After Sherman Alexie, Erik Larson could be the most popular Seattle-based author in the business right now. His serial-killer-at-the-world's-fair book, Devil in the White City, was the rare historical narrative that sold bucketsful at Elliott Bay Book Company and at Walmart. Today, he debuts In the Garden of Beasts to an adoring hometown crowd. Beasts continues Larson's tendency to consider humanity's overwhelming desire to lean toward hope in even the most monstrous circumstances: He tells the curious story of William Edward Dodd, the first and last American ambassador to Nazi Germany. (Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave, 386-4636, 7 pm, free)

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