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Powell’s Q&A: Stacy Perman

Describe your latest project.

In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules is the story of the famed fast food chain. Although, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone who considers In-N-Out a mere burger joint. Its fans are legion: everyone from Julia Child to Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith to Bob Hope has counted themselves among the devoted. Hatched in postwar Southern California, In-N-Out Burger opened in 1948 — which also happened to be the same year when, just 45 miles away, a pair of brothers, Mac and Dick, launched a burger chain of their own called McDonald's. Although In-N-Out Burger invented the drive-through and helped pioneer the fast food industry, the founding Snyder family chose to steer a different course, staying private, family owned, and clinging to a simple philosophy based solely on quality. The story of In-N-Out Burger is the quintessential American success story — one that influenced the cultural narrative of California before spreading east, eventually evolving into a cult phenomenon. Told through the colorful saga of the Snyder family, it is filled with cars, sibling rivalry, tragedy, a nasty lawsuit alleging boardroom coups and power grabs, a single heiress set to inherit hundreds of millions, and some of the freshest, juiciest hamburgers ever made.

What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?

Certainly one of the oddest occurred during college. I was one of those people who gave away samples at the supermarket. I spent many a weekend attempting to lure customers into stuffing their baskets with items they didn't really need. I handed out triangles of processed cheese, sausages, and, on one occasion, chocolates filled with Baileys Irish Cream — because apparently it is illegal to give out actual samples of spirits.

Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.

It seems almost cruel to choose just one. That said, when my niece was born, I was fairly certain that she should know Roald Dahl as soon as possible, and I began a starter library for her. One could do worse than spend some time with James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Danny the Champion of the World.

Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.

"We all live, but we don't know the why or the wherefore. We all live with the object of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same." —Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

How did the last good book you read end up in your hands and why did you read it?

I saw Falling Leaves: The True Story of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah on a table. I picked it up and, once I started reading, I found that I couldn't stop.

Describe the best breakfast of your life.

The best breakfast of my life occurs every time I am in Israel.The best breakfast of my life occurs every time I am in Israel. It is a little known fact that this riven sliver of land in the Middle East is actually the Land of Breakfast. Israelis take breakfast very seriously, and there is nothing better than sitting at one of the open-air cafes on the taylelet (beach promenade) in Tel Aviv with a strong cafe afuk and an amazing spread of sweet and savories facing the Mediterranean.

What is your idea of absolute happiness?

Those few minutes after the seat belt sign is turned on before take-off, knowing that I am at the very start of a trip, on my way to somewhere.

What is your favorite indulgence, either wicked or benign?

Without a doubt, travel.

Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.

Five Books That Will Haunt You Long after You've Finished Reading Them:

Mating by Norman Rush
The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz
The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit by Lucette Lagnado
Out of Egypt by André Aciman
Shot in the Heart by Mikal Gilmore

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Stacy Perman is an award-winning journalist and author. Her latest book is A Grand Complication: The Race to Build the World's Most Legendary Watch.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. A Grand Complication: The Race to... New Hardcover $26.00
  2. In-N-Out Burger: A...
    Used Hardcover $8.95
  3. James and the Giant Peach
    Used Trade Paper $3.50
  4. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
    Used Trade Paper $4.50
  5. Danny the Champion of the World
    Used Trade Paper $3.95
  6. The Diary of a Young Girl
    Used Mass Market $2.50
  7. Falling Leaves: The True Story of an...
    Used Trade Paper $3.50
  8. Mating
    Used Trade Paper $5.50
  9. Everyman's Library #248: The Cairo...
    Used Hardcover $21.00
  10. The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit:...
    Used Trade Paper $3.95

  11. Shot in the Heart
    Used Trade Paper $7.50
  12. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Used Hardcover $3.95

Stacy Perman is the author of A Grand Complication: The Race to Build the World's Most Legendary Watch

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