Tag Archives: Reader Interview


For this interview readeatlive.com welcomes our first Kentucky reader to the hot seat. Sincere thanks to Jim Paris for sharing some of his thoughts on reading. He is a native of Kentucky and currently lives in the Lexington area. Recently, he’s likely to have been watching NCAA basketball on TV.

We thank him for stepping up to the plate and sharing some thoughts on his reading habits.

How do you like to read? Paper or electronic? One book at a time or simultaneously? Morning or Night? Do you have a favorite spot for reading?

I generally read during the day, and either watch television (limited for sure) or work crosswords or other types of thinking games on the tablet or phone. I don’t usually have two books going at the same time. I don’t read many novels except when I am in Florida for the winter and I like mysteries and scifi. I don’t read non-fiction unless it has something to do with my deacon ministry in the Catholic Church. I read several on-line sites that produce topical, and thought provoking materials in the form of essays on a daily basis. I read them more for my ministry of homiletic preparation (aka preaching) in the Catholic Church than for pleasure.

What genres do you especially enjoy reading? Do you have a genre you might call a guilty pleasure?

Scifi and mystery novels

Do you have a favorite fictional hero? Or a favorite biographical subject?

I like the Alex Cross mysteries. Dean Koontz is a favorite author and James Patterson.

How do you organize your books?

At home, I have a library, mostly to do with deacon ministry and personal spirituality. It is organized by topics.

Do you give books as gifts? What are you likely to gift?

I will lend books from my personal library at home.

What’s the best book you ever received as a gift?

“The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis

Do you have a book related to your work or your life that has been especially important to you.

I am no Biblical scholar but appreciate the Gospels and all the Bible texts. One can never run out of interesting insights into Scripture and I enjoy the challenge of applying texts written 2000 years ago to our daily lives in the 21st Century.

Tell us anything else you would like us to know about your reading or your reading habits.

Much of my two careers of working for banks and the Catholic Church were spent reading materials that I had to read to do my job properly. Thus, I did not read a lot when I was off work because I needed the down time. I tend to read much less in the summer when I enjoy yard and garden work and attending my grandchildren’s sporting events.

Note from Paulette: Earlier this winter Jim expressed interest Hillbilly Elegy, a nonfiction book featured on this blog. Jim, if you do read this book, we will be interested in what you think about it. And thanks again, for answering these questions! Happy gardening and Happy reading.



FINALLY, another installment in the continuing readeatlive/blog reader interview series. Blog readers, you will enjoy meeting Susie and I think you will be jotting down some of her reading recommendations and hoping to adopt some of her reading habits. I know I intend to.

Tell us about what you are reading?
I have just finished two entirely different selections. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is the story of the families of two half sisters born in different villages in 18th century Ghana. One is married off to an Englishman and lives in the comfort of a castle. The other is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeon, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s slave trade and shipped to America where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. The author weaves her way through the generations and gives us a wonderful ending that reconnects us with the original sisters.

Sharon Guskin, with her first novel The Forgetting Time, tells the story of a psychology professor suffering from early stages of aphasia, a single parent mother, and her four-year-old son who is experiencing life before life. This was a page turner.

Do you have a favorite book of the last year?
I am on a committee that chooses books for a book club and recently, as we plan for next winter, I have read several books that I have enjoyed. Number one on that list would be The Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner. This story is about a connection between two women living 90 years apart, in 1911 and 9-11-2001. It is not only a good story line but very informative about Ellis Island at that time.

What book was a disappointment to you and why?
If a book is disappointing to me it is usually because I don’t care for the characters, it drags or it just does not hold my interest. I like a page turner! A recent disappointment was The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson, which I actually listened to rather than read. I spend quite a time in the car and often listen to books on CD’s. That way I can also do two books at one time. This book was 13 CD’s long and by CD 8 I was fast-forwarding through chapters. A friend that also read the book agreed that it could have been 150 pages shorter.

Do you have favorite underappreciated or overlooked authors? Do you have an author you wish to recommend. Feel free to tell us the books of that author you most liked.
JoJo Moyes! I am sure that by now she is not considered overlooked but before I read Me Before You last year I was not at all familiar with her work. I enjoyed how she told that story and have since read many Moyes novels. I would recommend The Last Letter from Your Lover (not really a lovey love story) and The Girl You Left Behind.

