President Obama’s Annual List of Favorites

“As 2020 comes to a close, I wanted to share my annual lists of favorites,” Barack Obama, the 42nd President of the United States, tweeted to his 127.5 million followers. “I’ll start by sharing my favorite books this year, deliberately omitting what I think is a pretty good book – A Promised Land – by a certain 44th president. I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I did.”

Somehow, the President forgot to include adding one of my books to his list again. Well, there’s always next year.

Jack by Marilynne Robinson

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

Luster by Raven Leilani

Sharks in the time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn
Twilight of Democracy by Anne Applebaum

Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar
The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
Long Bright River by Liz Moore
Memorial Drive Natasha Trethewey
Deacon King Kong by James McBride
Missionaries by Phil Klay
The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett
The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson
The Glass House by Emily St. John Mandel

Love and Theft

“In April 2007, two stolen Audi A8s smashed through the glass façade of the Wafi Mall in Dubai,” says Parish. “In a marble rotunda, the white car rammed the secure entrance of Graff Jewelers, while the black car spit out men in masks with automatic weapons.”

         Starting fast—a motorcycle convoy roars through the lobby of the Wynn Las Vegas, staying only long enough to scoop up millions of dollars’ worth of stones from a classy jewelry store before riding away—Stan Parish’s latest novel “Love and Theft” (Doubleday 2020; $19.49 Amazon price) never slows down.

         Told from multiple points of view, we follow the police as they work to solve the crime as well as the thieves planning their next one last heist and not getting busted. We move with the action from Vegas to Jersey and then to the luxe vacation destination of Tulum, Mexico. Along the way there are weird stops such as one at the home of a doctor who injects willing subjects with a hallucinatory drug that helps them calm down while he and his wife, wearing wired masks, communicate their insights while taking notes.

         It’s all breathless but at the same time human. Neither cops nor bad guys are cartoon characters here. Parish makes them real while juggling the fast-paced plot.

         His interest in mystery-thrillers began when he was around 10 or 11 and pulled a copy of “Dog Soldiers” from his dad’s bookshelf. Parish was ordered to put it back, his father telling him it was full of sex, drugs and violence. Of course, the book only stayed on the shelf until his parents went to bed.

         Inspiration also comes from stories he hears from what he reads and hanging out.

         “In April 2007, two stolen Audi A8s smashed through the glass façade of the Wafi Mall in Dubai,” says Parish. “In a marble rotunda, the white car rammed the secure entrance of Graff Jewelers, while the black car spit out men in masks with automatic weapons.”

         It was the work of a successful gang called the Pink Panthers and became the basis for the opening sequence of “Love and Theft.” But the book is also fueled by what he calls being a diviner though instead of finding water he has “a sixth sense for strange subcultures, suspicious characters, and after-after parties.”

         A few years ago, in Marbella, Spain he was invited to a party at the home of several young bullfighters and during the evening “divined” that some of their income derived from storing drugs for a local cartel. That experience too became a plot point in the novel.

         The former editor-in-chief of The Future of Everything at The Wall Street Journal whose writings have appeared in the New York Times, Esquire and GQ, Parish earned a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and moved to Los Angeles from New York a few years ago. But now he’s living in Europe, waiting for the pandemic to end. He’s dedicated to his craft. Planning on finishing his thriller in Malaga, Spain, he accidentally left his computer, notes and outline behind at JFK International Airport in New York City and while calling lost and found everyday hoping it would turn up, tapped out sections his novel on his cell phone his while riding in cabs late at night. His life, in other words, seems to track his fast-paced novel.

Lake Success

“I’ve always wanted to travel the country by Greyhound bus,” says Gary Shteyngart, the New York Times bestselling author about Lake Success, his latest book Gary Shteyngart © Brigitte Lacombe(PenguinRandom House 2018; $28) which tells the story of Barry Cohen, a hedge fund millionaire who, unable to deal with all the issues impacting his life, jumps on a bus to find his college girlfriend.

“I know, I’m nuts. But I thought it would be a very visceral way to see the country at a difficult time in its history,” continues Shteyngart.  “And it sure was.  As for the hedge fund part, I guess I realized there were so few people left in New York who weren’t connected to finance one way or another. Everyone else had been priced out.”

You might think that Cohen, a man worth millions who is married to a beautiful, exotic and intelligent wife, has, if not it all, at least a lot more than most of us. But beneath the surface, it’s all breaking into pieces for Cohen, a self-made man who overcame the intense insecurities he had as a boy. His only child is severely autistic, his wife is drifting away having fallen in love with a married neighbor and the Feds are opening an investigation into how his hedge fund lost a billion or so.

Chucking it all including his Black Amex card, cell phone and access to his millions, Cohen has only a couple hundred dolalrs and his expensive watch collection which emotionally means more to him at the time he starts his journey than anything else in his life.

Shteyngart was able to nail down the personalities of his characters by immersing himself in their world.

