Common Reading

Welcome to the SMU Common Reading Program!  The Common Reading Program is an established start-of-school tradition at SMU.  As the incoming class you will receive the book during the summer at AARO and should read it before you arrive for the start of the fall semester.  Faculty, staff, and returning SMU students have already begun reading and discussing the book in preparation for small-group conversations you will participate in before Rotunda Passage and Opening Convocation.  Your first-year writing courses will use the book as part of your curriculum for the fall semester.  


The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine
by Michael Lewis

This year's Common Reading, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, is a 2010 non-fiction book by Michael Lewis about the build-up of the housing and credit bubble during the 2000s. It describes several of the key players in the creation of the credit default swap market that sought to bet against the collateralized debt obligation (CDO) bubble and thus ended up profiting from the financial crisis of 2007–2010. The book also highlights the eccentric nature of the type of person who bets against the market or goes against the grain.

What's Happening?

Common Reading Panel Discussion on Thurs. September 13 - presented by Friends of the SMU Libraries. 

Date:  Thursday, September 13
Time:  6:30 pm reception; 7 pm discussion
Place:  DeGolyer Library, SMU Campus

Panelists:  Cullum Clark, Partner, Fischer & Company; Mike Condon, SMU Treasurer; John Duca, Vice President and Senior Policy Advisor, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; and Rita Kirk, Director, SMU’s Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility; and James Linck, SMU Distinguished Chair in Finance (moderator)


The Story

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.

Read more about this incredible true story.


Think About It

Michael Lewis believes that 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 asks “Who got it right?”. Who saw the 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?

The Author 

Michael Lewis
Financial journalist and best-selling author

Find out more about this fascinating author.


Departments, faculty and staff across SMU have developed helpful resources for the 2012 Common Reading. Click on any of links below to be taken to the Resources section. 

Videos and Podcasts

Faculty Perspectives

Campus Resources

Book Reviews

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Think Out Loud: A Common Reading Initiative

PBS New Hour's Jeffrey Brown takes a look inside the doomsday machine of the subprime lending crisis with author Michael Lewis in a conversation about his new book, "The Big Short."

Thomas Jefferson
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