Today’s post is another installment of our popular reader interview series.

Introducing Jessica Best. The interview was conducted via e-mail before the holiday. Jessica is a breath of fresh air in one of the reading clubs I frequent. Her reading life may be younger than such life is for some of us, but it is filled with creativity and passion. Let’s listen in.

What have you been reading lately?

Lately I have been reading textbooks for my Masters of Social Work program! I really enjoy the book club at Northbrook because it encourages me to read for fun, which I might not do otherwise. I enjoyed reading “Waking up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race”.

What’s the last book you read that touched you deeply? Or do you prefer to share a book that helped shape you life and goals.

A book that touched me deeply was “Bel Canto”–I found it easy to read and very enjoyable, which allowed me to connect to the humanity of the characters. There are many books that have shaped my life and life’s work, about how systemic racism impacts our national institutions and how we can imagine life differently. Writing by Dr. James Lowen has taught me a lot about education and housing, and I would like to get more into the work of Octavia Butler to explore the possibilities science fiction presents for social justice.

How do you read? Paper or electonic? One book at a time – or several simultaneously?

I prefer to read paper books, and I generally read one at a time.

Where and when do you most like to read?

I do not have a particular place I like to read–when I do read, I will do it anywhere.

Do you have a favorite genre? Are there types of books you avoid?

I do not have a favorite genre, although I do really enjoy captivating fiction and nonfiction books. I generally avoid period pieces, especially those focused on wartime–I’m not really sure why.

How do you balance professional reading with pleasure reading or is the professional pleasurable?

Some of my professional reading is pleasurable. I don’t do a good job balancing my professional and pleasure reading to be honest! I generally start with other forms of entertainment when I have leisure time.

Do you have a favorite book or literary character from childhood

The first two books that I can think of are Trump-O-Moto and Mirette on the High Wire. Trump-O-Moto was a large book with beautiful illustrations and a deeply imaginative story. Mirette on the High Wire was so fascinating to me because of the unique perspective you would have walking on a high wire–its almost magical!

What books are you thinking of gifting this Christmas?

I am thinking of giving “Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race” to all my family members and anyone who will accept a copy and try to read it!

What do you plan to read next?

I plan to read “Parable of the Sower” by Octavia Butler A few years ago, I attended a workshop facilitated by a collective of writers inspired by Octavia Butler, called Octavia’s Brood. They talked about the potential science fiction has for social justice. One of the writers made a comment about how at one point, slavery was science fiction–someone imagined it and made it happen. Science fiction can be used in reverse–we can imagine a better, more equitable and inclusive world and slowly work toward it. In reading Octavia Butler’s work, I expect to explore the genre of science fiction and imagined solutions to social problems, and reflect on how those science fiction solutions can be mapped onto our current real world experiences.

Note from Paulette:
Yes, if you are true reader, you read anywhere and anytime you can. Sometimes readers with more leisure have favorite times and places for reading that motivate, but for those in the midst of a busy life, it only makes sense to take that reading time wherever one can find it. Sincere thanks to Jessica for taking time out from her busy life to talk with us about her reading world.


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