.

    The promotional materials claim that the need for left tackles has percolated down from the NFL to colleges to high schools. But in this book, I saw nothing about high school preparing Oher for this position–he was used as a run blocker. And the book covers only his freshman year in college–in which he played right guard–and does NOT describe his play in any of the games (this is a sign of how much the author depended on the Tuohy’s for this info).

    The description of his recruiting by colleges is generic–he could have been any highly rated prospect. There is virtually no discussion of the arguments that the recruiters made–quality of opponents, quality of training, coaching, mentoring, … There was more space spent on the inducements offered to Sean Jr.

    The book feels badly padded–there is far too much repetition of biographic details–to the point that it becomes annoying.

    I did NOT find this to be an uplifting story (unlike some reviewers here). A major support system arranged by the Tuohy’s kept Oher from failing, but at the end of the book he still has massive deficits. It came across more as a Sisyphean effort for the Tuohy’s (Camus variety–work in which there is honor).

    The author portrays Oher as a sure-thing for the NFL on the basis of build and athleticism. I am skeptical–Oher has learning difficulties, is immature in many areas, and seems to need a full-time personal guidance counselor/motivator. Plus he seems to have a serious potential for self-destruction.
    Update Oct 2009: Happily I was wrong: Oher was drafted in the first round (23rd) and became an immediate impact player for the Baltimore Ravens.

    There is a big gap in the story that made me wonder about the rest of the account of Oher and the Tuohy’s: The description of how and why Oher chose Ole Miss is fuzzy. The description of Oher’s freshman year at Ole Miss makes it seem a bad choice–both for football (mediocre players and coaching staff and an untried head coach) and social/educational. My inference was that the Tuohy’s believed that Oher continued to need a support system beyond that supplied by the football program (eg, his own personal tutor, the Tuohy’s connections, ready access to the Tuohy’s themselves) and that that was more important than the strength of the football program. I expect that portions of the story were softened out to not embarrass Oher. However, I had to wonder if the story was also being softened because Tuohy is a friend of the author.

    Note: I most definitely am not criticizing the Tuohy’s for providing additional support for Oher at college. Three of my high school friends were recruited to play football at major colleges (in 1960′s). One made it to the NFL (high draft choice) and two dropped out during their freshman year: they went from being standouts (offense linemen) to being below average for their position (physical size) and they didn’t have the support to cope with all the simultaneous changes and pressures. This situation would have made an interesting portion of this book, but is barely visible.

    One of the joys of Moneyball was the accounts of the teams and managers that resisted analytical assessment and stuck with the conventional wisdom, and how the latter differed from the former. There is none of this here. The high school football coach who resisted using Oher is later praised as brilliant. The evolution of the game is treated as a pair of family trees rooted in Walsh and Parcells.

  • George Lyle Walker
    13:21 on July 1st, 2012
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    If you are looking for the football version of Moneyball you might be a bit disppointed by Blind Side. It’s not really that kind of book. (Indeed, there are few books that completely alter one’s view of a subject the way Moneyball did) There are some interesting chapters about Bill Walsh and the innovations he brought to the offensive side of football, but Blind Side is much more of a human interest story. It’s a highly readable and engaging story and it will surely make you pay more attention next time an Ole Miss game is on TV. I highly recommend it.

  • ash raiyan
    13:52 on July 1st, 2012
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    In the 1980′s, Michael Lewis was a neophyte bond salesman for Salomon Brothers in New York and London for four years. Liar’s Poker is a high-stakes game the traders, salesmen, and executives play each afternoon, but it is also a metaphor for the Salomon culture of extreme risk-taking with immediate payoffs and clear winners and losers.

    This is the story of how Lewis survived the training program, inept but mean-spirited management, an aborted take-over even featuring a white knight, layoffs and the 1987 market crash before quitting to find his real calling as a business journalist. While Lewis’s career did not take off quickly, he eventually became a highly paid producer, although not in the league of the true top dogs.

    Lewis tells the real story of Wall Street in both go-go and crash days with self-deprecating humor enlivened with his ecletic wit. Colorful and well-known Wall Street characters appear such as Michael Milken, Lazlo Birini, Warren Buffett, Bill Simon, Sr. and John Guetfruend. All business students need to read this as even those with advanced degrees in finance such as myself, will learn how things really work. The story of how the junk bond and collateralized mortgage backed security markets emerge is told to fill in a chapter in financial history. Perhaps most interesting is some of the political machinations, rampant at Salomon, which lead for example for Salomon to ignore the junk bond market, allowing others to flourish and eventually attempt to take-over Salomon using junk bonds.