Do you have a long-loved book?
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. I loved the relationship between Morrie and Mitch. I have read this book at least three times. I can only hope that somewhere along my 29-year teaching career I touched someone as deeply as Morrie touched Mitch.

How do you decide what to read?
Most of my choices come from hearing or reading about books. I always check out the Best Seller lists, the library’s most read list and I have friends that know my preferences and recommend titles to me. I normally read fiction of most types but I stay away from science fiction or thriller books. I enjoy learning about something as I read, as well as just enjoying the plot. For instance, before reading Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline I had no clue that such a thing had existed and that caused me to do research and read further on the topic. And now I am looking into the topic of children experiencing life before life.

Where and when are you most comfortable reading?
I love to read in the morning at my kitchen table by the windows that overlook my gardens and a wooded area. The sounds of the birds, a cup of coffee, and a good read is a wonderful way to start a day.

If you could meet any author, who would you like to know?
Patricia Polacco, even though she is an author of children’s books. Her books carry such wonderful lessons for all that read them. Nearly every book includes interaction between the young and the old, the value of reading, the importance of good teachers, the damaging effects of teasing or bullying, or the importance of culture and respecting people’s differences. At one time I had an extensive collection of Polacco books but have passed them on to grandchildren and fellow teachers.

Did you have a favorite children’s book you loved as a child?
A book that I loved as a child is The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Warner. It was read to my fourth grade class and I can still remember a picture that I drew of the boxcar sitting in the woods. I read it to my classes and also used it for a creative writing topic.

What is in your waiting-to-read stack?
I have several books on reserve at the library including Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarity and Sweet Bitter by Stephanie Danler. I also will be listening to Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly.

Tell us anything else you would like us to know about your reading habits or your reading philosophy.
I read for enjoyment and relaxation and have always been a reader. My favorite part of my teaching day was the time after lunch when I read to the students.

I feel that reading to children is so very important long before they are school age children. Ask any first grade teacher and they will tell you that within the first days of first grade they can tell who has been read to and who probably had not had that privilege. As an aging adult I hope that reading will help keep my brain exercised.

Note from Paulette: Like Susie I am a Patricia Polacco fan. Susie so beautifully stated some of the reasons why Polacco is a much-loved children’s author. Next time you want a children’s book, or just a good old-fashioned pick-me-up, buy one of her books!

See an early post about Polacco and some of her books in the Archives of this blog. October, 2013.



Today’s post is the next installment in the readeatlive/blog continuing series, “Reader Interviews”. Today meet Jan Sansom who lives in the greater Detroit area and has a wide variety of interests.

Tell us about what you are reading.

Currently reading the last of the “Odd” series by Dean Koontz. The lead character, Odd Thomas, has a mystical psychic power that leads him into some wonderful and terrifying situations.

Do you have a favorite author or genre?

Love Philippa Gregory. I am enchanted by any book that begins “the summer of 1582”. Means I can travel back in time and refresh some English history. I also enjoy anything by Patricia Cornwell: Kay Scarpetta’s forensic autopsies and Italian recipes with a little romance thrown in for balance.

What genres do you avoid?

Science fiction and apocalyptic tales.

Is there a recent book you have been urging others to read?

“The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls because it took me inside the lives and hearts of kids dealing with utter poverty and surviving in spite of it.

Where and when do you find time to read?

Read every night in bed and on vacations.

What have you not read that you would like to read?

I don’t often read non-fiction but am looking forward to Senator Corey Booker’s story. He seems a very wise, loving man who has been able to rise above smarmy politics.
“United: Thoughts on Finding Common Ground and Advancing the Common Good” – published recently by Ballantine Books

What can you tell us about what reading means to you?

Reading takes me out of myself into the lives of others.

Note from Paulette: She sums it up well in a very few words. Thank you so much Jan for sharing something of your reading self!



From Paulette: We are lucky to be able to sit back, relax and listen to Alice talk about books and her reading habits. I feel like I am sitting beside her, comfortable and ready to read. Thanks Alice for taking us inside your reading life.

