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Four books that capture the Wall Street intrigue of Showtime’s ‘Billions’

Damian Lewis (left) plays a hedge fund king and Paul Giamatti is a U.S. attorney in Showtime’s “Billions,” based loosely on real hedge fund tycoon Steve Cohen and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
Damian Lewis (left) plays a hedge fund king and Paul Giamatti is a U.S. attorney in Showtime’s “Billions,” based loosely on real hedge fund tycoon Steve Cohen and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. .

If you’re not watching “Billions” on Showtime, you are absolutely missing out. It’s as if “Wolf of Wall Street” and “House of Cards” had a corrupt little baby. And, honestly, we can’t think of anything that sounds better than that.

The star-studded show ends its second season on May 7, and if you haven’t been watching, we promise you’re going to want to binge “Billions” immediately.

“Billions” has some heavy hitters in the publishing and television world at the helm: It was created by American journalist and author of “Too Big to Fail” Andrew Ross Sorkin, TV series creator and filmmaker Brian Koppelman and American screenwriter and novelist David Levien, author of the Frank Behr novels, including “City of the Sun.”

Haven’t heard of it or want to know more? As the latest season comes to a close, here are four books that capture the corruption and insider intrigue of “Billions”:

▪ “Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street,” Sheelah Kolhatkar (368 pages; Random House; $28)

Though fictional, “Billions” is loosely based on hedge fund manager Steve Cohen and his relationship with U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, which is also the subject of journalist Kolhatkar’s new nonfiction book.

Kolhatkar dives deep into Cohen’s life and how he built SAC Capital, a hedge fund that eventually became a $15 billion empire. For years, Cohen was seen as an eccentric genius who could do no wrong, until his entire empire collapsed on him thanks to a long, intense government investigation into his use of insider trading.

Kolhatkar chronicles it all, giving us a close look at how Cohen rose to success and how he fell so far. She also turns her sharp journalistic eye on Wall Street in general, and why it’s just as corrupt today.

▪ “Big Law,” Ron Liebman (272 pages; Blue Rider Press; $26)

Corruption is the name of the game in former lawyer Liebman’s latest legal thriller. Carney Black is a lawyer for a prestigious NYC law firm called Dunn & Sullivan. He’s used to working with big business, defending those rich clients who are clearly in the wrong. So when he decides to take a case where he’ll represent the victims instead, he’s intrigued by the thought of turning over a new leaf.

Of course nothing goes as planned, and Liebman crafts a true cautionary tale of big lawyers interacting with big business. If you’ve ever wanted to know about the corruption of law at the highest levels, then this book is for you.

▪ “A Man for All Markets: From Las Vegas to Wall Street, How I Beat the Dealer and the Market,” Edward O. Thorp (416 pages; Random House; $30)

Thorp is a legendary mathematician and author of the best-selling “Beat the Dealer,” a mathematic guide to gambling that came out in the 1960s. “A Man for All Markets” is a memoir about his life, but it also dives heavily into his experiences on Wall Street and how he helped revolutionize quantitative finance.

Thorp learned how to “beat the system” by using mathematical formulas to dominate the market, making him one of the original quants. Not only is this memoir riveting and juicy, it’s also informative: Thorp explains the complicated financial principles in a way that almost anyone can understand. Any fan of “Billions” will be drawn to Thorp’s intelligent, insider view of what actually happens in the world of finance.

▪ “Confessions of a Wall Street Insider,” Michael Kimelman (296 pages; Skyhorse Publishing; $26.99)

Kimelman’s memoir is a direct look into what it means to be on Wall Street — the good and the bad.

Kimelman was the founder of a successful hedge fund. But it all came crashing down in 2009 when the Feds arrested him at his suburban home. Always maintaining his innocence, Kimelman ended up serving time in the Lewisburg Penitentiary in Pennsylvania for almost two years. The memoir was written mostly while he was in prison, reflecting on the people and actions that brought him there. The true story is filled with plenty of scandal and insider knowledge that will appeal to any “Billions” fan.

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