What is your favorite genre? Which do you avoid?
I love some horror as well as dystopian type science fiction. Stuff that is uncomfortable really gets my mind going! I also really love graphic novels, particularly because I can run through them so quickly, and it makes me feel more accomplished! There are no genres I 100% avoid, but I tend to not enjoy historical fiction quite as much – but am open to suggestions if anybody has any in this (or any!) genre!
What is a book that you're afraid to read?
I'm not afraid to read it, so much as every time I start it I…well…I forget to go back to it. It's Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I understand it's pretty amazing, but it's also quite daunting, given its length. I typically only go over 1000 pages for Stephen King. I should give Wallace another go.
What is a book you dislike/hate that everyone loves? Do you remember the last time you put down a book without finishing?
I really didn't like A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, but it won a Pulitzer Prize so I must just be wrong. With that said, I never put down a book with the intent of not finishing it, though I do put down a lot of books and forget to return to them!
What book is currently sitting on your nightstand?
Oh, so many! For whatever reason, I can't just read one book at a time. Currently I'm in the middle of Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, Fairy Tale by Stephen King, Under the Banner of Heaven (a re-read) by Jon Krakauer, The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood, Random by Penn Jillette, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara…among others.
Do you have a favorite book no one else has heard of?
It's not exactly a book no one has heard of, but I’m guessing most haven’t – it’s called Swan Song by Robert McCammon, and it’s a post-apocalyptic horror novel from the late 1980s, drawing on some of the same themes as Stephen King’s The Stand. I read this when I was in my early teens, and it really stuck with me – I should revisit it, but I’m afraid it might not hold up, as so much of the media I devoured back then fails to please in the same way.
Which writers – novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets – working today do you admire most?
The graphic novelist Mark Russell is great – his work from a grown-up take on The Flintstones and Snagglepuss to a really fun look at the Wonder Twins (from the old 70s cartoon Super Friends) are just wonderful. I will read everything from Stephen King that comes out, though I still have a few that I haven’t gotten to. I think Dan Savage is hilarious and brilliant, especially for an “advice columnist.” Amanda Gorman is an amazing poet who is changing the world with her words. Jon Krakauer is another author I really enjoy – his subjects are always so fascinating and he does such a great deep dive into them, that I’m always captivated. And of course, I just can’t wait for Lin Manuel Miranda to write another amazing piece of stagecraft.
What’s the most interesting thing that you learned from a book recently?
In Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá, a kind of anthropological examination of the history of human mating habits dating back to prehistoric times, I learned a lot about what might explain the high incidence of infidelity in modern relationships. As a professor of interpersonal communication, I am always fascinated about the development of relationships among humans, and how these relationships have evolved over the course of humankind.
Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?
I like both, but I really like any type of media that can give me a good laugh or a good cry, so I would have to say emotionally.
Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Your favorite antihero or villain?
My favorite hero is Hazel from the novel Watership Down by Richard Adams. He’s a rabbit (virtually all the characters in the book are rabbits, but it’s definitively not a children’s book!) who isn’t outwardly special but is tasked with being a leader to save all of his friends from certain death. The reason he’s my favorite is because he is so good at harnessing the strengths of those around him to make the entire group better, to help them to survive. I think every leader should read this book to take a lesson from Hazel. My favorite villain is Pennywise from IT. I mean, just so freakin’ scary man! I remember reading that under the covers when I was 13 years old, and just not getting a bit of sleep for weeks on end.
What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you the most?
I was the type of reader who quickly got bored with the offerings of the children’s library early on, and thus “graduated” to the adult library around the age of 12. I went through so many inappropriate books at a fairly young age, because of this – pretty much every Stephen King novel for example. He’s definitely not writing for children, but I was captivated. Despite that, there were some books for young adults that still stick with me – anything by Madeline L’Engle and the entire Encyclopedia Brown series.
What do you plan to read next?
I have an ever-growing list of books I would like to read next. In my Libby account, I have the following saved: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Chain by Adrian McKinty…and many, many more!
What book would you most like to see turned into a movie or TV series that hasn’t already been adapted? Who would you cast in the lead role?
I do love some great adaptations! It already has been adapted as a poor film, but I would say they need to do a massive HBO quality series of Stephen King’s Dark Tower saga. These books are truly the Lord of the Rings of our time and deserve a prestige transfer to the screen. I would re-cast Idris Elba who is still perfect for Roland (the gunslinger) and would probably put in Mads Mikkelsen as Flagg.
What’s the last book you read that made you furious?
Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer. Everything about this just enrages me, including the fact that coverups of heinous crimes continue to this day. Read this, and you will be enraged too, but hopefully this collective rage will start a groundswell of needed change in our justice system!
Where do you find your books? Where do you look when you’re searching for your next great read?
I never go looking, because so many suggestions come to me organically through the many, many podcasts I listen to. I have dozens of podcasts I listen to regularly and from those I get so many suggestions to add to my growing list. Hmmmm…maybe if I listened to fewer podcasts I would have more time for reading…