A little background music

Daniel Akst is a writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Slate and other leading publications. His most recent book is We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of Excess (2011). The paperback edition was published under the title, Temptation.

His first book, Wonder Boy, was the nonfiction account of a wondrous financial fraud he uncovered while working at the Los Angeles Times; it was chosen one of the 10 best books of 1990 by Business Week. His novel St. Burl’s Obituary (1996), about a fat man who becomes unrecognizably thin (and takes up the chance to re-inhabit his former life), was short-listed for the PEN/Faulkner prize for best work of fiction by an American. His novel The Webster Chronicle, which updated the lives of Cotton and Increase Mather in the context of a very modern witch hunt, was praised in the Atlantic Monthly, Washington Post and elsewhere.

Akst has worked on staff as a reporter at the Wall Street Journal, where he now writes the weekend news quiz; as a reporter, columnist and editor at the Los Angeles Times; and as a columnist and editorial writer at Newsday. For more than eight years, he wrote a column for the Sunday business section of the New York Times. And for roughly a decade, he was a contributing editor at the Wilson Quarterly, where he wrote about the historical impact of plummeting food prices, the reasons looks matter, our changing attitudes about thrift, and the problem of self-control.

He has written scores of book reviews over the years and was a board member of the National Book Critics Circle. He has been a Koret Fellow at the University of California (Berkeley) Graduate School of Journalism, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, DC, and a public policy fellow at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. He has also been a visiting instructor in the humanities at Bard, and has taught writing in the Bard Prison Initiative. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and lives in New York’s bucolic Hudson Valley, where temptation is easily avoided.