Amazingly, despite the fact that the book is so one-sided, it also functions as a peerless guide to exactly what went so very wrong in the credit markets generally, and the mortgage markets in particular, over the course of the last decade. It's not easy to explain synthetic subprime-backed collateralized debt obligations, but Lewis does an excellent job on both the micro level -- what these thing are, and how they worked -- and the macro level -- how the market in such exotica helped to destabilize the entire financial system.
Most impressively, Lewis has backed up his story with an enormous amount of old-fashioned reporting, spending a lot of time with the characters in his book and their families, as well as getting the important complex financial details correct. (Not everybody will understand the grittiest of the details, of course: that's inevitable. But everybody will be gripped by the book's narrative, all the same.) The Portfolio story on which this book is based was a great tale which was sometimes a bit fuzzy on the finance; the book is an even greater tale with the facts nailed down.
The result is that rarest of beasts in a world drowning in financial-crisis books: a new book which actually breaks news.
There's lots more where that came from: this is an assiduously-reported and beautifully-written book. There aren't many reasons to be happy about the global financial crisis, but here's one: that it brought Michael Lewis back to his roots, to produce what is probably the single best piece of financial journalism ever written.
Felix adds much more to his review here. He's really an excellent resource of information. I'm not an economist and too many people on line act as if they are, but I'm doing my research and learning.
You can grab a copy here or any place else that you like. Michael Lewis sat down to discuss with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show last night, you can see the interview here: