In my family, the religious gene was recessive and the gambling gene dominant, so I’ve read a lot of books about that Xanadu, Las Vegas, city of bright lights and brighter hopes. I used to spend a lot of time there — I watched Richard Nixon resign on a TV in my suite at the MGM Grand after interviewing Helen Reddy, which seemed somehow fitting. So I know a good Vegas tale when I read one. These are some of the best.
by Andres Martinez
What would you do if someone gave you $50,000 to fritter away in Sin City? For one thing you’d get lots of “perks” (freebies), including “RFB” (room, food and beverage). Matinez had a ball and this book is almost as much fun for anyone who likes the action or even just the spectacle of America’s unique gambling mecca.
by John Gregory Dunne
Vegas as it was, in a remarkable book that’s part fact, part fiction. After an argument with his wife Joan Didion, Dunne went out for a drive in Malibu and ended up in Las Vegas. His portraits — especially the striving hooker, and the Jackie Mason-type Borscht Belt comic — are brilliant creations. The book now stands as a memorial to an era that’s been buried under corporate, family-oriented glitz, an era that is, in the parlance of the one-time Nevada mobsters, out in the desert feeding the vultures.
by Pete Earley
Steve Wynn changed it all when he launched the Mirage and started opening “family attractions” to lure people with kids to Vegas. It’s hard not to be impressed by Wynn’s ambition and perspicacity — we’re talking about someone who started with a “bingo palace” here. The ultimate story of the “new” Las Vegas, and though dating from 2001, not a bit dated.
by Joe McGinniss Jr.
What if you actually grew up in Las Vegas? Joe McGinniss Jr., showing his father’s literary talent, has crafted a novel that’s grim and funny as it unveils the reality of life on and off the Strip for the young and desperate. This is Play It As It Lays for the 21st century.
by Mario Puzo
Someone should put this book back in print. It’s a classic which, in the 30 years since the Godfather author penned it, has become a treasure trove of nostalgia, a toast to “degenerate” gamblers (Puzo was one), a history of gambling through the ages (George Washington rarely passed up a bet), and a toast to the city’s heyday. Great photos, too, of that bygone era, the 1970s.
by Ben Mezrich
This true story of a bunch of MIT nerds who ripped off the casinos for megabucks was made into a film, 21, with Kevin Spacey. The story just flies off the page as these geeks grow rich, spoiled and daring, with an urge to push their luck that makes this book hard to put down.
by Peter Alson, Nolan Dalla, foreword by Mike Sexton
He was considered the world’s greatest poker player. He died at 48. He took a whole lot of drugs. He was mad, bad, and dangerous to know as he went from winner to loser. Ungar’s story spans America, from Vegas to Foxwoods. There anecdotes galore from The World Series of Poker, mesmerizing even for people who think a “flush” is similar to a blush and a “full house” means there’s no room at the inn.
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Expatina is an American journalist and copywriter living in central Italy and Berlin. She usually reads several books per week and her cardinal rule is to never finish reading a boring book just because she paid for it. Life's too short and there are too many books yet to be read.
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