Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The green (audio) book of the week: 'The Big Short' by Michael Lewis (and there's a giveaway!)

Some of you might wonder how "The Big Short", an audiobook about the downfall of the financial markets, as good as it is (and it is!) can be considered a green book. Well, the reason is very simple - there's a disturbing resemblance between the way the markets operated before the crash of 2007 and our present behavior from an environmental point of view. Al Gore and David Blood made this point back in 2009:

"Just as widespread assumptions about the value of bundled and securitised subprime mortgages collapsed when tested by reality (thereby detonating the first stage of the financial crisis), the current widespread assumption in markets that it is perfectly fine to dump 90m tons of global warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet every 24 hours—as if it is an open sewer—is also now colliding with reality."

Gore and Blood explain that "t
he global financial crisis had its origins in short-term, unsustainable strategies and actions" and there is no better place to get a better understanding of these strategies and actions than Michael Lewis new audiobook "The Big Short" (or in it's full name:The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine).

This is not an easy one. It is full of financial terms and explanations and sometimes you might want to hear a part or two again to make sure you got it right. Still, Lewis does the best he can to simplify it as much as possible so everyone will get it eventually. The story itself, full of interesting characters, Wal-Street outsiders who try to figure out the subprime madness and how to make a buck or two out of it.

Their fascinating journey, narrated by
Jesse Boggs, a veteran narrator of business titles, is eye-opening and keeps you wondering again and again how come only a handful of people could see what looks so obvious. I'm not sure I still get it, but with Michael Lewis' help the picture is much clearer.

"The Big Short" is full of lessons. Not just for Wal-Street, but also for everyone occupied with global warming, as unfortunately the days of subprime planet are not over as Thomas Friedman predicted in 2008. The mix of short-term thinking, greed, herd mentality and avoiding critical thinking can be catastrophic and of course the question we all ask is how to avoid it. This audiobook is a good place to begin the search for answers.

Here's a description of the new audiobook (from the publisher's website):

When the crash of the U.S. stock market became public knowledge in the fall of 2008, it was already old news. The real crash, the silent crash, had taken place over the previous year, in bizarre feeder markets where the sun doesn’t shine, and the SEC doesn’t dare, or bother, to tread: the bond and real estate derivative markets where geeks invent impenetrable securities to profit from the misery of lower and middle-class Americans who can’t pay their debts. The smart people who understood what was or might be happening were paralyzed by hope and fear; in any case, they weren’t talking.
The crucial question is this: Who understood the risk inherent in the assumption of ever-rising real estate prices, a risk compounded daily by the creation of those arcane, artificial securities loosely based on piles of doubtful mortgages?

Michael Lewis turns the inquiry on its head to create a fresh, character-driven narrative brimming with indignation and dark humor, a fitting sequel to his #1 bestselling Liar’s Poker. Who got it right? he asks. Who saw the ever-rising real estate market for the black hole it would become, and eventually made billions of dollars from that perception? And what qualities of character made those few persist when their peers and colleagues dismissed them as Chicken Littles? Out of this handful of unlikely—really unlikely—heroes, Lewis fashions a story as compelling and unusual as any of his earlier bestsellers, proving yet again that he is the finest and funniest chronicler of our times.
Hear an excerpt from the audiobook:

Disclosure: We received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher (Simon and Simon Audio).

Here's an excerpt from the audiobook:


We're giving away a copy of this audiobook, courtesy of the publisher, Simon & Simon audio!

How you can win? Very simple. All you have to do is to retweet this post on twitter with the hashtag #thebigshort at the end of your tweet. We will have a raffle on Friday, June 4, 5:00PM EST between all the readers that will retweet by then. The winner will be announced the following day.

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Promoting sustainable reading!