Books

‘Quixote’ & Snicket

Bibliophiles: Best-selling author Michael Lewis

Best-selling author Michael Lewis (“Liar’s Poker,” “The Blind Side”) says there are about 20 books stacked on his bedside table and the same 20 have been sitting there for months, even years. His most recent book, “Flash Boys,” about a group of insider Wall Street reformers, was first published last year and just came out in paperback.

BOOKS: What are you reading?

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LEWIS: I just started Cervantes’s “Don Quixote.”When the Edith Grossman translation came out in 2005 I bought it and promised myself to read it. What prodded me to do it was that I picked up another great book, John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath,” about three months ago. I’m always suspicious of great books. I think they are going to put me to sleep, but “The Grapes of Wrath” was unbelievably good. I thought maybe there is something to this great book thing and pulled down “Don Quixote.” I’m only three chapters in. But I would say, unlike my experience with “Moby-Dick,” I’m going to finish it. I’m also always reading for work. I read a book in a day on Saturday, which I haven’t done in ages — “Fortune Tellers” by Walter Friedman, who teaches at Harvard University. It’s a history of early 20th-century economic and stock market forecasting. I’m reading that because I’m working on a TV pilot set on Wall Street in the 1920s. I’m also reading the Lemony Snicket series to my 8-year-old. We are at the end of book four, “The Miserable Mill.” It took me a little while to get into IT, but like a lot of books I read to my kids, if they are entertained, I’m entertained.

BOOKS: Did you read something for “Flash Boys” you would recommend?

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LEWIS: Scott Patterson’s “Dark Pools,” which overlaps with my own book some. What he does really well is tell the early history of automated electronic trading. I’d also recommend “Broken Markets” by Sal Arnuk and Joe Saluzzi and the 1923 novel “Reminiscences of a Stock Operator” by Edwin Lefèvre.

BOOKS: How would you describe your taste in fiction?

LEWIS: Eclectic with a peculiar passion for English comic novels, authors like David Lodge, Kingsley Amis, and Evelyn Waugh. John Lanchester is the living favorite.

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BOOKS: Who has influenced you as a reader?

LEWIS: There are people I have personal connections to, largely imaginary ones, who had influence on me. The first was Walker Percy who lived across Lake Pontchartrain from us in New Orleans. Growing up, I was friends with his nephew, which made me feel some kind of connection to Percy. There was a philosophical depth in his novels that mostly eluded me when I was 15 years old, but I was entranced by it.

BOOKS: Do you have any reading habits?

LEWIS: I sign and date a book when I read it. I use the books to make notes. I make lists like how I’m going to run a softball practice or notes about the book itself.

BOOKS: Have you come across avid readers in your reporting?

LEWIS: Now I’m interviewing 70-year-old Israeli psychologists, and they don’t do anything but read. Wall Street people don’t tend to be readers. There’s no question sports people are more literary inclined than the financial people even though the financial people all went to Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. Scott Hatteberg,who played first base for the Athletics, is a big reader. Billy Beane, the GM of the Athletics and the hero of my book “Money Ball,” is a huge reader. The football people are the most literary. Mike Leach, head coach of the Washington State University Cougars, reads everything, He’s also written books. Bill Parcells, former coach of the Dallas Cowboys, and Sean Payton, coach of the New Orleans Saints, are very likely to want to talk about books when you interview them. Maybe it’s because their lives are in sports. They are hungry for other kinds of input.

BOOKS: What will you read next?

LEWIS: You mean in 2017? The mere act of getting through “Don Quixote” will be a quixotic act of heroism.

AMY SUTHERLAND

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