Whether people think of books as guilty pleasures or medicine for the soul, they are sure to find something worth reading at the Jewish Book Month Speaker Series.
Presented by the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore, the series starts tonight at Tedesco Country Club in Marblehead with a visit from Ben Mezrich, author of “Bitcoin Billionaires.”
He will be followed by seven more readings between now and Wednesday, Dec. 11, at sites in Marblehead and Salem.
“Back in the day, we used to host most things at the JCC, but we’ve outgrown that,” said Sara Ewing, adult program director at the organization. “This is the first year we’ve done something at Tedesco Country Club, and we usually do something at a synagogue.”
Now in its 25th year, the series features either Jewish writers or books that have something to do with Judaism and is designed to appeal to a wide range of audiences.
“We like to make sure we’re covering a diverse range of topics, with fiction, nonfiction, comedy,” Ewing said. “We’ve done historic fiction, and travel. The kids’ event is always free, and we always partner with Hillel School. The girls night out is at Kernwood Country Club, and we always do a brunch, that’s one of our signature events.”
The book that Mezrich will discuss tonight is a sequel of sorts to “The Accidental Billionaires” from 2009, in which he chronicled the founding of Facebook.
Part of that story was a dispute over the creation of Facebook in which Mark Zuckerberg, who is now the face of the social media platform, was pitted against two fellow Harvard students, Cameron and Tyler Winkelvoss, who are identical twin brothers.
“I had gotten them wrong, believing they were the bad guys,” Mezrich said.
But he wasn’t alone, because a lot of people shunned the twins when they tried to invest the money they won in their settlement of the dispute.
“In Silicon Valley, no one wanted to touch their money, because everyone’s end game was to sell to Zuckerberg,” Mezrich said.
But as he later learned from a newspaper story, the Winkelvi, as the twins are popularly known, got redemption when they made an early investment in digital currency that multiplied hundreds of times in value.
“They were the first bitcoin billionaires,” Mezrich said. “This blew my mind.”
So he called Cameron and Tyler and spent a year with them learning about bitcoin, all of which Mezrich shares in his new book.
“You will understand bitcoin, and why it’s significant and not a Ponzi scheme, and why a lot of what’s going to happen in the future of money is going to involve these cryptocurrencies,” Mezrich said.
But like many of his books, “Bitcoin Billionaires” is also a thriller about young people getting in on the ground floor of something big, while operating “in that gray area between right and wrong.”
“It’s a true-life thriller about high finance, betrayal, all of the themes that I write about,” Mezrich said.
Some of the other books in the series include “Careful What You Wish For,” a mystery about a professional organizer and her hoarder husband by New York Times-bestselling author Hallie Ephron, who will be at the community center on Sunday, Nov. 17.
A children’s book event about a dog, “Gina From Siberia,” will be held Sunday, Nov. 3, and will include a visit from Oscar, the Epstein Hillel School’s dog in residence.
For some comic relief, New Yorker Magazine cartoonist Roz Chast and staff writer Patricia Marx will play their ukuleles at Peabody Essex Museum in Salem on Sunday, Dec. 1.
One of the more thought-provoking evenings in the series will be provided by Mitchell Zuckoff, a journalism professor at Boston University whose book “Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11” was published in April.
He spoke to hundreds of people about the terrorist attacks in 2001 but focuses on 24 of these in the book, weaving their memories together with thoroughly researched accounts of everything that happened on that day.
Zuckoff covered the attacks for The Boston Globe and said that deciding on a structure for the book was one of his biggest challenges in writing it.
“I can’t tell the story of all 3,000 people who perished or the tens of thousands of people who were directly affected,” Zuckoff said. “It was a constant balancing act, and I tried to do two things: capture all of these events and also show representative samples of the kinds of things that happened to people — someone who fell, or jumped, from the building. Some firefighters who behaved heroically in the face of death. People on the planes. It was a selection process, as with any story, only this one was on steroids.”
He said that he wrote the book in part for people who will never forget that day, to help them “put it all together or solidify their memories,” but also for people who grew up hearing about 9/11, but are too young to have personal memories of those attacks.
“The younger people who weren’t around, they come up, and they will ask really good questions about what it felt like,” Zuckoff said.
“Fall and Rise” is organized into three sections that reflect what happened on the four airplanes that were hijacked by terrorists; at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania; and in the aftermath of 9/11.
Zuckoff said that his narrative veers between the details that bring his subjects’ experiences to life and the big picture that puts their experiences in perspective.
“Something will trigger a discussion of the failure of communications, or failure of a hierarchy in the FAA, but what leads into that is a detail about a failure to reach somebody on the phone at that moment,” he said.
Schedule of events
“Bitcoin Billionaires,” Ben Mezrich, 7 p.m., Tedesco Country Club, 154 Tedesco St., Marblehead. $36, includes reception.
Sunday, Nov. 3
“Gina From Siberia,” Jane Bernstein, 3 p.m., Epstein Hillel School, 6 Community Road, Marblehead. Free.
Wednesday, Nov. 6
“Mistress of the Ritz,” Melanie Benjamin, Jewish Community Center of the North Shore, 4 Community Road, Marblehead. $18, includes reception.
Thursday, Nov. 14
“Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love,” Dani Shapiro, 6 p.m., Kernwood Country Club, 1 Kernwood St., Salem. $72, includes dinner, a drink and a copy of the book.
Sunday, Nov. 17
“Careful What You Wish For,” Hallie Ephron, 10 a.m., Jewish Community Center of the North Shore, 4 Community Road, Marblehead. $25, includes brunch.
Wednesday, Nov. 20
“Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11,” Mitchell Zuckoff, 7 p.m., Temple Emanu-El, 393 Atlantic Ave., Marblehead. $18, includes reception.
Sunday, Dec. 1
“An Afternoon of Ukuleles, Cartoons and Conversation,” Roz Chast and Patricia Marx, 3 p.m., Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex St., Salem. $36, includes reception and museum admission.
Wednesday, Dec. 11
“Rescue Board: The Untold Story of America’s Efforts to Save the Jews of Europe,” Rebecca Erbelding, 7 p.m., Jewish Community Center of the North Shore, 4 Community Road, Marblehead. $18, includes reception.
For reservations, visit www.jccns.org or call 781-476-9906. A special ticket package includes one seat at each event for a discounted rate of $200.