From Alice:
I am currently reading Corrupted by Lisa Scottoline –– Philadelphia lawyer turned

author. She is a diverse writer, mostly fiction, generally lawyer based for the storyi

I have just finished reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah who is one of my

favorite authors. We are doing it this Thursday for Summerhouse Bookclub. I have

to be honest; it was my favorite book read in 2015. Kristen Hannah’s books are

well-written and thoroughly researched and completely hold the readers’ interest,

page by page.

I personally like to read a book I can hold in my hand. I enjoy reading

in my sunroom in my home in Pennsylvania. I have a favorite red chair with an ottoman.

Here at the beach I sit in the great room in a comfy chair looking out at the ocean.

I like to get my books from the library but I have bought books from Amazon.

If the book is mine, I will underline a passage I want to remember for later.

Some of the books I have read recently that I enjoyed were All the Light We Cannot

See by Anthony Doerr, and Me before You by JoJo Moyes. I am looking forward to reading Me After

You, also by JoJo Moyes.

When I was a child I liked the Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew. Generally if I don’t like a book after 50 pages, I stop

reading it. My favorite authors are K. Hannah, Leanne Moriarty, and James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club Series. I’m

planning to read A Man Called Ove next. I enjoy reading and I usually try to find the time

each day to read, sometimes only a chapter.

From Paulette: It’s clear how much enjoyment reading gives you, Alice. Thanks again, you inspire me to just sit back and enjoy what I am reading, not to worry about how fast it is going, or what I think about it. I just picked up a paperback copy of A Man Called Ove and it is next for me, too.



AND…here is the next installment of our popular Interview Series. Stephanie is a busy woman with job and family among her responsibilities. She is also a reader and she reads many books in a year and likes to talk about them. Let’s share in her knowledge and wisdom. She gives us some ideas of books we may want to add to our reading lists for next year. This interview was conducted right before the Christmas holiday.

Tell us about what you are reading?

I just finished reading my 20th book for 2015, which isn’t so many for some readers but I feel it is a good accomplishment for me. My favorite two books I read this year were Circling the Sun by Paula McLain and All the Light We Can Not See by Anthony Doerr. Circling the Sun is based on the true-life story of Beryl Markham. She was a remarkable woman, born in England but raised in Kenya by her Father and the local tribe after being abandoned by her Mother. Due to this upbringing she chose a very unconventional lifestyle and broke gender boundaries for the times. All the Light We Can Not See is set in WWII France and Germany. It intertwines stories of two families on either side of the war and how they eventually connect.

Do you have a favorite author?


What books are in your waiting-to-read stack?

I have several books waiting to be read:
Riding the Bus with My Sister by Rachel Simon (for my book club)
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
Paradise City by Elizabeth Day

How did you become a reader?

When I was probably in late Elementary School I became ‘horse crazy’. I wanted to own a horse, I took riding lessons, rode as much as I could, and began reading as much as I could about horses, both fiction, non-fiction and other informational books. Then my Middle School English Teacher and librarian turned me on to some of the classics and I’ve been an avid reader ever since.

How do you decide what to read?

I pick books to read in various ways:
My daughter is a big reader and we exchange recommendations all the time,
Other Friends recommendations
My book group – I have read many books that I really enjoyed that I would never have read if not for the book group choices
Book Reviews in magazines and other print media

Why is reading important to you?

Reading takes you away from it all and opens doors to places and things that are different from your everyday life. It expands your knowledge and understanding of others and yourself.

Are there books you truly treasure? Tell us about them and why they are important to you?

A hardbound copy of Gone With the Wind that my Grandfather gave me and wrote an inscription. It was the first “adult” book I owned and it is extra special because it came from my Grandpa that I was very close to.

Do you have genres you especially enjoy, or some you avoid?

I enjoy a variety of genres and try not to read the same type of book in a row. In my 20’s I read all of the Stephen King books that he wrote but when they started keeping me up at night and gave me bad dreams, I stopped reading them and those types of books.

Is there a special place you most like to read?

My favorite place to read is in my Lazy Boy Chair in my family room. AND, weather permitting, I love to read on my backyard deck, listening to the birds sing and looking out at my flower garden.