“I spent three years hanging out with hedge fund people and their spouses and sometimes children,” he says. “A strange alternate reality began to take shape in my mind. I started jotting down the little tics and conversations, but mostly the fact that the real world of the 99.9 percent was no longer available to them. They had moated themselves in to an almost feudal level. In fact, large parts of Manhattan started to seem like a series of gated communities.”

There’s a parallel to Shteyngart and Barry’s upbringing. Both grew up poor and saw Wall Street as a way to make up for the huge amounts of insecurity they felt.

“In our country, being poor is almost considered a moral failing, though often to get rich requires a true moral failing,” he says.

Unlike Barry, Shtenyngart, who immigrated with his parents from Leningrad at age seven, turned to writing dark comedic novels such as Super Sad True Love Story (winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize) and The Russian Debutante’s Handbook (winner of the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction and the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction). It’s humor, based in part upon his parents who he says have a very satirical approach to reality honed in the Soviet Union, where laughter was the only defense against a very stupid system.

“Being an immigrant is also a nice way to observe a society because you have to learn it from scratch,” he adds.

To learn how to become a hedge fund manager, watch this video by Shtenygart and Ben Stiller: http://bit.ly/2x084Iz

Ifyougo:

What: A conversation and book signing with Gary Shteyngart

When: Friday, September 21 at 6:30 p.m.

Where: KAM Isaiah Israel Congregational,1100 E Hyde Park Blvd, Chicago, IL

Cost: $30 tickets include admission for one and one copy of Lake Success

FYI: 773-684-1300; semcoop.com

 

 

 

F. MURRAY ABRAHAM NARRATES NEW RECORDING OF HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN’S FAIRY TALES

ACADEMY AWARD®-WINNING F. MURRAY ABRAHAM NARRATES NEW RECORDING OF HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN’S FAIRY TALES ALONG WITH ENSEMBLE CAST

HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN’S FAIRY TALES is the newest installment in Listening Library’s Classics series that will be available as an audiobook download on March 27, 2018, in time to celebrate International Children’s Book Day, which has been celebrated on Andersen’s birthday (April 2) every day since 1967. Brought to life by Academy Award®-winning actor F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Homeland) and a full cast of narrators, and featuring original music by Michael Bacon and original cover art by LeUyen Pham, this collection contains Hans Christian Andersen’s most beloved fairy tales, in addition to a selection of lesser-known favorites.

In addition to F. Murray Abraham, a stellar cast contributes to this special new recording of timeless favorites:

HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN’S FAIRY TALES

Read for you by F. MURRAY ABRAHAM with

EDOARDO BALLERINI

MARISSA CALIN

CYNTHIA DARLOW,

ARI FLIAKOS,

DION GRAHAM,

 

JANUARY LaVOY,

JENNIFER LIM,

EUAN MORTON,

ROBERT PETKOFF,

REBECCA SOLER

and MARC THOMPSON

Music by MICHAEL BACONStories include: The Princess and the Pea; Thumbelina; The Little Mermaid; The Emperor’s New Clothes; The Steadfast Tin Soldier; The Wild Swans; The Nightingale; The Ugly Duckling; The Snow Queen; The Little Match Girl; “The Will-o’-the-Wisps are in Town,” said the Bog Witch; The Rags; The Adventures of a Thistle; Luck Can Be Found in a Stick; The Days of the Week

The audio collection features cover art by LeUyen Pham, who has illustrated more than 50 books, including Julianne Moore’s Freckleface Strawberry and Shannon and Dean Hale’s Princess in Black series. The music on the recording is by Emmy-winning composer for film and television, Michael Bacon.michaelbaconmusic.com

Unlike the Brothers Grimm, who collected and retold folklore and fairy tales, Hans Christian Andersen adopted the most ancient literary forms and distilled them into a genre that was uniquely his own. His fairy tales are remarkable for their sense of fantasy, power of description, and vivid imagination. F. Murray Abraham lends his distinct voice as the narrator ofeach story, while the other 11 voices appear throughout as various characters, including Marc Thompson, beloved narrator of many bestselling Star Wars audiobooks, Euan Morton, who currently stars as King George in HamiltonJanuary LaVoy, known for her award-winning audiobooks from Libba Bray’s The Diviners series, and Dion Graham, 4-time Odyssey Award honoree.

As a part of our Listening Library Classics program, this new recording of Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales will join our previous recordings of Grimm’s Fairy Tales read by a full cast, The Call of the Wild read by Jeff Daniels, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz read by Brooke Shields and Paul Ruddand 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea read by James Frain, among others—all with original cover art by illustrators including Jerry Pinckney, Carson Ellis, Brian Floca and Noelle Stevenson.

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR: LeUyen Pham is the New York Times bestselling illustrator of The Princess in Black series with Shannon and Dean Hale andFreckleface Strawberry with Julianne Moore.  She wrote and illustrated Big Sister, Little SisterThe Bear Who Wasn’t There, and is the illustrator of numerous other picture books, including The Boy Who Loved Math. She lives and works in Los Angeles with her husband and her two adorable sons.

Listening Library Ÿ DN on sale 3/27/18 Ÿ CD on sale 5/1/18

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