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A Book I Absolutely Loved: Gang Leader For A Day

There are few people I have ever met who are more interesting to talk to than Sudhir Venkatesh. I’ve known him for over a decade, and I cannot remember ever having a boring conversation with him. This Q&A with Venkatesh gives you a sedate and sanitized peek into the sorts of things he has been part of throughout his career. How many folks do you know who watch The Wire with high-ranking gang members?

His new book, Gang Leader for a Day, which hits the stores this week, is as good as any book I have read in a long time. (His two prior books were also good, but nothing at all like this one. While they were very academic, this one is not at all.) Reading it is like sitting across the table from him, soaking up amazing story after amazing story. I gladly blurbed the book, describing it as follows:

Gang Leader for a Day is an absolutely incredible book. Sudhir Venkatesh’s memoir of his years observing life in Chicago’s inner city is a book unlike any other I have read, equal parts comedy and tragedy. How is it that a naive suburban kid ends up running a crack gang (if only for a day) on his way to becoming one of the world’s leading scholars? You have to read it to find out, but heed this warning: don’t pick up the book unless you have a few hours to spare because I promise you will not be able to put it down once you start.

Dubner blogged recently about the lack of integrity in book blurbs. This is one case in which a blurb is heartfelt.

As a side note, not only do you get the best of Sudhir in the book, you also get a little bit of Dubner as well — he wrote the foreword.