For his latest (soon-to-be) bestseller, “Once Upon a Time in Russia: The Rise of the Oligarchs and the Greatest Wealth in History,” Ben Mezrich turns his laser-like gaze to the high-stakes story of two Russian oligarchs. The rise and fall of Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich may seem more like a Robert Ludlum novel than a Ben Mezrich-crafted true-crime account, but Ben, who lives and writes in Boston, covers this new turf like a seasoned foreign correspondent. The author of a dozen books, including “The Accidental Billionaires” (which became the Oscar-winning film “The Social Network”), Ben sat down with our own Carol Beggy just a couple of days after the book’s release to talk about his “first grown up book,” what he learned while researching some of the world’s wealthiest (and most corjrupt) people, and what his next project is going to be. And, yes, he talks about his next Hollywood deal.
(Ed. Note: Ben’s wife, Tonya, is styleboston’s chief fashion correspondent.)
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Stopping by the Harvard Book Store to get a copy of “Master Thieves” by Stephen Kurkjian seemed easy enough. (I’ve always thought the hardest part about shopping at the store is finding a parking spot or making the trek up from the Red Line station.) Then I started to puruse the “staff recommendations” and look at the “signed editions” available for sale in the Massachusetts Avenue shop.
First, let me say that the staff at the Harvard Book Store takes the idea of recommendations seriously, very seriously. This staff has a running list of the “Top 100” as well as their own—printed on-demand—book with staff recommendations.
And the “Staff Recommendation” section contains more than 750 suggestions online. Here are a few I’d recommend as well:
[ezcol_1half]First up is a pick from store staffer Ben N., which he says is “not quite like anything I’ve ever read,” the novel “The Man With the Compound Eyes,” by Wu Ming-Yi.
Melissa L.-O. calls Sarah Manguso’s book of essays “Ongoingness: The End of a Diary”, which was released by Graywolf Press on March 3, “a dazzling philosophical investigation of the challenge of living in the present.” High praise, indeed.[/ezcol_1half] [ezcol_1half_end]And, like all of us who love books, the Harvard Book Store is celebrating the life of Terry Pratchett, the acclaimed author of 40 “Discworld” books, who died this month in England.
The store recommends this young readers (ages 8 to 12) book “Dragons at Crumbling Castle: And Other Tales,” a specially released “never-before-published collection of 14 funny and inventive tales.” It is a great way to celebrate the life of this talented writer.[/ezcol_1half_end]
If you love books, you’ve really got to like Newtonville Books. First, let me just note how much affection I have for any bookstore that keeps a separate area for Europa Editions. Yes, I’m judging a book by its cover (they are wonderfully designed) and by its content. Europa is the publisher of dozens of notable novelists including Fabio Bartolomei, Seth Greenland, and Elena Ferrante, whose “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay” has become a book club staple since its release in September 2014. (It is the third in a series.)
Speaking of book clubs, Newtonville hosts a half dozen book clubs. The store runs and stocks a number of books that are favorites of area book clubs. The selection is well-curated to reflect a broad taste – both popular and new and titles that have been on shelves for a while and might just be gaining a following.
But back to the task at hand: The Staff Picks. This bookstore’s staff clearly has as much love for fiction as it does for non-fiction (something that appears to be rarer than I might have guessed.)
Some of the staff choices that I’d like to point out:
David Peace’s “The Damned UTD,” which The Times of London called “probably the best novel ever written about sport.” The book was originally released in 2006 and was made into a movie. (See The Guardian’s review here: I would suggest, Peace’s book from last May, “Red or Dead” but I do so with a warning. It is a 700-page experimental novel about a soccer coach. Yeah, I know.
Notable in the non-fiction category is Eula Bliss’s “On Immunity: An Inoculation” from Gray Wolf Press that was released last fall. This title was among the “Buzz Panel” titles from last spring’s Book Expo America, which means that the industry and stores had a head’s up about the its release. What I can’t figure is that why a book about how humans are afraid of vaccinations hasn’t prompted even more discussion. Even if this book weren’t as well written and researched (and, I hate to admit an easy to read and share 216 pages), it should be a book all parents are required to read.
[/ezcol_1half] [ezcol_1half_end]And, finally, something from the staff recommendations that you can just enjoy as we wait for the weather to get nicer: “The Good Lord Bird,” the National Book Award winner by James McBride. It’s a historical novel with a raft of new characters and voices. McBride, who was first trained as a journalist, imbues the book with historical accuracy and precision that shines throughout.[/ezcol_1half_end]
Newtonville Books, 10 Langley Road, Newton Centre, MA
What to read, what to read… If you’re like me, then you always stop at a bookstore and see what the staff has recommended before poking around the store. And the recent snowstorm was a windy reminder that an essential storm supply is a stack of good books. (No problem with power outages.) Today, we’re starting a weekly feature looking at the staff recommendations from some of our favorite bookstores. This week we visit Porter Square Books in Cambridge.
STAFF PICKS THAT CAUGHT OUR EYE:
“The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish” (Hardcover) by Linda Przybyszewski that Sarah says is a fascinating look at women and economics.
“The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water” (Hardcover) by first-time author and illustrator Gemma Merino is a book that Robin says: “This book is fun right from the start, and ends with a delightful surprise!”
“Everything I Never Told You” (Hardcover) by Celeste Ng, a novel that Dina describes as “A heartbreaking, affecting family drama that deserves all the praise it’s gotten.”
“The Bee: A Natural History” (Hardcover) by Noah Wilson-Rich, Kelly Allin, and Norman Carreck. Megan says of this non-fiction treasure: “The perfect gift for the inquisitive person on your list – explores the relationship between humans and bees, and describes the evolution and behavior of bees.”
And, “Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps” by Kelly Williams Brown. This gem is now available in paperback, is a great book to take as travel reading and is supported by the author’s blog, which doles out advice (some of a NSFW nature!) and update.
Carol Beggy has a big Rolodex (remember those?) and is not afraid to use it. She loves books and other Old World pursuits but lives totally in the modern world where you carry a thousand books on your e-reader. A former reporter and editor at the Boston Globe, Carol is currently working with Bill Brett on his book “Boston: Irish” due out in Fall 2014. It is their fifth collaboration. She likes pina coladas, dancing in the rain and talking to people on elevators about what they are reading.
EDITOR AT LARGE
CHIEF FASHION CORRESPONDENT
Anna Paula Goncalves
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