Michael Lewis

It's delightfully bizarre to try to get people to read their cups.

Michael Lewis has published many books on various subjects, all but one of them New York Times bestsellers. His most recent works are Flash Boys, The Big Short, and Boomerang, narratives set in the global financial crisis. Both of his books about sports — The Blind Side and Moneyball — became Academy Award–nominated movies. His other works include The New New Thing, about Silicon Valley during the Internet boom; Losers, about the 1996 Presidential campaign; and Liar’s Poker, a Wall Street story based in part on his own experience as a bond salesman for Salomon Brothers.

Mr. Lewis is a columnist for Bloomberg View and a contributing writer to Vanity Fair. His articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Gourmet, Slate, Sports Illustrated, Foreign Affairs, and Poetry Magazine. He created and presented a four-part documentary on the social consequences of the Internet for the British Broadcasting Corporation, and has recorded stories for the public radio show This American Life.

Mr. Lewis grew up in New Orleans and lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, Tabitha Soren, and their three children.


Why are you participating in the Cultivating Thought series?

I thought it was delightfully bizarre to try to get people to read their cups.

Tell us about your two-minute read.

It’s motivated by a sense that my growing obsession with how I use my time had become itself a waste of time.

Who inspires you? Who are your favorite authors?

The people who persuaded the Olympic Committee that curling is a sport. I used to say Mark Twain; now I’m not sure I have a favorite writer.

What’s the best book you read in the past year?

Dave Eggers’ Hologram For a King.

The Two-Minute Minute

by Michael Lewis

I spend too much time trying to spend less time. Before trips to the grocery store, I’ll waste minutes debating whether it is more efficient to make a list, or simply race up and down the aisles grabbing things. I spend what feels like decades in airport security lines trying to figure out how to get through most quickly: should I put the plastic bin containing my belt and shoes through the bomb detector before my carry-on bag, or after? And why sit patiently waiting for the light to turn green when I might email on my phone? I’ve become more worried about using time efficiently than using it well.

I’ve become more worried about using time efficiently than using it well.

But in saner moments I’m able to approach the fourth dimension not as a thing to be ruthlessly managed, but whose basic nature might be altered to enrich my experience of life. I even have tricks for slowing time — or at least my perception of it. At night I sometimes write down things that happened that day. For example:

This morning Walker (my five year old son) asks me if I had a pet when I was a kid. “Yes,” I say, “I had a Siamese cat that I loved named Ding How, but he got run over by a car.” Walker: “It’s lucky that it got killed by a car.” Me: “Why?” Walker: “Because then you could get a new cat that isn’t named Ding How.”

Recording the quotidian details of my day seems to add hours a day to my life: I’m not sure why. Another trick is to focus on some ordinary thing — the faintly geological strata of the insides of a burrito, for instance — and try to describe what I see. Another: pick a task I’d normally do quickly and thoughtlessly — writing words for the side of a cup, say — and do it as slowly as possible. Forcing my life into slow-motion, I notice a lot that I miss at game speed. The one thing I don’t notice is the passage of time.