Blog

Jennifer

Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones (2015)

What an eye-opener—investigative journalist Sam Quinones pens a compelling and horrifying tale of how a combination of factors lead to the current devastating opiate problem affecting people across the United States.

In Dreamland, short chapters focus on various individuals (dealers, doctors, addicts, and their families) and corporations (marketing firms and pharmaceutical companies). Quinones weaves multiple threads together, showing how an influx of black tar heroin from Mexico (and a new delivery system) and the rise of OxyContin and other legal pharmaceuticals created today’s widespread challenges. He successfully humanizes people in this narrative, including some individuals that may surprise you.

There is so much to talk about—consider discussing Dreamland with your book group.
Mary

Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh

Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh (2008)
If you’ve read Freakonomics, then you will be familiar with the chapter discussing the economics of a crack-selling gang. In Gang Leader for a Day, Venkatesh describes the seven years he spent studying J.T. and his crack selling Black Kings gang at the Robert Taylor housing project. With J.T.’s protection and friendship, Sudhir had a unique opportunity to study the gang’s economic, social, and political impact upon the community. This is a fascinating book that reads very quickly. While the author has garnered acclaim for his study, the community he came to know has not fared as well. The Robert Taylor homes were demolished, scattering the residents to other neighborhoods and destroying the tight web of social support that many had created.

Check out the Freakonomics blog for an interview with the author featuring questions from readers. To listen to an interview or read an excerpt, visit NPR.org.