    Lewis also describes for all investors the conflicts of interest and lack of governance on Wall Street long before Eliot Spitzer and Arthur Levitt became the champions of the little guy. My next step is to read Lewis’s later books.

  • John Tamos
    14:57 on July 1st, 2012
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    A well-written book that exposes the “Money-is-God” attitude of Wall Street. From the profane, fat, slovenly, polyester-wearing traders that stuff their mouths all day long, to the frat-boy Ivy League trainees who heave paper-wads at the Salomon directors speaking in the training classes, one gets a highly accurate picture of the inside of a Wall Street investment banking firm.

    I was particularly amused by two anecdotes; the author had his first encounter with Salomon Brothers when he was seated next to the wife of a Salomon director at a St. James Palace dinner hosted by the Queen Mother. Of course, as close as she would get to the guests would be to stroll out of the room followed by her trained Corgi dogs who genuflect every 15 seconds. Perhaps insulted by the Queen Mother’s indifference at her presence, the director’s wife shouted out, “Hey Queen, nice dogs you have there!” after she passed. The second amusing anecdote occurs when the author is interviewed several times but not offered a job. Eventually a friend tells him that Salomon does not actually offer someone a job. Consequently, the author calls up the firm and says, “I accept the position”, upon which he is welcomed as a new member of Salomon Brothers.

    The book also exposes the dirty little secret that Wall Street makes its money by entering into adversarial relationships with their clients. The author refers to this as “taking the other side of the fool”. Specifically, Wall Street attempts to keep spreads on securities artificially wide in order to pocket that spread, for which they were ultimately busted by the SEC and heavily fined. They also hype stocks that they know are garbage because they have investment banking relationships with those companies (Merrill Lynch was just busted for this by the state of New York and heavily fined). Also, the investment banking fees they charge their clients to raise capital are grossly excessive, but their clients are too naive to understand this, or perhaps more accurately do not even care.

    Ultimately, the decline of the company that is chronicled in the book provides the following insight; even though Salomon always tried to hire the best and the brightest, this “talent” was eventually negated by the incompetence that arises from any hierarchical organization. That is to say, the brilliance of the few is always neutralized by the incompetence of the many inherent in the corporate structure.

  • Jim BailSilly
    16:30 on July 1st, 2012
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    The Blind Side, by Michael Lewis, is primarily a biography of projected future NFL first-round draft pick Michael Oher and secondarily a history of the evolution of the left tackle position in the NFL.

    Lewis chronicles how Oher, who bounced around as a child and never learned to learn, was taken in by the wealthy Tuohy family, how they helped him to learn and to play football, and how he went on to start at Ole Miss. Lewis does an excellent job communicating the characters’ personalities to the reader, particularly Oher’s.

    Interspersed throughout the book are historical anecdotes about the evolution of the left tackle position. Lewis gives particular attention to Lawrence Taylor and the shift to fast, destructive pass rushers, and to Bill Walsh, who was one of the first coaches to emphasize protection of the quarterback’s blind side.

    While Lewis tells a very interesting story, his writing style has its flaws. He jumps around quite a bit, which is almost as distracting (he just does it one too many times) as the sentence fragments he loves to sprinkle in. Lewis also uses the wrong word a few times. He mixes up “insure” and “ensure”. He calls linemen “ectomorphs” (ectomorphs have slender builds). The copy editor for this book was asleep at the switch.

    On the whole, this is an interesting and entertaining book about a likable young man, and a good recap of a major strategic shift in the NFL.

  • okinawa_dato
    17:18 on July 1st, 2012
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    Like most of Michael Lewis’ books, this one read easily and agreeably. Michael Oher’s story is genuinely fascinating and inspiring. I skipped through some of the football history parts, as I found these too lengthy and lacking my interest in the story.

    The Tuohy family is to be admired for its altruism, dedication, affection, and determination in creating purpose and opportunity for this kid from the projects.

    As the book moves along, my appreciation of (mother) Leigh Anne Tuohy personality gradually diminishes, as her seeming almost snobby fixation of- and incessant reference to the (lavish) standards of belonging to the Tuohy family became nauseating.

