You’re Trying to Figure Out This Whole Cryptocurrency Thing

Want a gripping memoir or like to read the book before the movie comes out

Hi friends,

I hope you had a lovely weekend. I threw a surprise shower for three friends getting married this summer (Hi Aya, Emma and Jordyn!), which was delightful and felt almost like pre-pandemic times.

Swampy season has officially begun here in D.C. My hair is three times its normal size, and I have multiple fans pointed at me as I write this. I’m leaving to spend the summer with my parents in upstate New York in a few weeks, and I’m looking forward to less humid air. 

Next week will be a special summer reading edition of What To Read If. Because of the holiday, I’ll be sending this next Tuesday. I’m cooking up something fun (or at least I think it will be fun) and am excited to share it with you.

And now, what to read if …

You’re Wondering What a Bitcoin Is

Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper

At the tail end of 2017, when cryptocurrency prices went through one of their first surges, I picked up Digital Gold on a whim because it was available to download immediately from the library just as I was boarding a cross-country flight.

I ended up enthralled, completely caught up in the high-stakes attempt of trying to create a new currency — and revolutionize the world. Popper, a finance and tech reporter for the New York Times, introduces readers to the “misfits and millionaires” behind cryptocurrency. They range from the Winklevoss twins, famous for their feud with Mark Zuckerberg, to Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin’s elusive founder. Focusing on the people behind Bitcoin and cryptocurrency made me fascinated about a topic that I thought I would find dull. 

Popper has a gift for explaining complex topics in simple, clear language. The basic understanding I have of Bitcoin, blockchain, Dogecoin, Ethereum and NFTs is all thanks to Digital Gold. If you’re looking for a fast-paced, interesting read that will give you the basics of cryptocurrency, this is your book.

You Want a Gripping Memoir

All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung

A few months ago, when I was packing up my old apartment, I flipped open All You Can Ever Know to a random passage and ended up re-reading the whole book sitting on my bedroom floor.

Nicole Chung’s searing memoir documents her childhood as a Korean adoptee raised by white parents and her search for her biological family while she was pregnant with her first child. Growing up, Chung was told that her biological parents decided she would have a better life if wealthier parents adopted her, and that was likely all she could ever know about them. While she loved her adoptive parents, she felt out of place in her white family. Chung writes with empathy for everyone involved in her adoption, showing that honesty and understanding aren’t mutually exclusive. As my impromptu re-read shows, All You Can Ever Know draws readers in and keeps their attention for hours at a time. 

All You Can Ever Know is the kind of book that will break your heart and put it back together again — and then make you call your mom and tell her you love her. (Hi Mom! I love you.) 

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You’re The Kind of Person Who Reads the Book Before Seeing the Movie

The Dry by Jane Harper

Surprising no one, I am this kind of person. If you are too, it’s time to add The Dry by Jane Harper to your book list. 

The Dry is a literary thriller (now that I know that term, I plan on using it all the time) about federal agent Aaron Falk who returns to his small Australian town after the death of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years earlier, when Aaron was accused of murdering his friend Ellie, Luke was his alibi, lying about Aaron’s whereabouts that day. Aaron and his father fled, since community members believed Aaron was a murderer. After Luke’s death, it becomes clear multiple people knew the boys lied about their alibis. Aaron sets out to investigate Luke’s death and the cold case of Ellie’s murder.

Set against the backdrop of a horrible drought in a farming town, The Dry is an atmospheric mystery filled with small-town secrets. It’s perfect for fans of Tana French, a moody mystery set in a gritty town on the opposite side of the world. The Dry event passed my “Tana Test” — I listened to the audiobook and read it in print so I could always be closer to finding out the solution. 

The Dry is now a movie, screening in select U.S. theaters and on-demand on IFC. I haven’t yet figured out how to see it, but I am looking forward to it since the book was already cinematic. Vulture said the movie is “a gripping, grisly piece of work. But its emotional emphasis lies elsewhere, beyond the mere ins and outs of who did what where and to whom.” That’s true for the book too – it’s not just a whodunnit but a series of character studies.

Have you read any of these? What do you think? Have you seen “The Dry?” 

Not book-related, but if you’re watching “Mare of Easttown,” let me know! I must discuss with someone.

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If you missed last week’s recs, you can read them here and here’s my interview with journalist Ken Rosen about Troubled: The Failed Promise of America’s Behavioral Treatment Programs

After writing about TRL last week, I made a TRL-inspired playlist. Enjoy if that’s your thing.

What to Read If is a free weekly book recommendation newsletter. Need a rec? Want to gush about a book? Reply to this email, leave a comment or find me on Twitter @elizabethheld.

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