Stephanie’s List of Books for 2015

1. Winter Street – Elin Hilderbrand
2. The Boston Girl – Anita Diamant
3. Ordinary Grace – William Kent Krueger
4. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Koots
5. Girl on a Train – Paula Hawkins
6. The Language of Flowers – Vanessa Diffenbaugh
7. All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
8. Funny Girl – Nick Hornsby
9. Gray Mountain – John Grisham
10. Before I Go to Sleep – S.J. Watson
11. Ship of Brides – JoJo Moyes
12. My Life from Scratch, a Memoir of Food, Family and Forgiveness – Sasha Martin
13. Laura LaMont’s Life in Pictures – Emma Straub
14. Go Tell a Watchman – Harper Lee
15. Circling the Sun – Paula McLain
16. The Rumor – Elin Hilderbrand
17. Station Eleven – Emily St. John
18. Who Do You Love – Jennifer Weiner
19. We Never Asked for Wings – Vanessa Diffenbaugh
20. 800 Grapes – Laura Dave

Thank you Stephanie for sharing your love of reading and the books you read last year. We cheer you on as you sit in your comfy chair with a book!! And aren’t you a lucky woman to have a flower garden even for part of the year?



May I introduce a dedicated reader who is willing to share her thoughts on books and reading. Thank you, Minerva, for participating in the readeatlive/blog Reader Interview Series.

Tell us about what you are reading.

I’ve been reading books for possible selection for a book club. The Nightingale, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, A Spool of Blue Thread, A Man Called Ove, Me Before You. In between I’ve read David Baldacci’s latest book, and also Erik Larson’s book Dead Wake.

Do you have a favorite book of the last year or two? What did you like about it?

I read the book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand several years ago and I think of the situations faced by this young soldier during WWII, his struggles during the war and then returning to civilian life. He found strength in later years to forgive his captors for their brutal treatment during his captivity.

Another book that stays with me is Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I first read it as a young mother, returning to school, caring for three children and family. I found a contentment in her words, I’ve read it since in my later years and still find an appreciation in solitude and thoughts to consider.

Do you have a favorite author or two?

An author I’ve just become acquainted with is Daniel Silva. He has written a whole series based on an Israeli spy and art restorer, Gabriel Allon. The books all revolve around espionage, lots of twists and turns and international intrigue.

Do you have a favorite genre?

I enjoy historical fiction. There is usually something to question, something I wasn’t aware of that I can research and learn more about the characters in the story as well as the time the story takes place. It’s interesting to look into character’s lives and realize often people do the best they can do under their circumstances.

What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?

Not literature, but I still have my old set of World Book Encyclopedia 1976. With all the availability of information on the internet, I have no reason to keep this big set. They just have a spot on my book shelves and they still fit!

What book was a disappointment and why?

I can’t really think of a disappointing book. If a book doesn’t hold my interest, I feel there are so many books I’d rather read, and I just let it go.

Do you have a place you most often read, your best reading spot?

I enjoy sitting in my recliner, a cup of coffee or glass of wine depending on the time of day. I can “rest my eyes” by watching the birds at the bird feeder or taking a dip in the bird bath.

How do you decide what to read?

The title and subject are usually the first step, the author may weigh into the decision. I read the introduction, skim several pages. If I have a strong doubt, I usually return the book to the shelf. If I have a question, I may give the book a chance. If I read in earnest and it isn’t what I enjoy, I’m done with it.

What books are in your waiting-to-be-read stack?

I’m waiting on Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee and We Never Asked For Wings. I’ve read some disappointing reviews on the Harper Lee book. I loved To Kill a Mockingbird and have trouble thinking of Atticus with a racist mind set.

If you were planning a book luncheon, what authors might you invite or why?

There would be a smorgasbord! John Grisham, David Baldacci, Erik Larson, Sue Monk Kidd, Harper Lee, Daniel Silva, Jeannette Wall, Leon Uris. I would love to hear the why, the how, etc, they have developed with their stories. The research they’ve had to do, their characters real or imagined. I heard a lecture given by Jeannette Wall, author of The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses. She told her life story behind her books. I was amazed she was so normal! She shared how her father, while they were all living out of their car, told her to pick out a star in the sky, that was hers, how no one else would own that star, how that impacted her far from normal life. How much he gave to her imagination when he could barely provide food and a place to live.

