Tell Me What You Read: Donna-Jo Napoli

Donna-Jo Napoli, linguistics professor and award-winning author of children’s fiction

Tell me which authors, or what reading, you can see now were influential in your life and career?

Donna-JoAs a child, I read voraciously.  My family had all kinds of financial and other problems, so we moved a lot, and I never had friends for very long. Books were my true friends – the ones I could count on.

It was the very act of reading that influenced me enormously – though I have a few things to say about one book and one author.

BrooklynReading picks you up and takes you places.  I never went ‘places’ as a kid.  We’d get in the car perhaps for an hour, but rarely longer than that.  I didn’t know ‘the world.’  But in books I travelled all over, past and present and future.  I could be many people or many animals.  It was thrilling.  And it opened my life.  I’m quite sure I became a good student because I read so much.  And because I was a good student, I got a complete scholarship to college and, of course, that made my life very different from what it otherwise would have been.

There was one book I loved very much, though: Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  The poverty in that book rang true to me, and I delighted in being able to see someone I could identify with in the outline of my real life.  Even though I often write fantasies today, I always ground my stories in historical fact and psychological reality, perhaps because that was so much of what I appreciated about that one book.

FarleyAnd there’s one author I loved very much: Walter Farley.  He wrote a famous series of books about horses.  I loved horses.  My father was a gambler and he often took me on off hours to the race track to walk the track and to go through the stables.  I loved being with my father… so reading Walter Farley was like being with my father.  Walter Farley, however, was a master of one kind of book.  If you loved a book by him and picked up a second book by him, you’d love it too – because they were all ‘the same’ in the sense that they had a unified interest (horses) and a unified tone.  I chose not to become that kind of writer, however.  It would be lovely to be ‘a master’ of something … but it’s also not something I aspire to because, really, I don’t believe in it.  I think we are all pretty much bumblers.  A few of us make some headway in one area or another, but we’re hardly ever true authorities on something.  So I let myself write about all sorts of things, always trying new types of books.  But one thing I admired in Walter Farley’s work is that he always taught me something about horses – something new in every book.  And I want to do that for my readers.  So I always try to learn something with each book, and I offer that something to my readers.

What or who do you read to forget about the world, to escape?

O'BrienI read rather randomly.  If I want to cry, I read Anne Enright – an Irish novelist who writes about the confusions of growing up Catholic – or Laurie Colwin – who wrote about families falling apart.  If I want to be angry, I read Toni Morrison (good god, do I love Beloved) or Tim O’Brien (The Things They Carried is among the best books I’ve ever read – right up there beside As They Lay Dying).  If I want to be amazed or horrified I read Margaret Atwood or the noir tradition in Italian novels.  I’ve spent the past seven months in Italy, so I’ve been reading nothing but Italian while I am here.  The Italian novelists get very bloody – they face brutality, especially against women and children – in a way I’m not accustomed to as a writer for young people.  They help me to understand some of the things I’m trying to deal with in my own writing.  I have to aim for truth without either violating the sensibilities of my reader or hiding realities some of them deal with.  It’s tricky.  Sometimes I envy those who write for adults.  They don’t have the same responsibilities toward their readers.

This doesn’t sound like ‘escape’, does it?  It sounds like I’m reading for a purpose.  But we all do that.  Even escape is a purpose.  I lead a very safe life, really – so it’s an escape for me to read about dangerous lives.  And it’s always consoling to read about others who have dealt with the kinds of problems I have dealt with.

And I should say I love books that make me laugh, too.  David Sedaris is always reliable that way.  So is Augusten Burroughs.  I had a crazy childhood – I love to read that stuff.

So I go to books for an emotional ride…. just like everyone else.

What reading do you choose for a long journey?

GulpA lot depends on how long a journey.  If it will be over 5 hours or so, then it’s long enough to ‘work’.  In that case, I’ll bring a nonfiction book about time or place that my next story will be set in.  Or sometimes about animals, since I love to write stories with animal main characters. I’ll take notes on anything I find amazing – because if I find it amazing, maybe some of my readers will.  Little bits of amazement can make a book more engrossing and often allows a scene to become more vivid in your memory.

If it’s a short trip and I’m going to visit people whose tastes in books I know, then I’ll pick a novel that I think they’d like too – and then I can leave it with them when I come back home.  I did that with the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series.  And ages ago I did that with the Clan of the Cave Bear series, by Jean Auel.

