Monday, January 19, 2015

Reads for Writers: By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review edited by Pamela Paul

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          We all want to know more about our favorite authors and writers. What inspires them? What are they reading? What books don’t they like? Who are their literary idols? Which authors would they invite to a dinner party? And which three books would they take to the proverbial deserted island?

          By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review Edited and with an Introduction by Pamela Paul, editor of the Book Review, answers these questions—and many more.

          Sixty-five authors, writers, and others with literary lives answer a variety of questions giving fans and other writers not only insights but reading recommendations. If you like a certain author, does it follow you will like whatever he or she reads? It’s fun to find out.

          I have read books and pieces by over half of the writers. Naturally, I read their interviews first.

I loved learning Pippi Longstocking inspired Anne Lamott to become a writer. (However, Amy Tan found Pippi too cheerful.) And that A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle, changed Lamott’s life. (Mine, too.) It’s also Dan Brown’s favorite book of all time. He highly recommends What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell who highly recommends Lee Child who plans on reading Emma by Jane Austen next. (That surprised me.)

          I have not read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, but her favorite childhood character is Meg Murray, the heroine of A Wrinkle in Time. Sandberg highly recommends books by Michael Lewis, as does Malcolm Gladwell, and she most wants to meet JK Rowling—whose book The Cuckoo’s Calling Gladwell chose not to finish.

          This book is a great version of “Six Degrees” usually of Kevin Bacon, but this time with writers.

          I also like knowing more about where others write. However, only four writers had their answers published:

Carl Hiaasen: The first thing you see outside my office is a doormat that says: LEAVE…Inside, my so-called work space looks like it got tossed by burglars. (page 26)

John Irving’s description on page 31 sounds to be the most efficient and comfortable with two tables, a computer in a far corner, a couch, and a chocolate Lab for company.

Sylvia Nasar’s office is very neat and colorful also with a Lab for company—see page 50.

And PJ O’Rourke’s is a mess—see page 102.

Some of the other writers included in this book are: David Sedaris, Neil Gaimen, Mary Higgins Clark, Colin Powell, Junot Diaz, John Grisham, Dave Barry, Katherine Boo, James McBride, Jhumpa Lahiri, Donna Tartt, Ann Patchett, Michael Connelly, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Chang-rae Lee, and dozens more.

While all of the answers to the following question were enlightening, this one made me laugh aloud:

If you could meet any character from literature, who would it be?

Isabel Allende: Zorro, of course. If possible, at night and in bed, with the mask but not the whip.

          Good to know--as are all the revelations and recommendations in By the Book.

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