There is just so much to read, so little time! A day of bliss is spending it with a good book!

Note from the blogger: When I read through someone’s interview, I glean reading tips. Minerva reminds me I need a better place to read in my house, a place with a comfortable chair where I can put my feet up and enjoy good lighting. I plan to work on that. Minerva, I envy you your recliner.

And, I resolve to find more days of bliss. No doubt many of us agree on that one.



Interview conducted March, 2015

Welcome to another installment in the Readeatlive Reader Interview Series.

Today’s reader Pasquale hails from Pequannock, NJ, a place I have never been and cannot spell. But, I would like to know more about the place and as I get better acquainted with Pasquale and his lovely wife Elaine, I will learn more about that place and about this amazing and serious reader. A big thank you to Pasquale for agreeing to talk about the books he’s been reading.

Tell us about what you are reading?

The book I just finished yesterday is Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. I found it fascinating and extremely informative. It was at times even a bit unsettling, and for those who hold to creationism, it will be even more so. It’s a great read and I highly recommend it.

Do you have a favorite writer or a particular type of book you find yourself reading often? Tell us about that.

I really do not have a favorite writer. Since I am easily impressed, there are many. What comes to mind are Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of A Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and The Past Life Therapy by Brian Weiss, Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckert Tolle and the book I just finished, Sapiens. If it seems it would be interesting and I might learn from it, I will read it.

Is there a book that made an impression on you or that you might call particularly memorable?

Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn. I read this book many years ago but some of the writer’s thoughts are still with me. It was the first book I read that spoke of a different way to live and conduct our lives…why has the “war” on crime, drugs, cancer, poverty been so unsuccessful? These are some of issues he challenges us to think about. Is there another way? Maybe better, maybe not.

What is a favorite time or place for you to read?

I’ve learned not to read in bed, I only last about ten minutes, however, it is for me a great sleep inducer.

What might you read next?

I’m not sure just yet, but I heard good things about an autobiography by Jimmy Connors (from my wife), called The Outsider.

Please tell us anything else that comes to mind when you think about the reading you do and books you enjoy.

I do believe I am drawn, as I would think many others are, to trying better to understand, what our purpose is and empirical proof of the truth about everything…..impossible I know, but I enjoy the journey.

Note from Paulette: I don’t know about you, but Pasquale inspires me to be more serious as a reader. And, I’m not sure I believe him when he says he is easily impressed. I know some of you out there in blogland are great fans of non-fiction and in Pasquale you have a kindred spirit. Happy reading to you all!




conducted January/February, 2015

Do you have reading habits you are willing to reveal?

My bad habits are legion and pervasive. In no order except as they occur to me: One, I will interrupt a Good or Grown-up book at the drop of a hat with a bit of trash or a juvenile book. Two, I count an audio book as read even if it’s been playing only while I’m in earshot but not actively listening. Three, I am not good at closing a book I hate if by accident I haven’t put it aside by page 20 or so. If I soldier on because I Ought to or think I owe it a solid effort, I’ll wind up wasting 680 pages of my life on Prince of Tides. Four, I danced with glee when I saw that the estate of V.C. Andrews recently cranked out yet another Flowers in the Attic sequel. Five, if you interrupt me when I’m reading I want to punch you in the throat. There will still be books when I am decrepit but I won’t have friends because all of their windpipes will have been shattered and then something like the Twilight Zone “Time Enough At Last” will happen and let me tell you how much less sympathetic I am than Burgess Meredith.

When I visit my father, I pack crossword puzzles. His non-reading companion figures anyone who is reading must be bored and in need of a chat. Last time, I gave her Ladies of Missalonghi from the nearby used book shop and that shut her up for a while but crossword puzzles can be interrupted without violence. Or so I tell myself.

What were your favorite books as a child?

If I had to pick one or eat lima beans, I’d say Norton Juster’s Phantom Tollbooth: the power of imagination, playing with language, a dog. Happily, you allowed me a plural answer.

If a kid relies on herself and lives in a fort, then I loved it. Julie of the Wolves and Island of the Blue Dolphins (despite the deaths of dogs), Iceberg Hermit, My Side of the Mountain, Secret Garden, Mandy, Pippi Longstocking, Bridge to Terabithia, Egypt Game, and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

I was delighted when just a few years ago the author of a little known touchstone, Tread Softly, wrote to me. I had forgotten the book for years until I happened to reread the titular Yeats poem, whereupon it flooded back. I hunted down a copy and reread it, surprised as ever to see what I remembered and what I had forgotten.

