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OC Leader Board: Doti’s Guide to Summer Reading, Viewing and Listening

Editor’s Note: Jim Doti, one of the nation’s most prescient economic forecasters and Chapman University’s president emeritus, will be presenting the university’s 45th Economic Forecast Update on June 22 at the school’s Musco Center for the Arts.

Now that summer is approaching, I hope you’ll find a little extra time for your reading or listening (Audible.com) pleasure. Here are a few titles that I’d like to recommend.

Many of us are concerned about the opioid epidemic facing the nation. A book that tells the tragic story of the little-known family that played a major role in this scourge is “Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty” by Patrick Radden Keefe.

What makes this book especially revealing is how our judicial and regulatory institutions allowed a potentially dangerous painkiller, OxyContin, to get into the hands of so many people.

I just finished reading “Tuxedo Park” that tells a remarkable history of a group of inventors during the first half of the 20th century who had an outsize role in the Allied victory in World War II.

Jennet Conant’s book focuses on the life and times of a remarkable financial and scientific genius—Alfred Loomis. Being both a financial and scientific genius may sound like an oxymoron, but in the case of Loomis, it’s perfectly apt.

To gain a historical perspective on China’s emergence on the global stage as an economic and political powerhouse, I recommend “Wild Swans” by Jung Chang. This book tells the true story of three generations of a Chinese family with a focus on the author’s mother and grandmother.

It’s a gripping account of Chinese history during the 20th century, especially the story behind Mao Zedong’s disastrous Cultural Revolution.

I’ve read about the Cultural Revolution before, but this book personalizes it in a way that brings its true horrors to life.

Having read all of Andrey Kurkov’s novels, I was excited to meet this acclaimed Ukrainian author during a visit he made to Chapman University a few months ago. He did not disappoint.

I recommend two of his books: “Death and the Penguin,” a darkly-comic book about a man and his pet penguin. I know that plot point sounds strange, but believe me, somehow it works. If you like this book, you may want to read its sequel, “Penguin Lost.”

The other Kurkov book I highly recommend was not about a man and his penguin but about a man and his beloved bees. This was my favorite book of last year. It’s a picaresque account of contemporary life in Ukraine and Russia.

Warning: This book starts out a little slow, but the understated humanity of the major character, Sergey Sergeich, slowly but surely grows on you. You’ll also learn about bee massages. Getting one of these is now on my bucket list.

Finally, for more light-hearted fare, especially for pet lovers, is Laurie Zeleski’s “Funny Farm.” More than just a story about a woman who made a home for unwanted pets and abandoned farm animals, it’s also a book about entrepreneurship and the importance of family values.

I didn’t find any cable streaming to recommend this year. It seems like the creation of formulaic characters and trite storytelling is necessary to expand a simple plot into multiple episodes. But I found a few movies to recommend.

Reading that the German movie “Never Look Away” received a 13-minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival almost scared me off. But I got a hold of the DVD and watched it anyway.

This epic film tackles the seemingly impossible—juxtaposing the utter depravity of the Holocaust with the beauty of art. The name of the film, in fact, comes from a line that a beloved sister tells her young brother, “Never look away because everything that is true holds beauty in it.”

All I can say is if I were in Venice at the festival, I would have joined that throng to show my appreciation for this coming-of-age gem.

I wasn’t a big fan of the German filmmaker Wim Wenders. That was before seeing “Alice in the Cities” on TCM. The plot revolves around a photojournalist and a young girl who is left in his care.

There isn’t much in the way of dialogue, but the film doesn’t need it. A touching swimming scene in this sweet movie is alone worth the price of admission. Kudos to the actors Rüdiger Vogler and Yella Rottländer, whose acting transcends spoken dialogue.

You don’t have to be a mountain climber to enjoy and be emotionally moved by “The Alpinest,” a documentary about the bold and daring solo ascents of 23-year-old Canadian climber Marc-André Leclerc.

Be prepared to fasten your seat belts as you watch nerve-racking climbing scenes. Spoiler alert: Watch the movie to its end. I won’t say more.

Hope one or more of the above catches your fancy. Let me know at doti@chapman.edu. Meantime, have a great summer.

P.S. Bet you’re glad I didn’t recommend any boring economic tomes.

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.
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