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Radio host, poker pupil, work reader

Ira Glass

Douglas A Barnes/Showtime

Ira Glass, the creator and voice of the weekly public-radio program “This American Life,” says he mostly reads for work, looking for authors “who write in a style that might work on the radio.” He’ll talk about how he makes the popular show at 3 p.m. on March 9 at Symphony Hall as part of the Celebrity Series of Boston. Tickets are $45 to $65.

BOOKS: What are you reading for work?

GLASS: Things like Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, which I don’t recommend. It’s not as funny as you would think. Also for work I just read B.J. Novak’s “One More Thing,” which I totally enjoyed. Because he’s a TV writer, he has a really muscular sense of plot. I just started Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Sixth Extinction,” which is mostly for pleasure, but I’m also trying to figure out if we should do more on climate change on the show. I think the best book I read this year is Daniel Handler’s young-adult book on teenage break-up, “Why We Broke Up.” He did it with Maira Kalman. It came to the house because my wife runs a website for teenage girls called Rookie. It reminded me of things about being a teenager in a good way. But I don’t read that many books. It’s embarrassing. My sister, who used to be a literary agent, will mention a book that the whole world knows about, and I have no idea that it even happened.

BOOKS: When you do squeeze in some reading just for yourself, what do you read?


GLASS: Generally I don’t read much fiction. I’ll read Michael Lewis or Malcolm Gladwell. There’s a passage toward the end of Lewis’s “The Blind Side” that I have read over and over. It’s just a perfect piece of writing that gives you a chill. I love Lewis’s work because he’s so out for fun. What makes his books work is that he loves his characters. That’s true even for “The Big Short,” in which all these smarty-pants rich guys are trying to make money on the collapse of the world economy. You should hate them, but you love them.


BOOKS: When’s the last time you had time for your own reading?

GLASS: Christmas. My wife had to work so I went to Vegas for five days. And Vegas for me means I play poker for an hour or two. Then I go to movies, restaurants, and the gym, and I read books. While I was there I finished Katherine Boo’s “Behind the Beautiful Forevers.” That book takes you inside this world of very poor people in India but has none of that National Geographic quality, like someone doing anthropology. You have the same experience you have with great fiction. I also read “Phil Gordon’s Little Blue Book.” That’s my favorite poker book, and I’ve read a lot of poker books. Reading his book is more fun than playing poker.

BOOKS: How long have you been reading poker books?

GLASS: I don’t read them very often now, but when I was first learning poker I read all the standards: “Doyle Brunson’s Super System,” “Harrington on Hold ’em” by Dan Harrington and Bill Robertie, and “The Theory of Poker” by David Sklansky. He’s like the Euclid of poker.

BOOKS: Do you read any other how-to books?


GLASS: No. I’m not trying to learn anything else.

BOOKS: When you do read fiction, whom do you like?

GLASS: I’m going through a whole Zadie Smith phase. I’m on “NW” and finished “On Beauty” in the past six months. I super liked that book, but there is one plot twist I didn’t buy at all.

BOOKS: What do you have on your upcoming reading list?

GLASS: I’m not even a sophisticated enough reader to have an upcoming list. My goal is to finish the Zadie Smith. I’ll be like, “Oh my God, I did it. I get a gold star.”

BOOKS: If you had more time what would you read?

GLASS: I wouldn’t read more. I’d see more movies. No knock against books.

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