Ghosts in old English houses are always fun, especially Joan Aiken’s Shadow Guests and Jane Louise Curry’s Bassumtyte Treasure. The latter also features Mary Queen of Scots, so maybe I should credit it with sparking my obsession with C16 England.

The Incredible Journey is one of the few animal books I could bear since none of them die. The Yearling is one of the few books I read where the animal does die. The illustration in King of the Wind of dear Sham being beaten gave me nightmares. Anthropomorphic animals are not as problematic. I love Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and Watership Down. I adore both Cricket in Times Square and Tucker’s Countryside. Once when tooling around in Westport, Connecticut, I happened to spot a little park signposted Hedley’s or Hadley’s Meadow and my head exploded. I still have a story I wrote––or more accurately, stole from George Selden––starring my stuffed animals.

And oh, Dr. Dolittle. Animals! Sea voyages! A bridge made of monkeys and a floating island pushed by whales and dogs solving crimes! Hugh Lofting happens to be buried quite close to where I grew up, but by the time the Internet could tell me that I had moved away.

I loved the Little House books, the Great Brain and All-of-a-Kind Family series, Danny Champion of the World, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, and The Westing Game. Daniel Pinkwater’s Alan Mendelssohn, the Boy from Mars is tragically overlooked. Jean Little’s Look Through My Window means a lot to me and her From Anna was helpful when I got glasses in elementary school.

Madeleine L’Engle and C.S. Lewis were my fantasy go-tos. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t read Lloyd Alexander or Ursula Le Guin until much later. I read Wrinkle in Time and Swiftly Tilting Planet to tatters (but not Wind in the Door) and stole again from Planet for another of story. It was in pursuit of more L’Engle that I learned to use interlibrary loan. My two favorite Narnia books are Horse and His Boy and Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I buck the norm by preferring Susan Cooper’s Over Sea, Under Stone even to Grey King, because Merlin is in it.

And my most important time travel book! In fifth grade (taught by our mutual friend Judith), my friends and I discovered Tonke Dragt’s Towers of February. We lived on the beach and were clever and devoted, so we were sure that we could figure out the magic word by Leap Day 1980 and slip into an alternate world.

Being an adult is no reason not to read children’s books. Walk Two Moons, Holes, Graveyard Book, Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian, and His Dark Materials are wonderful.

What type of book do you see yourself spending more time with in this new year?

I don’t think I read by type. I like narrative nonfiction and cultural or micro-histories by the likes of Simon Winchester and Steven Johnson, and novels with substance and bite. This might be the year for Gravity’s Rainbow. I want to read more Mary Renault.

How do you decide what to read?

I belong to two book clubs. Last year book club introduced me to Aminatta Forna’s amazing Hired Man, and how else would I have stumbled across that? Recent titles I would not have come across without a friend’s recommendation include Life Among Giants and Rules of Civility. The latter is especially good.

In 2000, various organizations developed lists of the century’s best books, and I have been plugging away at those sporadically. Without the lists I might not have discovered Graham Greene, whom I adore, or Tobacco Road, which slew me, or instant loves All the King’s Men and Angle of Repose. Without the lists I also wouldn’t have inflicted Tin Drum or Tropic of Cancer on myself, so they’ve been a mixed bag. I’ll never complete them because of Finnegans Wake, but they’re a good starting point.

At the library or bookstore, I’m a sucker for cover design and good titles. Sometimes that foible pays off: I plucked Little Bee off the shelf for the former and Shadow of the Wind and The Meaning of Night for the latter.

Many of my favorite authors are still writing. Not yet mentioned are Peter Ackroyd, who shows the underside of the knitting; Alice Hoffman, who seems to have but one string to her bow but which string I like very much – New England, water, and a bit of magic; and Margaret Atwood and Toni Morrison. I hope not to outlive Michael Chabon, whose Kavalier & Clay I mentioned above but whose genius merits repetition. Jane Smiley is always a pleasure.

