What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelves?
“The Velveteen Rabbit” and “The Paper Bag Princess.” I love choosing which books to give to the newest members of our family. There’s nothing better than watching a child fall in love with reading. Also my son is working on a comic book, so there’s that.
Take a moment to praise a few unheralded writers. Who should we be reading?
I don’t know about “unheralded,” but I think people should be reading Luis Alberto Urrea, Helen Oyeyemi, Eowyn Ivey, Chevy Stevens, Sarah Bird and Chloe Benjamin.
What was the last book to make you laugh?
Jonathan Tropper’s “This Is Where I Leave You.”
The last book to make you cry?
I know that Hanya Yanagihara’s “A Little Life” was polarizing, but I loved it. And the ending broke my heart.
The last book that made you furious?
Furious is a good thing — I love a book that makes me feel anything keenly. Irritated is something else entirely. That usually comes from an idea that I feel has been squandered in poor execution. There’s a recent debut best-seller — very controversial — that tested my patience to the breaking point. But karma’s a bitch, so I think I’ll keep the title to myself.
What kind of reader were you as a child? Your favorite book? Most beloved character?
I was exactly the reader one would expect — the kid who was constantly reading. I can’t count the number of times my dad told me to look up from my book and see what was outside the window. My favorite book list is long, and as varied as my reading tastes are today. The Oz books, everything by Roald Dahl and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Favorite character from my youth (maybe of all time) is Samwise Gamgee.
Of the books you’ve written, which is your favorite or the most personally meaningful?
For now, I’d have to say that my favorite is “The Nightingale.” It’s the book where I found my voice and my footing and my future, after all these years of writing. And I love that it’s currently being made into a movie by an amazing team of women — we have a female writer, director, producer and studio president. It gives me such hope for the film.
Most personally meaningful would have to be “Firefly Lane.” It’s full of my own life stories and memories from Seattle in the ’70s and ’80s. In writing it, I remembered my youth and, more important, my mother, who started me on this literary road and died too young to see me get published. I know that somewhere she’s sitting with a martini and telling her friends to check out her daughter’s new book.
If you could pick any of your books to be turned into a movie or TV series, which would it be and why?
I guess I would pick “The Great Alone.” Like “The Nightingale,” it’s a story about the strength of women and survival and the choices that define a life. Set in remote Alaska in the 1970s, it reveals the harsh, cruel beauty of the Last Frontier and the fiercely independent men and women who live there. It’s a world I’ve never seen on screen, and it’s surprisingly relevant in today’s turbulent, unsettled world. I think it could be made into a gorgeous and powerful film. But I’m a movie buff, so I would take any of them.
If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?
I believe every American — and this certainly includes the president — should read the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights and the other amendments.
You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers are invited?
Of course my guest list would change every year, based on what’s going on in the world at large and in my own world. This year I would choose Margaret Atwood, Hillary Clinton and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I want to hear their thoughts and opinions on art, literature, justice, motherhood — anything and everything — but particularly on women’s history. Where we have been, how we got here and how to get where we want to go. And let’s face it, the Notorious R.B.G. is just plain cool.
Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?
I put down books without finishing them all the time. I am a compulsive book buyer (some might call it hoarding), but most of them end up on a “someday TBR pile.” I give a book about 50 pages. If I’m not hooked, I move on. As for disappointing, I will say “Madame Bovary.” I just don’t love it.
Whom would you want to write your life story?
I’m going to choose Anne Rice. She’s a brilliant writer. She’s also generous, original, imaginative and knows a thing or two about loss, which is inextricably a part of my story. I think she could take my pretty ordinary life and make it into a page turner.
What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?
“The Fault in Our Stars,” “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” “Never Let Me Go” and “Ulysses.”
What do you plan to read next?
“The Book of Dust.”