Michael Lewis

On this date in 1960, author and financial journalist Michael Monroe Lewis was born in New Orleans to community activist Diana (Monroe) and corporate attorney J. Thomas Lewis. He attended Isidore Newman School, described in 2016 by The New York Times as elite. It was founded by a philanthropist as a school for Jewish orphans.

Lewis later described being on the receiving end of anti-Semitic taunts. Even though he was not Jewish, more than half his classmates were. Other alumni included NFL quarterbacks Eli and Peyton Manning, children’s author Mo Willems and Walter Isaacson, historian and Time magazine editor.

He earned a B.A. in art history from Princeton University and a master’s in economics from the London School of Economics in 1985, the year he married Diane deCordova in an Episcopal ceremony in the Princeton chapel. She had earned a master’s in comparative government from the London school. Lewis was working then as an investments associate at Salomon Brothers in New York, later transferring to London as a bond salesman.

The Salomon experience provided grist for the mill that became his first book. In addition to books, Lewis wrote prolifically for The Spectator, New York Times Magazine,  Bloomberg, The New Republic, Slate and others. He joined Vanity Fair as a contributing editor in 2009.

His nonfiction books like “Liar’s Poker: Rising through the Wreckage on Wall Street” (1989), “The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story” (1999), “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” (2003), “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game” (2006) and “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine” (2010) built and cemented his reputation as a financial analyst/muckracker.

Several others followed, including “The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed Our Minds” (2017). It explored the Nobel Prize-winning collaboration of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky on how the human mind works. “The Premonition: A Pandemic Story” was published in 2021.

Critic Tom Bernard called him “the best satirist writing in English” and “the reincarnation in the United States of Evelyn Waugh.” (New York magazine, Sept. 30, 2011) “The Blind Side” (2009), “Moneyball” (2011) and “The Big Short” (2015) were adapted as major feature films.

“The Blind Side” details how Isidore Newman classmate Sean Tuohy and his family of evangelical Christians adopted Michael Oher, a troubled, illiterate and rebellious African-American, and transformed him into a National Football League star with a college degree. 

“[Lewis] basically had a key to our house,” said Leigh Anne Tuohy. “Whenever he came to town, we made him go to church. We said, ‘If you want to talk to us, you’re coming to church.’ ” To their dismay, Lewis, an atheist, resisted conversion. “Lord knows we tried,” said Sean Tuohy. “We had people praying for him.” (Ibid.)

A gentile, Lewis could ladle on the sarcasm when he felt like it, as an article headlined “Toy Goy” showed. “Most years I commemorate the flight of the Jews through the Sinai to the Promised Land by witnessing a far more hectic flight of the Jews through the traffic jam to the airport, then looking around to see what they have neglected to finish. Each of these annual occasions revives my sympathies for the much maligned Pharaoh.” (The New Republic, April 26, 1993)

After his marriage to deCordova ended, he wed Kate Bohner, a journalist and financial executive, in 1994. A third marriage followed in 1997 to Tabitha Soren, a fine art photographer and entertainment journalist. They had two daughters, Dixie and Quinn, and a son, Walker. Tragically, Dixie died in 2021 at age 19 when a car driven by her boyfriend hit a semi tractor-trailer head-on near Truckee, Calif.

PHOTO: Lewis at a 2015 screening in Hollywood of “The Big Short” at the TCL Chinese Theater (formerly Grauman’s); Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock photo. 

Freedom From Religion Foundation