I’m not immune to hype (Gone Girl; Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, whose hype I wish I had resisted; and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, which is a wish-fulfillment fantasy for Luddites and technogeeks both).

I make use of services that suggest your next book based on previous successes. Goodreads www.goodreads.com and www.gnooks.com are two I like.

If contemporary books stop working for me, I have Anthony Trollope in reserve. And everything to reread, like Robertson Davies.

Please tell us anything else you wish to about books and reading.

Read more.

Note: Thanks Lisa for telling us about many good reads, so helpful in choosing what to read next. This interview makes my List of Books I Want To Read much longer. I join you in looking forward to Wolf Hall on television next April. Thanks too, for alerting readers to that opportunity. We all like finding kindred spirits among our fellow readers. Yes, cover design and titles are sometimes a joy, even without the story inside. And stories written for young readers are a delight at any age. Lisa reminds us of some of our favorites!



Interview conducted December, 2014

Welcome to another installment of the popular readeatlive series: Reader Interview. This is a fascinating one. Thanks so much to Mary Ann for talking with us about her reading. She starts off by telling us about herself as a reader.

Reading is an integral part of my life. I always have one or more books going. I read everything: periodicals, fiction, nonfiction, historical fiction, cook books, and I love suspense and mysteries. I even read bad books like I eat bad cookies. It is an addiction. I have learned to stop reading a bad book, but it took a while. “If a novel seems like an ordeal, quit; you are not being paid to read it…” That’s Thomas Foster in How to Read Literature Like a Professor. I love to find quotes in books that relate to my life and make me think. I often read with a yellow marker. I want a book to make me think outside of the box and of course, I also I like to just have fun reading!

What have you been reading recently?
The book I am reading now is titled One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. It is about living fully right where you are. It is very humbling and encourages you to live a lifestyle of gratitude, to slow down and to appreciate the now. I just finished reading Missing, by Susan Lewis. It is a suspenseful book about a missing wife and the difficulties her husband and daughter face.

What book excited you or moved you in an unusual way?
A book that really affected me was The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery. The writing was outstanding, “like a storyteller transforming life into a shimmering river where trouble and boredom vanish far below the water.” The story had many parts that hit deep into my experiences and made me stop and contemplate my life. There are so many books over the years that really made a difference in my life and I hope to keep finding more.

What books are in your waiting-to-be-read stack?
I am looking forward to reading The Girl On the Train by Paula Hawkins, a mystery that was reviewed favorably in many magazines. Also, the memoir Publishing, by Gail Goodwin, Someone, by Alice Mc Dermott, a novel about a woman and her neighbors over 30 years, and The Paying Guest by Sarah Waters are waiting to be read.

What authors would you like to invite to lunch?
I think the authors I would like to have lunch with are some of the successful women who have written their memoirs or autobiographies. The stand out would be Maya Angelou. I am absolutely in awe of her inspiration and creative ability.

How did you become a reader?
Growing up in a small home with three siblings was a challenge. My escape was reading in my bedroom away from the chaos. I read the Nancy Drew series as well as biographies of successful women. The biographies were so important to me that when I retired as school principal, I asked the PTA to use the money designated as a gift for me to stock a shelf in the Media Center dedicated to biographies of successful women.

My parents were readers and my mother belonged to the Readers Digest Book Club as well as the Book-of-the-Month Club. Reading her books was a special thing as a young person. One that stood out was Marjorie Morningstar. Some time I need to go back and read it again to find out if it really was that good.

How do you decide what to read?
I probably am like everyone else in the selection of books. My friends certainly influence my reading as do references in the NY Times and other periodicals. I also use Bookbub. They list free and inexpensive books. Yes, many of them are not worth reading, but I have come across some excellent books. Amazon gives many book lists to choose from and books that are chosen by my two book clubs help widen my horizon.

The thoughtful responses in this interview help broaden all of us as readers. Mary Ann brings enthusiasm and a forward-looking view to her reading. She reminds us of old favorites like Marjorie Morningstar and point us toward new books, and important genres. Thanks to Mary Ann for such an enjoyable interview.



Conducted November, 2014

Welcome to another installment in the popular series: Reader Interview. Thanks to thoughtful and enthusiastic reader Liz Hurbis for sharing her reading knowledge with us. You readers out there in blogland will find some worthwhile book recommendations here, thanks to Liz.

