If you had asked me a month ago, I would have balked at the idea of spending several hours reliving the true story of a few Wall Street types working to take down the system from within... but that was before I encountered The Big Short. Normally, I'm a genre girl — hook me up with a rebel crew exploring far-flung solar system, or a robot assassin on a mission to take down the intergalactic senate, and I'm as happy as a clam. Then again, I'm not known to be picky — as long as there's a little dark humor, some witty repartee, a solid ensemble, or Kirsten Dunst, I'm more than satisfied with all kinds of movies. I just didn't expect to love The Big Short as much as I did.
The Big Short is a Hollywood miracle — a film with genuine blockbuster chops that actually manages to impart a little worthwhile information and animate an event from the not-so-distant past that we should all be a little more aware of. So, while you're crossing your fingers and waiting to find out if the Academy has the vision to recognize such an extraordinary film, don't waste your time with ordinary fiction. Relive the magic of The Big Short with these 10 books as you wait for the votes to roll in.
1. Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
With outlandish wit and grim absurdism, Joshua Ferris plunges readers into the world of cubicles, sick days, and snarky inter-office politics that hums just down the hall from the corner offices populated by the moguls at the heart of The Big Short. So, when you find yourself yearning for an arch, anarchical trip to the fictional water cooler, look no further than Joshua Ferris' Then We Came to the End.
2. Tales from the Boom Boom Room by Susan Antilla
When the very first women broke through the glass ceiling and made their way into the upper echelons of the financial world, they discovered a workplace dominated by fear, intimidation, and rampant sexual harassment. After suffering in silence for as long as they could, the first women on Wall Street stood up and said no in a series of landmark legal battles that shook the very foundations of the financial system. So, if you found yourself hypnotized by the true story of very rich men doing very bad things and the people who rose up to stop them, Tales from the Boom Boom Room belongs at the very top of your reading list.
3. Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
Gordon Gekko may have said it loudest, but Tom Wolfe said it first — on Wall Street, greed is a cardinal virtue. Capturing the go-go spirit of 1980s New York, Wolfe's unrelenting exploration of ambition, vice, race, class, and the lure of the almighty dollar offers up a healthy dose of insight into the culture of greed that led to the crisis captured on film by The Big Short.
4. 10:04 by Ben Lerner
Ben Lerner's 10:04 captures the rigid and vital inequality engulfing America with a visceral exactitude that is enough to make even the strongest stomach turn. Wrestling down impending doom while groaning under the weight of the universal challenges of life, love, and the pursuit of happiness, Lerner's novel sinks deep into the muck of modernity in the wake of the worst global financial crisis since the great depression. When you're ready to take a good long look at the world in the wake of The Big Short, Ben Lerner's got you covered.
5. The Big Short by Michael Lewis
Follow in the footsteps of the creative visionaries behind the film you know and love by heading straight to the source material — Michael Lewis' extraordinary exposé. Bigger, longer, and entirely un-cut, Lewis' book is exactly what you need if you simply can't get enough of The Big Short.
6. The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort
It's a niche market to be sure, but recently Hollywood has produced a spate of biographical comedies based on the life of Wall Street hot shots — The Big Short brought to life the very best of the bunch, and the bad apples were captured in all their glory by The Wolf of Wall Street. Whether or not you've enjoyed Leonardo DiCaprio's mind-bending performance as the one and only Jordan Belfort, you don't want to miss the autobiography the film is based on.
7. The Pale King by David Foster Wallace
For an entirely new look at the American financial system, wade deep into David Foster Wallace's The Pale King and take on that towering giant, the IRS. Wander in and stare listlessly out from the heart of the beast with Wallace's imperfectly formed protagonist — the novel was published posthumously and unfinished, but the genius jumps off the page, and the setting is perfectly apropos.
8. The Velocity of Money by Stephen Rhodes
When the harsh realities of the modern financial system have gotten you sufficiently down, but you aren't quite ready to leave the party altogether, settle with Stephen Rhode'sThe Velocity of Money and enjoy all the thrills without any of the guilt — this pulp masterpiece is one hundred percent fictional.
9. Opening Belle by Maureen Sherry
Opening Belle offers up Wall Street fiction straight from the horses mouth: As an insider-turned-author, Sherry isn't afraid to tell it like it is, and — spoiler alert — the reality of life in the finance game looks a little bit different than the boys club depicted in movies like The Big Short; for one thing, there are women running the table these days. So if you're ready for a peek behind the curtains at life on Wall Street for the women at the head of the pack, Opening Belle has everything you need and so much more.
10. The Predators' Ball: The Inside Story of Drexel Burnham and the Rise of the JunkBond Raiders by Connie Bruck
Once the whistle is blown, the real work begins. With The Predator's Ball: The Inside Story of Drexel Burnham and the Rise of the JunkBond Raiders,Connie Bruck documents the fallout from a major Wall Street takedown and the warring factions fighting to bring justice to the financial system. When you're in the mood for a little law and order with your whistleblowing, Connie Bruck's got you covered.
Image: Paramount Pictures