What book is on your nightstand now?
The book I’m reading right now also happens to be literally sitting on my nightstand at the moment: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.
What was the last truly great book that you read?
Great is *so* subjective… There are so many reasons why I might love a book and think it’s “great.” Maybe it’s because the writing is amazing, maybe I loved the world-building and/or the characters, maybe the romance was just perfect, maybe it was just so unique that it stood out from all the others, or maybe it just contained something I really needed to hear/read at that point in my life. That said, I think if forced to choose, I’d have to say that the last “truly great book” I’ve read would have to be Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. This book has received so many awards, was on so many end-of-year best-of lists, and has so much positive buzz that you hardly need me to tell you how truly great it is. This book wasn’t written for me, but it did one of those things that truly great books do, it provided a window into a world and a perspective that isn’t mine. It gave me a chance to put myself in someone else’s shoes — someone completely unlike me — and practice empathy. This is one of the many reasons why reading is so powerful and why I love books so much.
If you could meet any writer – dead or alive – who would it be? And what would you want to know?
I think, if I could meet any writer, I’d pick Victoria Schwab because I’d love to have the chance to try to convince her that she wanted to be my writing buddy and mentor. Every time I hear her talk about her writing process, or read her tweets when she’s working on a book, I feel this intense kinship. I’d love to have her as a mentor. That would be a dream come true. There’s nothing in particular I’d like for her to tell me. She just the most visible writer I know who embodies the type of work ethic and writing style that I aspire to. (Maggie Stiefvater would be a close second.)
What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?
I have this one book on etiquette that was particularly important to me in my formative teenage years. I think it’s out of print at this point, but here’s a link to some used copies on Amazon. It’s completely old-school and probably not something you’d expect to see on my bookshelf, but I love it and it maintains a place of honor on my “favorites” shelf. Plus, I think my copy was signed by the author.
How do you organize your personal library?
For the most part, my books and my husband’s books are all mixed together. Our bookshelves used to be totally organized, but they’ve become a bit chaotic since we sold our house near Portland and moved into this apartment near San Francisco. In general, our books are grouped the same way you might find them in a bookstore. There is a shelf for cookbooks, one for travel books, several shelves of non-fiction and of fiction. But, I did reserved a few shelves on one bookcase for my favorite books. That shelf has all my special edition Harry Potter books and basically all the books I’d try to save if there was a fire or an earthquake.
What book have you always meant to read and haven’t gotten around to yet? Anything you feel embarrassed never to have read?
There are a ton of classics that I haven’t read and always meant to, but I’m more embarrassed about the sci-fi and fantasy books that I haven’t read yet. Three books in particular, all by Neal Stephenson, come to mind: Reamde, Anathem, and Cryptonomicon. I’ve had all three of these on Kindle for such a long time, and I keep meaning to read them and then never get around to it. Since so many of my friends (and my husband) love these books, I feel really embarrassed any time I have to admit that I *still* haven’t read them yet.
Disappointing, overrated, just not good: what book did you feel you were supposed to like but didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?
One book that I’m always embarrassed to admit that I didn’t love is An Ember in the Ashes. It’s not that I didn’t like it. I did. It’s just that everyone I know LOVES this book and for me it just didn’t live up to the hype. I just didn’t care much for either of the two main characters, and I really didn’t like the “love-square” relationship drama. I’ll still read the sequel, and who knows, maybe I’ll like it more. But yeah, I just don’t have all the feels for that one.
As for last book I put down without finishing… last year, for the Read Harder challenge, I tried to read The Count of Monte Cristo, but I just couldn’t get into it. I’ll probably try again at some point.
What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Any you stay clear of?
In general, I’m drawn to most sci-fi and fantasy stories, but I’m especially drawn to military space operas, alien first contact, magical boarding schools, and anything where there isn’t a clear “good” and “evil” side.
I usually steer clear of anything that involves abuse and anything with messed-up marriages. I don’t have a lot of interest in spending time in those worlds. So, if I get the sense that a popular book includes this type of thing, I usually just skip it. For this reason, I still haven’t read (and don’t really plan to read) Gone Girl, A Little Life, or pretty much anything by Jonathan Franzan.
If you could require the President to read one book, what would it be?
From what I’ve seen, the President reads a lot of really smart books, both literature and non-fiction. So, I think I’d recommend he read something just totally fun. I also think it would have to be a romance because I get the sense that President Obama loves love, but he probably hasn’t read a romance. I’d love to see him read Carry On by Rainbow Rowell because it’s not just a romance — it’s a m/m romance, a sort-of spoof on Harry Potter (and all the other “chosen one” books), and it has some pretty unique magic. Then, after he read it, I’d like to see him sit down and talk about it with the author on YouTube. That would be AWESOME. Someone please make this happen.
What do you plan to read next?
I really, really need to read the second book in the Neapolitan Novels next, The Story of a New Name. My mom just finished the fourth (last) book in the series, and I need to catch up!
Who do you tag?
I tag anyone who thinks this looks like a fun book tag and wants to give it a try. If you do this (or already did it) on your blog or your BookTube channel, post a link in the comments so I can check it out!