Tell us what you are reading?
I am currently finishing and have enjoyed, Sue Monk Kidd’s, “Invention of Wings,” in the historical fiction department, and am still working on a political nonfiction book by Ben Carson, called “One Nation.”

Recently I finished Nancy Horan’s “Under the Wide and Starry Sky,” historical fiction. Horan researches her subjects well and writes an incredibly factual story about the life of Robert Lewis Stevenson. I was especially intrigued by his unusual writing process. Her first book, “Loving Frank,” (Frank Lloyd Wright), was another compelling read, even if you didn’t like the man very much, it was worthwhile. “Wild,” by Cheryl Strayed, another recent book, tells an incredible story of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail alone, after her divorce and the death of her mother. I enjoyed the writing of both of these authors.

What books are in your waiting-to-be-read stack?
Waiting in the wings is “Ordinary Grace,” by William Kent Krueger and “Round House,” by Louise Erdrich. Sitting on the table patiently is “Stonewalled”, by Sharyl Attkisson, my next nonfiction, followed by “Patriots and Rebels,” by John Bush, “The Good Funeral,” by Thomas Lynch and “A Separate Peace,” by John Knowles. So many books, so little time.

Do you have a favorite author or two, or more?
This year I discovered Ann Mah and her entertaining second book, “Mastering the Art of French Eating,” and that lead me to read her first book, “Kitchen Chinese,” both non fiction. I love her insights on other countries, the people, culture and food. She tells her stories with humor. Among others, I loved “Yes, Chef” by Marcus Samuelsson. He is a well-known chef in NYC born in Ethiopia, orphaned, and adopted by Swedish parents, then raised in Sweden, it’s a wonderful story. In his restaurants he integrates his African/Swedish background to create a unique cuisine. I hope to dine at his restaurant The Red Rooster in Harlem one day. I really enjoy “foodie” books.

I’ve also read a few of Geraldine Brook’s books, “March” and “A Year of Wonders” among them. I would like to read more by this author. I enjoy her characters when they have unimaginable circumstances to endure coupled with their great spirit.

Do you have a favorite genre or topic that especially interests you?
Food seems to be a theme with me; paradoxically, I also enjoy reading about nutrition. “How to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease,” by Caldwell Esselstyn and “The China Study,” by Colin Campbell immediately come to my mind. These authors are spirited doctors from fine hospitals trying to spread the word of the importance of good nutrition, and how it can affect every aspect of your life and prevent so many diseases and much suffering. Esselstyn, his son Rip and wife Jane will be speaking at Seaholm High School in Birmingham, MI in January.

What authors would you like to invite to lunch?
What a spirited conversation we could have with the aforementioned doctors and food editors, like Ruth Reichl, former editor of Gourmet Magazine and author of “Comfort Me with Apples,” and Chef Marcus. But what ever would I serve them?!

How did you become a reader?
For the most part my family loved reading. My mother was in a great books club in the 60’s, before book clubs were so common. I loved going to the library at an early age, something I still enjoy. My sister is a voracious reader and she has kept me informed and interested.

Are there books you truly treasure? Tell us about them and why they are important to you.
I think the books that have been truly important to me would include Marcus Zusak’s “Book Thief,” and Eric Larson’s “In the Garden on Beasts,” both about the horrors of Nazi Germany; “Sandcastle Girls” about the Armenian genocide, somehow lost in history. “Unbroken,” by Laura Hillenbrand, a must read. I would be remiss not to mention “To Kill A Mocking Bird,” by Harper Lee, a favorite of many and made into a wonderful movie.

I like a book that teaches me about history and important events, the human condition, how others think and solve problems, or one that gives me new ideas and teaches me about myself. Sometimes a book can give several enlightenments at the same time…that’s usually a good book.

How do you decide what to read?
I make my book choices by listening to what friends are reading, or their book clubs are reading, and book reviews. My sister, again, is a good source. No matter how much I try to investigate a book before I read it, I always have a few disappointments each year.

Note from Paulette: Readers can see why I go to Liz for recommendations. She always has a good book to suggest, one I have not read. Thanks for that, Liz, and thanks for doing this interview.