    On the other side (father) Sean Tuohy’s role in Michael Oher’s life gains in stature as the book moves along. Sean Tuohy’s determination to find loopholes in order for Michael Oher to reach the necessary GPA and be permitted to attend college, I appreciate as a father. The existing loopholes and the murky ways to reach a set GPA, as described in the book, I find highly debatable, if not unacceptable. It partially negates the purpose of an academic life and demonstrates a different set of rules with regard to gifted athletes.

    Regardless Michael Oher is a remarkable individual, who crossed an immense number of obstacles, through character strength and resolve, undoubtedly aided by an exceptionally selfless family.

  • Tsiolkovsky
    18:59 on July 1st, 2012
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    I have read a lot of ‘insider’ accounts of high finance and I am amazed by how much they all seem to owe Michael Lewis for writing “Liar’s Poker.” From “Monkey Business” to works of fiction like “All I Could Get” to even movies such as “Boiler Room,” all of them seem to have borrowed heavily from Lairs Poker.

    In this book Lewis tells the story of Solomon Brothers from its ascendancy from a small bond trading house, to the world’s most profitable corporation to it’s decline and eventual reorganization.

    Lewis narrates his story from the perspective he had as a Solomon bond salesman in the mid 1980′s. This book shows off two of Michael Lewis best talents:

    1.) The ability to covey the feeling of how it was while he was there.
    2) The ability to write about events/activities in the past (or halfway around the world) AS IF HE WERE THERE.

    In this book, Lewis is a witness, a critic and a historian all at the same time and in comes together well. Reading this book, I kept think that Michael Lewis is too observant, insightful, and people-oriented to stay on Wall St. Maybe deciding to write this book, getting himself out of Solomon while getting back at his superiors, was just another smart trade.

    Maybe someday I’ll read another `insider’ account book that will blow me way, but for now “Liar’s Poker” is the gold standard for the genre.

  • upjnirxa
    20:20 on July 1st, 2012
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    Warning to potential buyers: this book is not the text version of the Sandra Bullock movie, which from the trailers appears to have simplified the story down to Disney level. This is a book about football first and foremost, with the story of Michael Oher interwoven.

    The author begins by providing a history of the economy for specific types of NFL players using anecdotes and data about changing trends in football. This is all done so that we can understand how Michael Oher’s arrival on the football scene became such a sensation, and also quite possibly for the love of the game as well. I found these parts of the book incredibly educational and enlightening.

    The story then begins to focus on Oher himself. This tale is not as simple as the movie would perhaps have you believe. As much as my heart would love to think that the Touhy family saw him sitting on the side of the road, brought him home, and adopted him, this book makes it clear that it was not that simple. Without telling the entire story, it definitely left me wondering what would have happened to Michael Oher if he couldn’t play football, and for me, called into question a bit the Touhy’s motivations. Oher must be an absolutely brilliant young man if he improved academically in the way described in the book; but these talents are not encouraged by the Touhys except as a way to get into college so he can play ball. Then again, that may just be the whole point of the book–the power of football.

    Overall, I really enjoyed the book’s primer on the history of player market value in the NFL, as well as the background on coaching styles. To football diehards this information may be old news but it’s worth a second look. Finally, regarding the Oher part of the book, I confess that I was not left with a great impression of the Touhy family. However, the author’s analysis of the nuances involved in this story was appreciated far more than the sanitized version.

  • Dan Reed
    21:25 on July 1st, 2012
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    Like in Moneyball and Liar’s Poker, Michael Lewis examines a culture, e.g., baseball, stock market, and now football, while interspersing a biography illuminating the underlying culture.

    In this case, Mr. Lewis shows how the left tackle position has rose from obscurity in the 1960s into one of the highest-paid positions in the current game. The initial focus is in how specialized a person must be to play this position as the highest level (more rare than many other positions). After this description, Mr. Lewis introduces us to Michael Oher, a person who has all of the physical tools and then some but has never played organized sports and has basically been abandoned since early childhood.

    The people (parents, coaches, etc.) all want to help Mr. Oher fulfill his potential. However, it doesn’t come off as being completely altrusitic as all benefit whom are in his presence, e.g., coach parlays his involvement into a college coaching position. In addition, the recruiting battles for Mr. Oher’s services amplify these traits.

    His adoptive parents and coaches seem angelic compared to the NCAA in this story. One of the most sobering statitistics quoted in this book is that only one of five players capable of playing in the NFL ever make through the legal and educational morass that is the NCAA.

    It’s hard not to root for Mr. Oher and I would think we’ll see his name at the top of the draft board in 2007-2008. Excellent book and highly recommended.

