Best-selling high-stakes heist novel announced as library county-wide reading winner


The Contra Costa County Library’s county-wide reading program called Read Contra Costa began October 1. This year’s book is “Portrait of a Thief” by Grace D. Li. The novel is about a high-stakes heist and is inspired by the true story of the disappearance of Chinese art from Western museums. The story involves a group of inexperienced thieves who agree to try and recover the stolen art in exchange for $50 million.

Read Contra Costa is an annual event that encourages all county residents and library users to share the experience of reading and discussing the same book. The program includes several virtual events that complement the themes of the book, as well as an interview with the author. Read Contra Costa runs from October 1 to November 15.

The book was chosen for this year’s program after an online vote by library patrons. Earlier this year, customers were given the opportunity to vote on which book they wanted to read from a group of six. When the votes were tallied, “Portrait of a Thief” was the clear winner.

Grace D. Li is a full-time medical student and author. Her book is a New York Times Bestseller, a Steph Curry Book Club Pick, and has been called one of the most anticipated books of the year by Buzzfeed, NBC News, and the Washington Post.

“The book is a fun page-turner that hooks you from the first few pages,” Assistant County Librarian Lynne Noone said. “It has smart heists, fast cars, and clever character development, making for a great read that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.”

Some of the virtual programs offered as part of this year’s program include a panel discussion on mystery writers, a presentation by two FBI special agents on their work with the FBI Art Crime team, a discussion with the director of the British Institute of Art and Law on the theft of authentic cultural objects and efforts to recover them, and an interview with the author, Grace D. Li. In the interview, she discusses the book and the Netflix deal to develop a series based on the book. Registration links and descriptions of each event are available at

The book is available in hardcover, eBook and eAudiobook format. Make a reservation and pick up the book at any of 26 Contra Costa County locations or read or listen to the book on your smart device using OverDrive’s Libby app.

This press release was produced by the Contra Costa County Public Library. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.


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