Tag Archives: michael lewis

Two good books

I recently read two pretty good books that are definitely worth a mention.

Liar’s Poker – Michael Lewis

I have been a Michael Lewis fan ever since I read his “The Big Short” that explained the way several people got rich during the housing-mortgage crash of several years ago. Since then, I have also read “The Blind Side” (which, I think everyone is familiar with via the movie) and “Boomerang,” in which he examines why the economies of countries like Greece, Iceland and Ireland crashed over the past several years.

“Liar’s Poker” was published in the 1980s and, in it, Lewis tells the story of his brief foray into the world of bond trading. As with Lewis’s other books, it is both enlightening and hysterically funny. Lewis has the ability to explain complex issues and be very entertaining at the same time. It’s a good story about some really crazy times.

Kill Shot – Vince Flynn

I’ve enjoyed Flynn’s novels since my cousin turned me on to him several years ago. Flynn’s main protagonist is CIA assassin Mitch Rapp. The books are almost a 21st century American version of Ian Fleming’s original James Bond novels, but without Bond’s worldly sophistication or Fleming’s sometimes off-the-wall bad guys. Flynn initially wrote 10 Rapp novels that brought the story to the present day. Then for books 11 and 12, Flynn went back in time and wrote two (“American Assassin” and “Kill Shot”) that tell the story of Rapp’s recruitment, training and his first few assignments.

Flynn novels are pure adventure. There isn’t a subtle bone in his protagonist’s body. There are the good guys and the bad guys, and very little in between. Rapp is one of the good guys, and his stories pit him against his obvious enemies, usually Islamic terrorists, and sometimes the not so obvious — like American politicians.  And in Rapp’s world, the bad guys almost always get what they deserve.

In “Kill Shot,” Flynn tells the story of one of Rapp’s early “hits” that went bad and all the subsequent fall-out.

Flynn doesn’t write an intricate, slowly developing story like a Fredrick Forsyth.  But his novels are exciting, fun and difficult to put down. “Kill Shot” and the rest of Vince Flynn’s books won’t be remembered as great literature, but they sure an entertaining read.

A humorous explanation for the mess we’re in

I just finished a great little book. Michael Lewis’s (The Blind Side, The Big Short) is “Boomerang.”

I think like many people, I only partially understand the reasons the economy has gone down the toilet over the past three years. While I get the general idea behind the housing boom, loose credit and CDO’s, I still have trouble getting my mind around them. Lewis did a great job in “The Big Short” of telling the stories of some investors who anticipated the big bust of 2007-08 and profited greatly from their insight.

In “Boomerang,” he takes a look at several countries and examines how they reacted to having massive amounts of free credit in the early 2000s. He looks at:

  • Iceland, where everyone wanted to become an investment banker, whether they knew anything about investment banking or not.
  • Greece, where the government created a massive entitlement state on borrowed money and with a population that doesn’t want to pay their taxes.
  • Ireland, where the Irish took the free money and created their own housing bubble.
  • And Germany, where the bankers pretty-much financed most of the other countries.

He finishes up in California – another economy with a population that wants massive government services without having to pay taxes to pay for them.

The best part of the book is Lewis’s writing style. While “The Big Short” and “The Blind Side” were both serious, straight-to-the-point narrations, “Boomerang” is tongue-in-cheek to the point of being almost whimsical. He pokes some serious fun at the cultural tendencies of the people in all those countries. In every chapter, I found myself chuckling over his observations and analysis. I’m not sure anyone in the subject-countries would appreciate his sense of humor, but I sure did.

“Boomerang” is fairly short, and you don’t need an MBA to understand it. If you are curious about what is happening right now in places like Greece and Italy, Lewis has some answers…and a few laughs too.

It’s Friday!

Things have been slow around here this week, but I did finish another book worth mentioning. Here are some bullets.

I got an email this morning from an old friend. We probably haven’t seen each other face-to-face in probably 40 years, but we have exchanged some Christmas cards over that time.

Dr. Betsy Kennon and Scooter, courtesy Readers Digest

She said “Andy Warhol is right.” Betsy is enjoying her 15 minutes of fame in the form of an article in the August edition of Readers Digest. Betsy is a veterinarian in Pittsburgh. She saved a stray kitten with a broken spine. The cat, Scooter, now moves around with his hind-parts on a cart and visits nursing homes. Nice touching story you can see, complete with video, here.

I attended the Savannah Gator Club annual gathering last night. The speaker was GatorCountry.com editor Franz Beard. Franz did a great talk. Things are looking better for the Gators this fall than many opponents would like to admit. That’s just fine. It’s better to sneak up on ‘em.

I just finished reading “The Blind Side” by Michael Lewis. Everyone is at least familiar with the movie by the same name starring Sandra Bullock. The book upon which the movie is based expands the subject matter of the movie. The film pretty much concentrated on football player Michael Oher and the manner in which he came into the family of Sean and Leigh Ann Touhey and eventually became a star athlete. The book adds significant color and texture to that story. It also develops two additional themes – the change in the NFL that made the left tackle position the second most important position on the field; and the issue of poor, black, inner city kids trying to use sports to get out of the ghetto.

I enjoyed the book a lot. The Oher-Touhey story is interesting and touching all on its own. The two additional themes just add on to the value. If you liked the movie, you’ll like the book. Even if you thought the movie was a little schmaltzy and over done, you’ll still like the book.

We are looking forward to company this weekend. This time it is the gang from Mrs. Poolman’s side of the family. It will include a sister-in-law, a niece and nephew, both with significant others, a grand niece and a large rambunctious boxer (dog.) There will be lots of eating, drinking, visiting and hanging out by the pool. When I got home tonight, I went ahead and mowed the lawn, and cleaned the pool and back yard  to be ready for them.

Should be fun!