Very Quick Review: THE ANTISOCIAL NETWORK by Ben Mezrich (Grand Central)

MezrichB-AntisocialNetworkUSHC“The GameStop Short Squeeze and the Ragtag Group of Amateur Traders That Brought Wall Street to Its Knees”

The definitive take on the wildest story of the year — the David-vs.-Goliath GameStop short squeeze, a tale of fortunes won and lost overnight that may end up changing Wall Street forever.

Bestselling author Ben Mezrich offers a gripping, beat-by-beat account of how a loosely affiliate group of private investors and internet trolls on a subreddit called WallStreetBets took down one of the biggest hedge funds on Wall Street, firing the first shot in a revolution that threatens to upend the establishment.

It’s the story of financial titans like Gabe Plotkin of hedge fund Melvin Capital, one of the most respected and staid funds on the Street, billionaires like Elon Musk, Steve Cohen, Mark Cuban, Robinhood co-CEOs Vlad Tenev and Baiju Bhatt, and Ken Griffin of Citadel Securities. Over the course of four incredible days, each in their own way must reckon with a formidable force they barely understand, let alone saw coming: everyday men and women on WallStreetBets like nurse Kim Campbell, college student Jeremy Poe, and the enigmatic Keith “RoaringKitty” Gill, whose unfiltered livestream videos captivated a new generation of stock market enthusiasts.

The unlikely focus of the battle: GameStop, a flailing brick-and-mortar dinosaur catering to teenagers and outsiders that had somehow held on as the world rapidly moved online. At first, WallStreetBets was a joke — a meme-filled, freewheeling place to share shoot-the-moon investment tips, laugh about big losses, and post diamond hand emojis. Until some members noticed an opportunity in GameStop — and rode a rocket ship to tens of millions of dollars in earnings overnight.

Like many readers, I was first introduced to Mezrich’s work with the excellent The Accidental Billionaires, the story of how Zuckerberg et al founded, launched and grew Facebook. Since then, he’s published a number of interesting and timely books, and The Antisocial Network is no different. A fascinating and well-told narrative of the GameStop drama of last year, I really enjoyed this.

The clearest lesson I took away from The Antisocial Network is that Wall Street and the stock market are too often treated like a game, by too many people — even for hedge fund managers with vast resources under management, there is something about the way they approach their trades and moves that seems divorced from the potential repercussions. Maybe it’s just because of the events surrounding the GameStop drama, and the frankly strange moves that supposedly serious, intelligent investors and managers were making. The book also lays bare the ways in which institutional investors can manipulate the markets, with support of regulators and governments in some cases.

It’s a pretty wild story, and Mezrich does a fantastic job of laying out events in a clear and gripping narrative, showing how a single-minded individual managed to encourage and direct an army of others to take on Wall Street and attempt to beat it at its own game. The author provides plenty of detail and evidence, facts and figures to place the GameStop events into the wider context of stock trading, hedge funds, and policy. He introduces us to the wide range of characters who got roped into the GameStop drama — from hedge fund managers to redditors and RNs — and takes us into their homes and offices, explaining their choices and actions as events unfold.

Overall, then, The Antisocial Network is a very good example of what Mezrich does best: it is a briskly-paced narrative, engagingly told, and also illuminating. (If you’ve ever wondered how short selling, puts, etc., work then this book offers very good, concise and clear explanations.) For audiobook fans, The Antisocial Network is expertly narrated by Fajer Al-Kaisi.

Recommended.

*

Ben Mezrich’s The Antisocial Network is out now, published by Grand Central Publishing in North America, and Harper Collins in the UK.

Also on CR: Review of The Accidental Billionaires

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via publisher (audiobook) and NetGalley

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