  • Joeusa
    22:38 on July 1st, 2012
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    What a great read. A friend of mine recommended this to me and I can say that it certainly was a refreshing read.

    This book tells you about some of the influential people who shaped Salomon Brothers and Wall St in the eighties. I never realised the history that went with Salomon Brothers.

    The style is great and I can really identify with the author’s early years going through the stages of obtaining and starting a job. Some of the characters in the book are hilarious, you can only just believe they are real.

    Only one complaint: sometimes the author goes on for quite a long time with his history e.g. the history of junk bonds and the history of various people in SB. I only wish that there was more about the author’s story.

    Only one gripe though, and it can’t prevent this from being a 5 star book.

    Buy it now! Thanks to the book, I am now constantly searching for books like this but this is the only one I have found recounting the story of a salesman as opposed to a trader.

  • Andryan
    23:11 on July 1st, 2012
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    The story of Michael Oher is one of the great, touching personal stories coming out of the 2009 NFL Draft. From a homeless child born to a drug-addled mother to his early days with a wealthy Tennessee family and onward through high school and college, Michael’s tale is remarkable, poignant and touching. It would be difficult to imagine reading this and not being moved by it.

    But it is the story of the history of the left tackle position as well as the story of a young boy growing into a man. While it could stand on its own as a ‘coming of age’ tale, it is in the skilled talents of Michael Lewis and his deft wrapping of the individual threads of history and modern thought with personal challenge, effort and triumph that makes this one of the best sports reads of the decade.

  • bigstrapr
    0:41 on July 2nd, 2012
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    This should be required reading analysts and associates along with `Monkey Business: Swinging Through the Wall Street Jungle’ and `Goldman Sachs: The Culture of Success’. Each gives a different and illuminating perspective on the ups and downs of the many different departments that make up large, institutional finance organizations. Moreover, there are in totality especially useful if you have no idea about how finance actually operates on a day-to-day basis beyond what you see in your economics courses (definitely the case at Harvard, U Chicago, MIT and the like, where these firms heavily recruit). Can definitely give those without and an internship or direct experience the ability to level the playing field to a large degree.

  • He Was Early
    2:00 on July 2nd, 2012
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    As both an avid sports fan and reader of sports literature I found this to be by far the most outstanding sports related book I’ve ever read. (I’ve read lots of them)
    Michael Lewis does a superb job of combining football statistics with human life drama as he chronicles the serendepidous coming together of the Touhy family and Michael Oher and all that follows.
    If you love big time college football you’ll enjoy reading about recruiting tactics of big time coaches, i.e. Fullmer, Saban, & others.
    If you love NFL football you’ll enjoy the statistical based reasoned explanation of how the game has evolved & changed over the past couple of decades. Throw in descriptions of personalities about prominent NFL people, i.e. Walsh, Ogden, Wallace, and others and you have a statistical based explanation with a genuine human approach.
    Lewis is “Grishamesque” in his treatment of Michael Oher – I’m pulling for Michael to become an all pro left tackle.
    Details of Michael’s struggles, perserverance and successes brought tears to my eyes. Details of the Touhy family’s care and nurturing of Michael reinforced my belief in the good of mankind. The world needs more people like them!!
    Michael’s final encounter with Antonio Turner caused me to jump to my feet, thrust my fist into the air and say, YES!!!!
    This book is an incredible read about life, fate,big time sports and the economic value of highly skilled athletes. It is also about something more – the great economic and cultural divide in this country as evidenced by Urban America in general and Hurt Village and Dixie Homes in particular. Political leaders and public policy makers should read this book – it strikes at the heart of one of our country’s greatest challenges in the 21st century – how do we close the gap between the “haves and have nots?”

  • maneric
    2:42 on July 2nd, 2012
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    I read this book with three hats on; as an RN/EMT, a coach and dad of 2 adopted African American sons. Mr. Lewis nails the entire experience of a homeless child-athlete coming to age in a loving family. He certainly has done his homework. However, I kept getting the impression that he was going to have an ending to the story. The ending leaves me with one big question–why was this book written before the real story is allowed to unfold? It did leave me with many questions however he jumped at the chance to document only part of the real story of what it is like to be a black athlete coming up–I would have been far more impressed with knowing why the book was written. I am left wondering more about the author’s relationship to the family who took a talented young black athlete in and if he is trying to help their cause more than to document the struggles of promising young athletes scooped from the streets. All in all not a bad book.

