If reading is a solitary act, the form of the book galvanizes us for communal discussion, debate, and celebration. Established in 2002, WestportREADS continues the storied tradition of reading a book together to strengthen community engagement in literature. 

The 2024 WestportREADS selection is The Art Thief by Michael Finkel, the true-crime tale of the world’s most prolific art thief, Stéphane Breitwieser, who stole, never for money, but for personal treasure and adoration. 

Select copies of the book are available for borrowing now at The Westport Library, with the full complement of WestportREADS volumes arriving in December. The Art Thief is also available as a digital copy (e-book) and as an audiobook. 

A full slate of programming centered on The Art Thief begins in early January. The capstone event will be held Friday, January 26, when Finkel appears in-person at the Library to deliver the WestportREADS keynote address (registration coming soon).

“We are excited to convene around Michael Finkel’s The Art Thief in Westport’s annual celebration of literature,” said Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer. “Finkel is a writer who simultaneously pushes the boundaries of truth while searching for it. The Art Thief narrative gives us the twists and turns of any great true-crime story while raising existential questions on art, capital, and values.” 

Finkel (True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa; The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit) is a journalist and best-selling memoirist hailing from Northern Utah. After a prosperous run as a New York Times reporter, Finkel was terminated for compositing quotes in the 2001 story Is Youssouf Malé A Slave?

Shortly afterward, Finkel discovered that Oregon murderer Christian Longo used “Michael Finkel” as an alias. Finkel reached out to Longo, forging a relationship that served as the basis for True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa. The book was adapted for film in 2015’s True Story, premiering at Sundance Film Festival, starring Jonah Hill, James Franco, and Felicity Jones.

Finkel’s follow-up, The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit, chronicled Christopher Knight, an intentional recluse who lived for 27 years in the woods of Maine with almost no human interaction, surviving by grifting life essentials. Vanity Fair contributing editor and ABC News special correspondent Stephen Junger raved that The Stranger in the Woods was "a story that takes the two primary human relationships — to nature and to one another — and deftly upends our assumptions about both.” 

Finkel’s The Art Thief arrives with similar acclaim. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Kathryn Schulz wrote in The New Yorker, “The Art Thief, like its title character, has confidence, élan, and a great sense of timing. It is propelled by suspense and surprises. … This ultra-lucrative, odds-defying crime streak is wonderfully narrated by Finkel, in a tale whose trajectory is less rise and fall than crazy and crazier. ... Part of what makes Finkel’s book so much fun is that, without exception, [Breitwieser’s] strategies are insane.” 

Finkel told Esquire, “Working on this book changed the way I experience museums and commune with a work of art. Breitwieser is often low energy; then, when he walks into a museum, it’s like he’s had a triple shot of espresso. This is someone who’s very parsimonious with his words, then suddenly he’s babbling like your favorite crazy art professor. I would watch his face as he stood in front of an artwork. If he didn't like something, it was a flat face. If he liked something, it was as if he’d been electrocuted, and he’d often look around the room to see if he could commune alone with it. 

Past WestportREADS selections include Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab, Towards a More Perfect Union: Confronting Racism by Layla Saad, and Exit West by Moshin Hamid, among others.

For more past WestportREADS selections, and to learn more about the annual event, visit the WestportREADS homepage on The Westport Library website. 

WestportREADS is supported through a generous bequest by the estate of Jerry A. Tishman.


Photo credit for Michael Finkel photo: Doug Loneman

The idea for Firekeeper’s Daughter percolated with Angeline Boulley for years, before she became a first-time novelist in her early 50s with its publication. It was worth the wait. Firekeeper’s Daughter was one of the best-reviewed books of 2021, earning raves from NPR, TIME, Entertainment Weekly, Good Morning America, and Publishers Weekly, among many others. In addition, it received the Printz Medal and the Morris Award, was named a Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club YA Pick, and has been optioned for a Netflix show by Higher Ground, the production company of Barack and Michelle Obama.

One week from today, Boulley will join us in the Library’s Trefz Forum to discuss her debut novel, which is this year’s WestportREADS selection. Before her appearance, Boulley, whose second book, Warrior Girl Unearthed, comes out in May, took some time to answer our questions on coming to the Library, her favorite books, and more.

[Related: ‘Firekeeper’s Daughter' by Angeline Boulley Named 2023 WestportREADS Book Selection]

Westport Library: What was your reaction to Firekeeper’s Daughter being named our WestportREADS pick for 2023?

Angeline Boulley: I was absolutely thrilled to be named your 2023 WestportREADS book! Community reading programs are such a great way for people to come together and discuss different perspectives. I especially love intergenerational events that bring teens, parents, and grandparents together. 

What are your general thoughts on coming to The Westport Library to speak to our community?

I am excited to visit The Westport Library. A library says a lot about a community — it's evident that Westport values artistic expression and views the Library as the heart of its community. Also, I'm curious about your Seed Library.

There is so much information out there now and so many things to do and places to visit. Against that landscape, why do you think libraries still matter?

Libraries bring people together and foster engagement as a community. It's a place where everyone can access resources and ideas, and [where they] are valued as community members rather than as customers or consumers.    

What are your favorite or most influential books?


1. The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline 

2. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork 

3. The Round House by Louise Erdrich

4. The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve

5. Chemistry by Weike Wang

6. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

7. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

8. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

9. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

10. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

I'm also a huge fan of audiobooks. Here are my favorites (fiction):

1. Sadie by Courtney Summers

2. The Girls I've Been by Tess Sharpe

3. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo 

4. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir 

5. The Martian by Andy Weir

6. I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb

7. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

8. The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

9. Tara Road by Maeve Binchy

10. The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan

And I listen to a lot of memoir/biography/autobiography/essays:

1. Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

2. What Remains by Carole Radziwill

3. Hunger by Roxane Gay

4. Diana: Her True Story by Andrew Morton

5. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

6. Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

7. Becoming by Michelle Obama

8. Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe

9. God Said, "Ha!" by Julia Sweeney

10. The Drummond Girls by Mardi Jo Link

What music/musicians/albums inspire you?


Florence + The Machine

Luther Vandross

Martina McBride


One Republic

Patty Loveless

Sister Hazel

Vienna Teng


[Related: Westport Library WestportREADS 2023 Freegal Playlist]

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