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Grayslake author tackles economic issues
By Anna Marie Kukec | Daily Herald Staff

Author John Wasik stands outside his Grayslake home with his latest books.

 

Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

Author John Wasik draws on his suburban roots when writing his books.

 

Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

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Published: 10/13/2009 12:02 AM

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Author John Wasik of Grayslake looks at writing in different ways.

"Writing a column is like a sprint, you do it in a specific period of time," he said. "But writing a book is like a marathon with writing, editing and promotion."

With more than a dozen published books, Wasik's marathon has focused on a variety of consumer and economic issues, including his latest releases: "The Audacity of Help," about President Obama's economic plan and the remaking of America, and "The Cul-De-Sac Syndrome," about the sustainability of neighborhoods during the real estate downturn.

While the former newspaper reporter has worked for various publishing houses, the latest two books were under Bloomberg Press. They are available through Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble as well as other book stores.

"In some ways, John follows in the footsteps of Jessica Mitford, especially with 'Cul-De-Sac,'" said his agent Robert Shepard of Los Angeles.

Mitford, one of the famous and politically active Mitford sisters from England, hosted author dinner meetings in San Francisco many years ago that Shepard attended. Wasik had interviewed Mitford for a story and mentioned how he was looking for an agent for his books. Before she died, Mitford connected Wasik to Shepard in the late 1990s.

Still, Wasik draws much on his suburban roots for his books and has even touched on his own neighborhood in "Cul-De-Sac." That book examines what caused the housing meltdown, how sprawl and tax breaks contributed to unaffordable homes and what could happen next.

As part of his examination, he even coined the term, "spurb," or the sprawling urban area that's not conveniently located near anything, like suburbs that seemingly spring out from the middle of a corn field, he said.

His life here has helped to guide his career, like a sprint around the suburbs.

Wasik was born in South Suburban Chicago Heights and grew up in Matteson. After he married, he and his wife, Kathleen, moved to Libertyville and then to Wauconda before settling into a home in Grayslake. They're raising two daughters: Sarah, 12 and Julia, 8.

He earned a bachelor's degree in psychology at University of Illinois-Chicago, but later decided to go into journalism. He started his reporting career at the Star Publications, a weekly chain that covers the South Suburbs. He often covered mob-related activities connected to a Chicago Heights city council, he said.

He later joined Consumer Digest magazine and produced several award-winning investigative projects involving treatment of the elderly and financial fraud. That work led him to writing a column for Bloomberg News and writing books, starting in 1987.

Since then, he has won numerous awards and appeared on NBC, NPR and PBS. He's also a regular speaker around the area. He appears regularly for promotional spots, including at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14, at Common Ground in Deerfield, and at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20, at the Schaumburg Library.

Colleagues believe Wasik has the unique ability to dissect complicated financial problems and explain them in a way that makes sense to everyone.

"I really enjoy having him as a guest on my radio shows because I know we'll have fun exploring the topic of the day and I'll wind up thinking a little differently about the issue because of a point he has raised," said Ilyce Glink of Chicago, a syndicated real estate and finance columnist and commentator.