  • Maris Billus
    3:43 on July 2nd, 2012
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    Lewis is a witty guy, and this makes it an enjoyable read. He does try to make some serious points, and basically demonstrates that an Art History major makes for great conversation and metaphors, but little true insight. Lastly, always beware of people who hold themselves out as the only rational/honest guy in the bunch.

  • Rita Martinez
    4:43 on July 2nd, 2012
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    Not a card game at all but a game of bluff and sizing up your opponent. It is very appropriate that the book starts off with the example of John Gutfreund (CEO of Salomon) trying to engage his chief bond trader in a single round of Liars Poker for 1 million dollars, because it is symptomatic of the egos of the players, the money that was being made and the excesses that characterised what is now generally called the greed decade.

    Lewis’s perspective is that of an insider as he was a bond trader for Salomon Brothers in their New York and London offices. It’s generally a very funny story with some hilarious descriptions of some of the characters and their behavior. Hilarious that is, until you realise that damage was being done to lives, companies and industries. As the author so succintly put it “the range of acceptable conduct…was wide indeed.It said something about the ability of the free marketplace to mold people’s behavior into a socially acceptable pattern…this was capitalism at its most raw, and it was self-destructive.” That this was true he goes on to illustrate with stories about trades gone bad, deals losing millions, and people skewered for things they had no knowledge of. I guess you could say that this was Darwinian Capitalism, these people had evolved into predators and were at the top of the food chain. Lewis himself says as much “the place was governed by the simple understanding that the unbridled pursuit of perceived self-interest was healthy. Eat or be eaten.” It is no coincidence that one of his colleagues was called the Human Piranha!. Naturally, behaviour like this will lead to a messy ending and so it is, with the story culminating with a description of the Stock Market crash of ’87 and Salomon itself in trouble.

    I read this book at about the same time as ‘Den of Thieves’ and would recommend both (that is, if you are interested in a historical view of Wall Street; remember these events took place 10-15 years ago). Liars Poker is good for the witty personal perspective Lewis brings, the other book gives a broader view of Wall Street and an investigative journalistic perspective of the insider trading scandal involving Michael Milken et al.

  • Steve R.
    6:17 on July 2nd, 2012
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    The book is hilarious. It’s still one of my favorite gifts for friends in school or starting out in the business. Some people don’t like the middle of the book, which is a bit of a history lesson. But the history lesson is a good one and should be be compared to in the industry today for those who are in the business. The beginning and the end are hilarious

  • Ex-Aol'r
    6:33 on July 2nd, 2012
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    In “The Blind Side,” the masterful non-fiction writer Michael Lewis tells the fairy tale story of Michael Oher, a young man whom society, family, and school have abandoned and would’ve bound to be at best a bodyguard of the local drug boss except that God has blessed him with all the attributes of the perfect NFL left tackle — and thus destined to become one of the most highly-paid individuals in NFL history. Lewis now spins into this Hollywood narrative analysis of the evolution of NFL football, making the book feel sometimes like “Moneyball” (which I think is the best business ever to be published) and sometimes like Nicholas Sparks (it really is hard to match this author for saccharine lameness, but Lewis does put in a very good effort on many a page).

    The genesis of the book is in 2003 when the author meets with his elementary school classmate Sean Tuohy, a Taco Bell franchisee who recently decided to adopt a reticent black giant. Here’s what we know about Sean Tuohy. He was a basketball player at Old Mississippi State University, and he continues to support heavily its athletics. He’s supposedly rich because he lives a very lavish lifestyle (with his own plane called Air Taco), but as a leveraged entrepreneur his finances are also extremely shaky. Being a former athlete who must now spot and seize business opportunities, Sean Tuohy must have noticed the potential of Michael Oher when he suddenly became a classmate of his daughter’s at a posh Christian private school. And Sean did have a habit of befriending the poor black athletes at the school. All this is important information that does not of course take anything away from how the Tuohy family adopted Michael, and turned his life around: giving the future football superstar a home and a family, teaching him the manners and the culture that he would need to survive in the world, and bringing in a tutor as well as strategies to ensure that he could get into college. But if these circumstances were enough to warrant an investigation of the NCAA (to see if the Tuohy family had adopted a poor black giant in order to secure a football superstar for their alma mater) then surely Mr. Lewis might have mentioned some of these facts in the beginning to bring some journalism balance to the story.

