5 Questions with David Sax, Author of The Revenge of Analog

revenge-of-analogOn Tuesday November 15, at 7pm, we’re thrilled to host journalist David Sax at City Lights! He will be discussing his new book, The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter from Public Affairs Books. David answered our five questions; more on him, and his answers, below.

The Event: Tuesday, November 15th, at 7:00pm. City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, 261 Columbus Ave, San Francisco CA, 94133.

About The Revenge of Analog: By now, we all know the mythology of the digital revolution: it improved efficiency, eliminated waste, and fostered a boom in innovation. But as business reporter David Sax shows in this clear-sighted, entertaining book, not all innovations are written in source code. In fact, businesses that once looked outdated are now springing with new life. Behold the Revenge of Analog.

Sax has found story after story of entrepreneurs, small business owners, and even big corporations who’ve found a market selling not apps but real, tangible things. As e-books are supposedly remaking reading, independent bookstores have sprouted up across the country. As music supposedly migrates to the cloud, vinyl record sales have grown more than ten times over the past decade, generating more than half a billion dollars in 2015 alone. Even the offices of Silicon Valley icons like Google and Facebook increasingly rely on analog technologies like pen and paper for their business.

Sax’s work reveals not just an under-reported trend in business, but a more fundamental truth about how humans shop, interact, and even think. Blending psychology and observant wit with old-fashioned reportage, Sax shows that humans need to work, sell, and live in the real world—not on a screen.

About David Sax: David Sax is a journalist specializing in business and culture. His writing appears regularly in Bloomberg Businessweek and The New Yorker’s Currency blog. He is the author of two books, including The Tastemakers: A Celebrity Rice Farmer, a Food Truck Lobbyist, and Other Innovators Putting Food Trends on Your Plate, and Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen, which won a James Beard Award for Writing and Literature. He lives in Toronto.


City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit? If you haven’t been here before, what are you expecting?

David Sax: The first time I ever visited San Francisco was back in 2001, during a road trip across Canada and the US with my girlfriend at the time. The city was more beautiful and iconic than we could have imagined, from the rain and the fog, to the food and the sweet hippie grunge. I don’t know how we ended up at City Lights, but I recall it was at night, in the rain, waiting for a table at an Italian restaurant nearby. And I remember as we browsed around for half an hour or so, telling her just how much I loved bookstores like this, and how they made life worth living. Maybe I bought a Steinbeck book. Or maybe I just wish I did. Either way, I can’t wait to return.

CL: What’s the first book you read & what are you reading right now?

DS: Well, since I was born in a pre-Sandra Boynton era, it was likely Goodnight Moon, or the Richard Scarry masterpiece Cars, Trucks and Things that Go. The first author I really recall digging into was Gordon Korman, a prolific Canadian author that has written nearly a hundred kids and YA books, starting with his epic series about a couple of misfits at a boarding school called Bruno and Boots. Those books were the first I recall reading with a flashlight under the covers, well past my bedtime.

Currently, I’m reading The Vegetarian by Han Kang, which is a frighteningly gripping tale laced with horror out of South Korea. My friend Rob Sternberg picked it for our book club.


CL: Which 3 books would you never part with?

DS: Just three? Seriously? Oh crap.

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler, because it’s the closest thing my father has to an autobiography, and it’s the canon of the Canadian-Jewish identity.

The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck. The greatest novel I have ever read. Consumed over two days as I was sick with strep throat in a dorm in an Australian ski resort where I was working. My last actual job!

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert Caro. A beast of paper. A slog that took me six months to finish, but changed the way I see everything from politics to sidewalks, and a masterwork of journalism at its finest.

CL: If your book had a soundtrack, what would it be?

DS: This is so easy, because I basically picked up dozens of records over the course of my “research”, and played them all through the writing. I’ll list a handful of the albums here: +’Justments by Bill Withers, Promised Land Sound by Promised Land Sound, Lazaretto by Jack White, Lost Soul by Geater Davis, Sour Soul by BadBadNotGood and Ghostface Killah, Black Messiah by D’Angelo, and many many more.

CL: If you opened a bookstore tomorrow, where would it be located, what would it be called, and what would your bestseller be?

DS: If I had my way, maybe a ski town, or surf town. Ride in the morning, sell books in the afternoon/evening. Yeah, live the dream. Actually, that’s pretty much how it works in San Francisco, right?

Given that, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan is a no brainer, and the best book I have read over the past two years. Got me back in the water, even if my waves are crappy wind-blown ones on Lake Ontario, caught on an inflatable paddleboard. But hey, no sharks!

Please join us on November 15th at 7pm to welcome David Sax at City Lights! Find The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter direct from Public Affairs Books , City Lights, or ask for it at your local independent bookstore.

For more information about authors visiting City Lights, go to our complete calendar.

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