What’s your favorite book of all time?
“The End of the Affair,” by Graham Greene. It’s such a beautiful story of the triumph of compassion over cynicism.
Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).
I travel a lot, and having a good book on airplanes and in airports transforms tedium into treasured time. The other day, I was stuck at O’Hare for eight hours, but I had a pre-publication copy of a riveting memoir, “A House in the Sky,” by Amanda Lindhout, about being kidnapped in Somalia. A few of the other travelers were having loud hissy fits, complaining that we were being treated horribly, and I had to bite my tongue to keep from shouting out: “We got food and clean water! You all don’t know how good we have it!”
Who are your favorite novelists?
Updike, Steinbeck, Balzac and Mona Simpson.
Who is your favorite overlooked or underappreciated writer?
I feel a little uncomfortable answering this, because the author I’d choose is quite happy with his level of recognition. Who am I to say he should be more famous?
What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Any you steer clear of?
I love histories, biographies and memoirs. I’m also drawn to realistic fiction. I’m not a huge fan of experimental fiction, fantasy or so-called escapist literature. Reality is just so interesting, why would you want to escape it?
Do you read a lot of memoirs? Any good ones recently, aside from Lindhout’s?
I love memoirs. I devour them. “In the Sanctuary of Outcasts,” by Neil White; “The Memory Palace,” by Mira Bartok; “Denial,” by Jessica Stern; “A Long Way Gone,” by Ishmael Beah; “An Unquiet Mind,” by Kay Redfield Jamison; “Chanel Bonfire,” by Wendy Lawless; “The Center Cannot Hold,” by Elyn Saks; “After Visiting Friends,” by Michael Hainey; “The Kiss,” by Kathryn Harrison; “My Stroke of Insight,” by Jill Bolte Taylor; “Couldn’t Keep It to Myself: Wally Lamb and the Women of York Correctional Institution,” edited by Wally Lamb. That’s just a few. There are so many more.
What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?
My vast collection of books on raising chickens. There’s more to it than you’d think.
Do you ever read self-help? Anything you recommend?
The best self-help books, in my opinion, are memoirs. If people are honest about what happened to them,