    But these facts come towards the middle and end of the narrative, which by then I’ve become completely engrossed in this too-good-to-be-true narrative. Learning of these things I became disillusioned by the narrative, and started flipping through what I believed to be the author’s flippant excuses for the behavior of the Tuohy family. Yes, it was good and noble and Christian of the Tuohy family to adopt Michael Oher, but if Michael Oher were poor and black and small with AIDS and ADHD, would the family still have adopted him? And towards the end the family contemplated whether it should be their noble mission on this earth to adopt many poor disadvantaged gifted black athletes so that they may have future professional careers.

    There’s many reasons to like this book. It’s an uplifting narrative that is bound to be a Hollywood blockbuster. It’s an easy-to-read book that can be finished on a flight from New York to San Franscico. But there’s only one problem with the book, and that it’s not a Michael Lewis book which is why I began to read this book in the first place.

    “Liar’s Poker” was a funny and insightful memoir and a powerful condemnation of Wall Street that is still required reading for college undergraduates today. “Moneyball” is business analysis at its very best, and is probably required reading for MBAs today. But “The Blind Side,” while entertaining and may become the most lucrative of all the author’s books, is by far not his best.

  • Jared Winston
    7:03 on July 2nd, 2012
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    Though Liar’s Poker was written roughly a decade ago and Wall Street has changed somewhat since then, it is still a humorous and pertinent read. Lewis’ prose flows well and pauses occasionally to bring his reader historically up to date. As a memoir, it is the only one I’ve found that truly takes you into the mind and life of a Wall Street trader. Perhaps it is time for someone to write about the late 90′s equivalent of the hotshot Lewis…the Wall Street Research Analyst.

  • Koonta
    8:18 on July 2nd, 2012
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    Coming from an “insider” this tells the story about the inner workings of the finance company rather beautifully. The situations created are hilarious and the author is certainly witty at times – which overall makes it a nice, light book to read. Some of the chracters created are very interesting and funny. However, I have two gripes. One, the author is unable to hide his dislike for his company’s CEO and it comes out from the book that he is less than fair to him. Two, the book gets a little technical at times going into, for example, the details of how a mortgage bond work and why is better (or not) vis a vis a junk bond. Coming from a bond salesman they are not rather expected but they do take away the basic flow of the book. Overall a funny book with average grades.

  • franinchicago
    9:42 on July 2nd, 2012
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    Many people have seen the movie by now and, as someone who loves to compare books to their adaptations, I felt that I should read the book. The two start out similarly enough, counting the less than five seconds it could take from the snap of the ball in a play to ending someone’s career. But from their they diverge in a lot of ways.

    While the movie focuses solely on the life of Michael Ohr and how he came to play left tackle in the NFL, the book has a much larger undertaking. Lewis delves into the history of the sport and seeks to explain its evolution-from running game to passing game, from the left tackle being considered the same as any offensive lineman to being considered a unique and high-paid player. A part of me was interested in this information. The politics of sports is always fascinating to me since there’s so much going on that just being a fan of the sport you might miss. At the same time, that information isn’t as compelling as Michael’s story.

    This is the problem with a story being told from an outsider’s perspective (as opposed to from the point of view of someone who actually lived through the experience), it feels somewhat removed and impersonal and the outside facts tend to intrude.

    The one thing that the book had that the movie lacked was more details about the before (Michael’s childhood) and the after (what became of the Tuohy family and Michael). There’s more explanation of how Michael ended up where he did, though I think Lewis makes it all too simple to explain someone’s entire nature.

    It’s not the best of the sports books I’ve read in the last few months, but it is interesting to see how it differs from the movie and for football fans, there’s a lot of information about the sport that’s cool to learn.

  • No thanks
    10:31 on July 2nd, 2012
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    If you like Michael Lewis, football, the biblical story of the Good Samaritan, or a good “rags to riches” story, you will love Lewis’ latest work, “Blind Side.” The book is the true story of Michael Oher, a black kid from the poorest, drug infested part of Memphis (Tennessee), who broke from the cycle of being hopelessly poor to making it as a highly recruited college football player. His is an unusual story because it was the white world that had so unusually aided and abetted his rise.

    “Blind Side” tells the story of how Oher’s odds in life changed dramatically with the help of a coach, Big Tony, who promised Oher’s dying grandmother he would make sure Michael got a good Christian education. Big Tony landed Michael on the doorstep of a rich, evangelical, Republican Memphis family, the Touhy’s. “He left a neighborhood in which he could drive all day without laying eyes on a white person for one where a black person was a bit of a curiousity.”

