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Northwest Passages Book Club: Neal Thompson at a glance

“Kickflip Boys,” by Seattle author Neal Thompson, was released in May.
“Kickflip Boys,” by Seattle author Neal Thompson, was released in May.

Neal Thompson, the June 13 guest of the Northwest Passages Book Club, is the author of “Kickflip Boys: A Memoir of Freedom, Rebellion and the Chaos of Fatherhood.” Here’s a look at his life and career at a glance.

Neal Thompson, author of “Kickflip Boys”

Career: Lives with his family in Seattle, where he writes books and manages the Amazon Literary Partnership program, which provides grant funding to literary nonprofits. Previously worked as a reporter at the Baltimore Sun, St. Petersburg Times, and Philadelphia Inquirer. Has written for Outside, Esquire, Backpacker, Men’s Health, Sports Illustrated and the Washington Post. Taught creative nonfiction at the University of North Carolina’s Great Smokies Writing Program and served on the board of Seattle Arts & Lectures.

Books: Author of five books, including “A Curious Man: The Strange & Brilliant Life of Robert ‘Believe It or Not’ Ripley,” a PEN Center USA Literary Award finalist in nonfiction, and “Driving with the Devil: Southern Moonshine, Detroit Wheels and the Birth of NASCAR,” which the Wall Street Journal named one of the best books on car racing. His latest book, “Kickflip Boys: A Memoir of Freedom, Rebellion and the Chaos of Fatherhood,” was published in May.

Website: nealthompson.com

Twitter: @nealthompson

Neal Thompson’s Top 10

What are you:

1. Reading: Oh, so many at once … I just finished two Philip Roth books, “The Humbling” and “Everyman.” (So good, but so sad). I’m halfway through Rachel Kushner’s “The Mars Room,” and partway through “Bad Stories” by Steve Almond, “13 Hours” by Mitchell Zuckoff, and Jamie Quatro’s “Fire Sermon.” After that: a galley of Kristi Coulter’s forthcoming essays/memoir, “Nothing Good Can Come from This.”

2. Watching: “Long Strange Trip,” an incredible six-part documentary on my favorite high school band, the Grateful Dead.

3. Listening to: I’m late (or slow) to both audiobooks and podcasts, but I love Brian Kopelman’s podcast, “The Moment,” and I thought Trevor Noah’s memoir on audio (read by Noah) was incredible. Looking forward to two other memoirs: Lidia Yuknavitch’s “The Chronology of Water” and Gregory Pardlo’s “Air Traffic.”

4. Following: I recently conducted an onstage interview, hosted by Seattle Arts & Lectures, with Laura Lippman (author of “Sunburn” and many others) and her husband, David Simon (“The Wire” and “The Deuce”). I had worked with David and Laura years ago at the Baltimore Sun, and I find their tweets a fascinating and complimentary ongoing commentary on the state of politics, books, journalism, TV, etc., as well as a hilarious dialogue between husband and wife.

5. Working on: I need to flip a coin and decide between a historical nonfiction project that I’ve been nursing for more than a decade, or a memoir that I’ve been nursing for nearly as long.

6. Planning: My wife and I went to Brazil earlier this year, and loved it – the old town sections of Salvador, the beaches of Bahia, the art and food and danger and weird politics in Sao Paulo and Rio … I learned a tiny bit of Portugese and am now obsessed with taking that smidge of late-life language learning and visiting Portugal for our 25th anniversary next year.

7. Inspired by: I’m a voracious reader, but I’ve been pushing myself to read in new directions, and have been wowed by the vital writing of young (to me) female writers, especially writers of color. A partial list includes Morgan Parker, Zinzi Clemmons, Yaa Gyasi, Tayari Jones, Nafkote Tamirat, Morgan Jenkins.

8. Imagining: Me, on a boat. I took a boating class last year and got my captain’s certificate to begin chartering boats. I’ve been craving the water, and stand-up paddleboarding is just a tease.

9. Challenged by: Balancing work life and my writing life. It’s a daily struggle.

10. Adding to my bucket list: Writing a novel, on a boat, in Portugal. Is that so much to ask?


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