I’ll be truthful: I usually like interviews written up as Q&As instead of like a feature article. This usually prevents bad writers ruining what could be an informative experience. See Exhibit A.
I ran across a Q&A article from The New York Times with Amy Schumer. It’s part of a series they do called By the Book. I thought it was interesting, so I’m stealing their questions and answering them myself. It seemed like a good way to think about my reading, as well as a good chance to let my 5 readers get to know me better. That’s a lie. There’s like 10 of you. Possibly.
YOU HEAR THAT, NEW YORK TIMES?!? I COMING STRAIGHT AT YOU.
All, right, now that we have that unnecessary joke (is it a joke if no one laughs?) out of the way, let’s get to the questions.
What books are currently on your nightstand?
None. Not a single one. I don’t keep books on my nightstand. The bed is not for reading. My comfy couch is.
Now on my end table, there’s Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, Three Little Words: A Memoir, and the fourth volume of the The Sandman series.
Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?
In terms of novelists, Maggie Stiefvater and Christopher Moore are my favorites. They consistently put out solid work, and even through their works are always tinged with the supernatural, their characters feel like they could be walking around the streets with you. Malcolm Gladwell is a favorite of mine in the non-fiction/journalism realm. Gladwell does a fantastic job of looking at things in another light. Some ideas might get oversimplified at times, but getting a different perspective on things you take for granted is beneficial to everyone.
What genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?
I gravitate toward fantasy, whether it’s high fantasy like Lord of the Rings or Age of Myth (my current read) or it’s YA fantasy like Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle or Harry Potter. I have to accept there’s a certain amount of escapism that must be going on. I also think fantasy serves as a good reflection on life. I feel like I’ve gotten better life lessons out of fantasy books than I ever have from realistic books.
In terms of avoiding, true romance books don’t make it to my shelf. I’m also not terribly big on historical fiction, though I’ve read a couple.
What’s your favorite self-help book?
The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal was pretty good. As a researcher, I like books based on empirical work. And as someone with bad habits I’m trying to kick, I liked the subject being covered.
How and when do you read? Electronic or paper? Bath or bed?
It’s a mix for me on medium, depending on the situation. My favorite, though, is a trade paperback. They’re more comfortable to read with one hand, and I can fold back the cover on the book, which doesn’t always work with a mass paperback because they’re more squat (not to mention that mass paperbacks don’t hold up well to wear and tear).
As for where, I’m an equal opportunity reader. Prior to my current setup of not reading in bed, that was my default as a kid because that was the only space that was truly mine. My couch is my default these days, but given the time, I’ll ready pretty much anywhere.
How do you organize your books?
Like with like is my priority, and then there are practical considerations of size. My bigger books all stay together because they require the same height of shelf. But yeah, I like to keep fantasy books with fantasy books. Nonfiction books with nonfiction books. Comics/graphic novels with comics/graphic novels. Where they end up on my three bookshelves is then an issue of size, and then if there’s not a true group for a book, it falls into a kind of miscellany group.
What do you like to read on the plane?
This is a trick answer. My phone has the Kindle app on it, so there are usually at least 5-10 books that are waiting to be read. And I’ll usually travel with a printed book to save battery. I’m not particular on genre when I travel.
What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?
I don’t think any one book would flag as much as the variety would, especially with print books. My Kindle shows more consistency, but when I’m in the bookstore, that’s when I tend to let myself stretch for some reason.
What’s your favorite book by a comedian?
What’s the last book that made you laugh out loud?
Timing’s too good to not also be Modern Romance.
What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?
In terms of a book that I didn’t ask for, Redwall by Brian Jacques is probably my favorite. It led me into the deep dive of that series. It wasn’t life-changing, but when you go on to read about 20 books, it’s hard to say it wasn’t impactful on my reading habits.
Tell us your favorite TV, film or theater adaptation of a book.
My favorite adaptations are the ones that take liberty with the source work or deviate enough in the storytelling that it doesn’t feel like the original (with the notable exception of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World; that movie was so faithful I liked it that much more). When you try to just duplicate the book, it usually falls flat because you’re probably going to have to cut something when it takes several hours of reading a book to a 90- to 120-minute movie (the exception being Scott Pilgrim, which really a graphic novel, not a regular novel). Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl is another exception, and is the rare time I liked the movie better because it did a better job of telling a succinct story than the novel did (the book meandered too much).
Examples would be Hunger Games and A Good Year. They both change enough that you have a different vibe off the movie than you did the book, so I didn’t feel like I was comparing the two as much. As such, I go with A Good Year by Peter Mayle as my favorite adaptation.
What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?
I loved series as a kid. Goosebumps, Animorphs, and the Little House on the Prairie books are the ones I remember the most. As a kid, seeking out novel stories really wasn’t a concern of mine. I was happy to keep coming back to the familiar. Little House on the Prairie sticks with me the most because those felt like the first real books I read. In fourth grade, they seemed huge and took forever comparatively to read. They also scored me a lot of accelerated reader points all the way through ninth grade because I could remember just enough to be able to pass the tests all those years later.
If you could be friends with any author, dead or alive, who would it be?
Maggie Stiefvater and Christopher Moore jump to the top of the list just because of their takes on humanity, and their penchants for telling uncomfortable truths and making you laugh when they did it. Also, they use the most creative cussing I’ve seen for American authors.
Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?
The Catcher in the Rye. I hated that book. There’s a possibility it’s due to the fact I was forced to read it for a college class, but even as I was reading it, I just never got into it. I never cared about Holden. Where it gets weird is that I loved Perks of being a Wallflower, which felt like the ’90s take on Salinger’s work.
A Fate Worse than Dragons by John Moore is the last book I started by didn’t finish. I gave a good try, but there were clearly jokes being told, and I didn’t think they were funny. I don’t leave books unfinished very often, but another one was This is Why We Broke Up. Again, I just couldn’t get into it. Nonfiction books are more likely to end up here, and usually those are the ones that are more like books on presenting and design, not Gladwell-type books.
Whom would you want to write your life story?
I think I’d want an absurdist take, so Douglas Adams would be my top choice, Christopher Moore if it has to be someone living. Basically, I wouldn’t want the writer to take things too seriously. Life’s too short to take it so seriously all the time.