    Illiteracy, bad grades, car crashes, a night with the Memphis police, and NCAA investigation, men in the street who offered to become his agent could have all sent Oher back to his former home, Hurt village, the prison of his past, if it were not for his social connection to white people. Instead, the world that had once taken no notice of him was now so invested in him that it could not afford to see him fail.

    The problem for Michael, as it is for many children mired in the world of poverty, was not intelligence, but rather, access to the system. While sports is the closest thing to a pure meritocracy in America, five of six public school kids with the ability to play college sports (the way out) fail to gain access due to academic disqualification. “Blind Side” is the story of academic and emotional support culminating in access.

    Lewis is generous in developing the key figures in Michael’s life. The book is full of interesting storylines relating to people responsible for his impoverished background, and for his unusual journey out of poverty. Lewis also devotes considerable space to the emergence of the left offensive tackle (he protects the “blind side”) as the second most valued, after the quarterback, position in professional football. The rising importance of the left tackle position is another convergence that plays a key role in Michael’s successful outcome.

    “Blind Side” is a great, thought provoking read. It may challenge your thinking about those born into poverty and their inability to escape their environment to gain access.

  • bob loblah
    12:41 on July 2nd, 2012
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    I picked this up after reading the excerpt in SI and thinking, “man, that would make a great book!” Well, not quite great. Then again, this wasn’t that book. If you read the SI excerpt and were looking for 300 pages of economic analysis on the value of the left tackle and the allocation of payroll resources in a salary capped NFL, you’ll have to settle for 50 pages of the subtitular “evolution of a game,” and about 250 pages of something else. I suspect that a lot of people will feel that this distribution makes this a more important book than the one I thought I was buying. Could be, but that doesn’t mean its a better one.

    What is the 250 pages of something else? The story of Michael Oher, a 6’6″, 350 lb. athletic freak wallowing in poverty and neglect in West Memphis’ ghetto, until he is discovered, saved and adopted by a wealthy suburban family with startlingly strong ties to the college where this presumptive best-of-the-next-generation NFL left tackle (and functionally illiterate, learning disabled, sub-2.0 high school GPAer) winds up.

    Lewis doesn’t explicitly state it until the acknowledgements, but the connection he sees between the Oher story and the evolution of a game story is as follows: had the left tackle not evolved into an important, highly specialized and highly compensated NFL asset, who would have cared about this poor black kid? Would his near-wasted life have ever been retreived from the scrap heap? Would mainstream (white) America ever have cared? Essentially, now that the redeemable qualitites of Michael Oher seem to be embodied by his material value and his earning potential, what are we to make of this?

    The connection between the stories is undoubtedly touchy-feely, not to mention a bit esoteric. I suspect he doesn’t assert it until the acknowledgements because it is a pragmatic view that can’t help but tarnish what I would argue were the adoptive family’s altruistic (if Shelley-esque and somewhat Conradian) motives. Also, problematically for me, Lewis admits in the acknowledgements that Sean Tuohy is a lifelong friend – a fact that if revealed before the action might have enlightened the reader as to why Lewis seems to take such a cavalier and trusting approach to the Tuohy family’s arguments regarding their interest in Michael, their role in the recruiting process, the very questionable means they employ to get the kid NCAA eligible, and more.

    That notwithstanding, Michael’s story is certainly an interesting one. My main problem with the book is that Lewis relies on the Oher story, I think because his premise is overblown and underproven. Just like the “Moneyball” philosophy.

    Lewis’ essential contention is that after the arrival of Lawrence Taylor (and a bevy of quick, blind side pass rushing Taylor clones), and the subsequent (or resultant) offensive shift to more quick hit, pass oriented West Coast style offenses, the NFL began to rethink the left tackle position. In so doing, left tackle became for NFl player personnel people, not just another O lineman, but the bodyguard of the QB – the man charged solely with protecting his blind side (when he is a right-handed thrower). Lewis argues somewhat convincingly that this revaluation was best evidenced by the skyrocketing left tackle salaries around the league once the NFL introduced free agency and allowed the market to operate in relative freedom.

    It’s a great story. And a nice argument. But, in the same way that “Moneyball” oversold the Oakland A’s allegedly ingenious fiscal strategy (still waiting on that A’s championship parade), this book tries to make a substantial argument out of a statistical molehill.

    Early on, Lewis moves rather fluidly and enjoyably between the evolution story and the Oher story. Then, for a hundred pages at once, he leaves the evolution story behind and belabors the Oher stuff. The return to Bill Walsh and the West Coast offense is welcome, but by now its clear that Lewis has left the realm of sports economist and become more social observer. If you enjoyed “Moneyball,” and for all its flaws, I did, this book is not going to be football’s “Moneyball.”

