Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon by Michael Lewis

Review by J.T. Menard

Michael Lewis has a knack for making highly complex topics simple enough for the non-expert. He demystified sabermetrics in Moneyball and got me to at least feel like I understood subprime mortgages in The Big Short.

The latest inscrutable topic Lewis approaches in his new book, Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon, is the world of cryptocurrency. Specifically, he covers the explosive rise, and fall, of cryptocurrency king Sam Bankman-Fried. Bankman-Fried was the head of FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange that failed spectacularly in November 2022. Bankman-Fried was found guilty of seven counts of wire fraud and conspiracy in November 2023.

Lewis had been embedded with Bankman-Fried for months when FTX imploded. It is evident that Lewis’ original conception for the book was to paint Bankman-Fried as a financial maverick and super-genius challenging and remolding the world of finance. The revelation that FTX’s success was based upon fraud and deceit forced Lewis to change this narrative, and you can see it in the abrupt tonal shift in the back half of the book.

While Going Infinite is certainly an interesting book, it is not one that will age well. It was released too early, in October 2023, just before the start of Bankman-Fried’s trial, where the extent of the fraud was laid bare by the Department of Justice. Why Lewis did not wait until after the trial to revise and release the book baffled me. Going Infinite essentially went out of date only a month after its release.

Lewis’ latest book illustrates a fundamental flaw in how he treats the subjects of his books. He’s noted for getting unprecedented access to his subjects, but ultimately his closeness to his subjects clouds his perception of them.

Immediately after reading Going Infinite, I came across an older, lesser-known book of his called Next: The Future Just Happened.

In Next, published in 2001, Lewis tells the stories of young men who used the internet to disrupt established industries. I noticed the way Lewis wrote about these subjects, as misunderstood geniuses tearing apart the “boring” world of adults and remaking it in their own image, was remarkably similar to the way he wrote about Bankman-Fried.

Given what we know now about Bankman-Fried, I found myself skeptical about how accurate these 20-plus-year-old portraits of young innovators actually were. Could they have hoodwinked Lewis in the same way Bankman-Fried did? And that’s not to be too hard on Lewis. Bankman-Fried tricked a lot of people.

Ultimately Going Infinite isn’t necessarily a bad book, but it’s hard to call it an accurate and objective one. Certainly, it needs to be read with more than a few grains of salt. I still like Michael Lewis as a thoroughly entertaining writer, but I hope he reflects on the failings of this book and changes his research approach for his next book.