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In Which I Read Books by Men
Horror western, crypto true crime, and an art thief!
I just did the math and only 1/6 of the books I read in 2022 were by men. It’s actually more than I thought it would be! The reason I mention it is that I just read two (TWO) books by men at the same time and they are both good and I wanted to tell you all about them, and then I had a little moment, like, whoa, two books by men. In a row! True story: when my father was dying I told him that I would read more books by men. LOL. I also told him that I would read more backlist, which I have been flunking even more than reading books by men. If publishers were sending me twelve packages of Will Cather and Iris Murdoch and Edith Wharton every week, I probably would. (Publishers, if you’re reading, you have my address, and I very much DO want the new edition of Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop for which my friend Kali Fajardo-Anstine wrote the forward.) Anyway! Here are some good books by men! Let’s begin.
The first book, which I just finished this morning (audiobooks while walking home after dropping my kids off at school are my favorite, truly superior to any other audiobook listening) is Victor LaValle’s Lone Women, a horror western, I think you would call it. Several of my booksellers have also read and loved it and I was talking about it in the office last week with a few other booksellers, and when I started to describe it, they said NO NO NO SPOILERS because they all want to read it, which is truthfully the greatest compliment an author can hope for, a room full of booksellers who want to read a book so badly that they want you to keep your goddamn mouth SHUT. But you are not booksellers so I will tell you a little bit more. It’s about a Black woman who travels alone to Montana to become a homesteader. All you know is that her house has just burned down, with her parents inside it, and she is traveling with an enormous, heavy trunk that no one is allowed to open. Let me tell you this about Victor LaValle: he is a man we can trust. We, in the previous sentence, includes the following categories: women readers, people who like scary books that aren’t gratuitously gory, people who like westerns but wonder where the hell all the other people were, the ones who don’t look like John Wayne. I won’t give anything else away, but I will say that I loved the ending. Two thumbs up. Preorder it here, make a booksellers’ day.
The other book by a man (men!) that I am currently reading is non-fiction (extra points for me) about crypto (so many extra points for me I don’t even know where to put them.) I should tell you right off the top that this book is written by two people I know—well, one person I know because he wrote this about me when my first novel was published, lol for him, his whole thesis was that the internet was too nice, and I was his shining example—and the other I know because he’s my neighborhood friend and also because of this, sorry Ben, literally could not resist.
The book is called Easy Money and you can preorder it here. I can’t say that I ever expected to read a book about crypto, but I do love reading true crime, and that’s where I will shelve this book in the bookstore. Let me tell you about my approach to money: put everything in a savings account, the adult equivalent of a piggy bank. Risk averse 4 life, baby. Ben and Jacob do a great job of actually explaining what the fuck crypto is, why anyone would invest in it, and why that might not be a great idea. (Do you like gambling? That seems to be the biggest indicator. If you have ever played online poker, it seems that you’re about 700% more likely to invest in crypto.) What I like about the book is that it takes the fraud seriously, and has real empathy for the people taken advantage of, but it is also funny and surprising and full of truly wild characters. When I heard about this book, I wondered how Ben’s celebrity would or wouldn’t be a factor in the book itself, and some of my favorite parts of the book are where his worlds collide, like when he interviews a fellow actor who has become an absolutely deranged crypto hustler at South by Southwest, or where he recoils in horror at Matt Damon’s Crypto ad (not you, Will Hunting!), and is a total celebrity class traitor. Perfect, 10/10, no notes. That’s how you do it. Crypto is LulaRoe for dudes, and I will be buying this book for, hmm…..every man I know. Also, my husband hasn’t stopped singing this Billy Joel song since I started reading the book.
Oh wait! I just remembered ANOTHER book by a man that I’ve read in 2023—another true crime goodie! The Art Thief, by Michael Finkel, which is out in June. This baby is slim and packed with treasure, literally. It’s the true story of an art thief in Europe in the early 2000s who stole for pleasure, and displayed all his spoils in his bedroom. Purity! Devotion! Skills with a screwdriver! An absolute delight. Extra points for being slim enough to fit into your jacket pocket, much like an ancient European artifact stolen from a museum. Just don’t steal it from an independent bookstore, because that’s lame.
Other very quick recommendations before I run to the bookstore: there’s a new season of Survivor, which is just okay so far, and makes me want to go back and rewatch Mike White’s season. I wonder if a novelist has ever gone on Survivor. Would not be me, that’s for damn sure. My children asked me about going camping recently and I laughed. We did stay at a very, very dingy Doubletree on our road trip to Florida over Christmas break—that’s about as close as I’m going to get. Second recommendation: buy several boxes too many of chocolate bars for memorial service gift bags, and you and your children can have the fun of eating ‘funeral chocolate’ for weeks. My father would have loved the whole idea. Here’s a link to buying cases of Tony’s. You’re welcome.