    It winds up more comparable to David Maraniss’ “Clemente,” a book that uses a sport in its social context to tell one person’s story. Michael Oher’s story is a good one to tell, but this jigsaw puzzle was cut in too small of pieces on too large a scale. Lewis says that he stumbled across the story looking for a magazine piece to write. I think he found it and didn’t realize it.

    Enjoy the SI excerpt to get the best of this effort by Lewis. If from the other reviews, you find the Oher story compelling, see “Hoop Dreams.”

  • Daniel Findermind
    13:50 on July 2nd, 2012
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    Liar’s Poker is a funny look at life on Wall Street; especially the life of lower-level employees getting their start in the financial world. Michael Lewis uses the personal experience of his financial career in the Salomon Brothers bond program to tell the larger story of the rise and fall of the entire firm during the 1980s. Along the way he tells some funny stories and gives the reader an interesting, inside look at the fast-paced life on Wall Street. But in the end, the book starts to drag and Lewis’s cynical view of the securities industry begins to get tiresome. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to know what a trader’s life is like inside a major Wall Street firm. It is an interesting, initially humorous read that is appropriately not much longer than 200 pages in length.

  • Edwina Wickers
    15:07 on July 2nd, 2012
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    Unlike (nearly all, or all) academic economics books, which ‘explain’ that arbitrage does not and cannot exist, Lewis explains to us how the big bond houses live from arbitrage (buying low from the government or somewhere else and selling a bit higher to you and me). The book is a rare, a highly entertaining and very informative jewel: Lewis rightfully and poetically calls brokerage houses ‘full servive casinos’, far better than Monte Carlo or Las Vegas. Not only will they accept and place your bets, they’ll also lend you (a large fraction of) the money needed to place your bets (margin)! A very good book to read now (1/27/00) during the ‘wild ride’ before the present big market bubble goes: POP!

    Unfortunately, Lewis tells us too litlte about Meriwether, who later seduced two of the top finance academics (they were willing) and, with their aid, constructed the huge, uncontrolled experiment in ‘equilibrium theory’ called ‘Long Term Capital Management’ (LTCM). Their philosophy, also believed uncritically by most working economists, was and likely still is: Equilibrium will prevail (even in the absence of restoring forces!). For the continuation of the story where Liar’s poker leaves off (‘portfolio insurance’, arbitrage and more arbitrage, and the formation and collapse of the bubble called LTCM), see the new book “Inventing Money”.

  • Bol Shevik
    15:25 on July 2nd, 2012
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    “The Blind Side” is less about the evolution of the game than it is a character sketch of Michael Oher. The book, as most of Michael Lewis’s work, is a fun and enjoyable read, but be forewarned this is not same content as “Moneyball”, so don’t expect it to dramatically change your understanding of football.

    Having said that, the story of Michael Oher is a captivating one – from a street corner and no place to call home to an NFL star in a span of several years. The insight into the NFL recruiting process is worth the time alone, except that in the process you will also become intimately familiar with Michael Oher. It should make a great movie.

  • Catherine Jones
    16:46 on July 2nd, 2012
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    This is a great book. A home run. While I am not an industry insider, I did read it while I was getting an MBA from the Michigan Business School and enjoyed it a great deal. It provided a great deal of background to what I was learning in various finance classes. Mr. Lewis helped me see the people who make these markets work and move and that it isn’t faceless formulas free of emotion finding perfect prices; rather it is ambitious men (and women) ferociously and sometimes crazily pursuing their own financial interests.

    The book is amazingly funny without being slapstick. There are some amazing images – not only the Meriwether games of Liar’s Poker, but the food being delivered to the physically rotund mortgage bond traders, the bond trader who felt like the price would rise and then kept buying billions of dollars in bonds to prove himself right. I loved reading about the training he received and what he was taught about selling bonds and how those folks really do view their customers. Some of the institutional stuff is a bit dated (but still valuable as history), but the human stuff still rings fresh and true because people and still, well, whatever it was they were back then.

    If you just want an entertaining read – read this book. If you want to read about the early go-go years in the bond trading and the pre-boom boom years on Wall Street – read this book. If you want to learn about some of the big names in finance and what they did – read this book. You get the idea. I am saying you should read this book and you will be glad you did. Really.

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