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Publisher Description

“Beha tackles finance, faith, war, entitlement, and no end of self-destructive acts. I greatly admired both the writing and the ambition.” —Ann Patchett

A New York Times Editors’ Choice

Longlisted for the National Book Award

Finalist for the Gotham Book Prize

A Best Book of the Year at Kirkus, The Christian Science Monitor, Library Journal, and BuzzFeed

What makes a life, Sam Waxworth sometimes wondered—self or circumstance?

On the day Sam Waxworth arrives in New York to write for the Interviewer, a street-corner preacher declares that the world is coming to an end. A data journalist and recent media celebrity—he correctly forecast every outcome of the 2008 election—Sam knows a few things about predicting the future. But when projection meets reality, life gets complicated.

His first assignment for the Interviewer is a profile of disgraced political columnist Frank Doyle, known to Sam for the sentimental works of baseball lore that first sparked his love of the game. When Sam meets Frank at Citi Field for the Mets’ home opener, he finds himself unexpectedly ushered into Doyle’s crumbling family empire. Kit, the matriarch, lost her investment bank to the financial crisis; Eddie, their son, hasn’t been the same since his second combat tour in Iraq; Eddie’s best friend from childhood, the fantastically successful hedge funder Justin Price, is starting to see cracks in his spotless public image. And then there’s Frank’s daughter, Margo, with whom Sam becomes involved—just as his wife, Lucy, arrives from Wisconsin. While their lives seem inextricable, none of them know how close they are to losing everything, including each other.

Sweeping in scope yet meticulous in its construction, The Index of Self-Destructive Acts is a remarkable family portrait and a masterful evocation of New York City and its institutions. Over the course of a single baseball season, Christopher Beha traces the passing of the torch from the old establishment to the new meritocracy, exploring how each generation’s failure helped land us where we are today. Whether or not the world is ending, Beha’s characters are all headed to apocalypses of their own making.

Fiction & Literature
May 5
Tin House Books
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Customer Reviews

hpaton ,

Brilliant, engaging treatise on human folly

Like Bonfire of the Vanities, this novel exposes the follies of modern society and the arrogance and self-delusions of human nature. But unlike Bonfire, The Index of Self-Destructive Acts does this without glee or sharp-edged satire. All of the characters are sympathetically drawn and fully developed, which is not to say their follies withstand the earthquakes that Beha sends their way — far from it. Beha roughs them up pretty good, to put it mildly. The book is deeply satisfying both as drama and as an intellectual exercise. Here, reason battles faith, data battles emotion, and logic battles ethics. To me, Beha achieves through traditional plot and story what Doctorow tried to achieve (with less success) through monologue in City of God. I burned through this book, marveling at its depth of meaning and narrative skill. The ending achieves a transcendent bulls eye. Suffice it to say, I loved this book. Highly recommend.

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