If it’s a short trip and I know no one there, then I pick a book that’s long enough to last me both ways (or longer).  The last nonfiction book in English I did this with was Gulp.  The last fiction book in English I did this with was Running with Scissors.

So my answers here don’t really tell you about my tastes in reading – they tell you about my penchant for work and for efficiency.  I would hate to carry home a book I’d already read unless I was pretty damn sure I’d want to read it again – or at least flip through it for certain passages again.  And there aren’t that many books that strike me that way.  I enjoy a book for whatever ride it gives me – then I move on to the next book.  There are too many great books out there to ever get around to reading more than the tiniest fraction of them.

Your choice of ‘Oh lord I’m bored’ reading?

I don’t get bored.

That sounds so snotty, I know.  But it’s true.  I’m frenetic.  So I’ve always got things to do, and I try hard to limit the junk in life and work on things I love.  So I garden.  And I dance (modern dance).  And do yoga.  And bake bread.  And cook.  And do ceramics.  I do tons of things …. and it never bothers me that I do them badly.  I’m not doing them for any final ‘product’.  I’m doing them because they interest me.  I love getting my hands dirty and seeing what can come of it.

And, you know, I think perfection is an illusion.  So why not do all the things you love, no matter how badly?

What was your last huge reading disappointment?

I don’t know if this was my ‘last’ huge reading disappointment, but it is a disappointment that stuck with me.

I was reading along, feeling that I believed the world the writer had offered – and I believed the quite nasty situation the main character found herself in – and I believed that such was the way of the world in that time and place – I was really inside that book and clutching it, racing from page to page, wanting to find out how the main character would manage to come to terms with everything and find some sort of inner peace.  Then, BOOM, the whole problem got solved. The nasty situation dissolved.  The main character got to ‘ride off with prince charming’ (if you will).

It was a big disappointment because the writer was doing everything I believed in, then the writer completely buckled, and went for the lowest common denominator – the thing that would make everyone able to smile at the end.  I felt betrayed.  Seduced and abandoned.  I’d have never finished reading the book if it had given me the sense anywhere along the way that it was going to end falsely.  And I vowed never to read another book by that author. When I talked about it with an editor, the editor assured me that book was going to make money because of the happy ending.  She was right: the author won a big prize.  On my next book with that particular editor, she tried to strong arm me into tacking a happy ending onto the book I was doing with her.  I didn’t give in.  The book didn’t sell very well.  And it certainly didn’t win a prize.

For a while I felt shaken.  But not for very long.  I don’t write to win prizes.  I write to win readers.  I want to write the book that someone tucks under their pillow to read over and over because it somehow speaks to their situation or needs.  And every book I write is one I need to write for my own personal reasons.  I don’t need to write a book with a false happy ending.  I love happy endings when they belong.  But I hate them when they don’t.  I would love to write a book that was beloved and actually earned me a pile of money; I have nothing against money.  I just want to earn that money, not steal it.  That author had stolen my money.

Another kind of disappointment I have now and then goes like this.  I’ll pick up a book that everyone has been telling me for months (years?) that I should read and I’ll get engrossed because the plot is so involving, but I’ll get grossed out because the writing is so bad.  Usually I put the book down – which is hard.  Suppressing curiosity hurts – but reading horrible prose hurts worse.  My husband says I should just read faster – skim the overwritten descriptive passages, ignore the bleeding heart prose.  But I am a slow reader, and somehow I don’t have the self-discipline to skim or ignore anything.  I allow things to bother me.  It’s an annoying way to be, but it’s how I am.  And, like I said earlier, there are so many fantastic books out there to read, I can’t justify spending my time on ones I don’t think are fantastic.

And finally, what was your last happy reading surprise?

CollinsIf I answer you honestly, I really am going to sound like a snob.  But I will try.

You have to understand, I want people to read – whatever they read doesn’t matter so much as just that they are reading.  Reading uses your brain in a different way – nothing else can do to the brain what reading does – and reading can give you vicarious experiences that really hit home without ever exposing you to ‘the real thing’ – which can be a very good thing, if ‘the real thing’ is somehow dangerous or sad or in some way harmful.

So I never censored what my children read.

And I would never advise a parent to censor what their children read.

These questions are very personal… and I would never trample on someone’s personal choices.

And when I see children reading something, I never feel like they are reading ‘junk’.  I’m simply glad they are reading.

Okay, now, given that, I have to say that sometimes very popular books and series are, to my aesthetics, truly miserable reads.  So I had low expectations when I picked up The Hunger Games.  But the book was nicely written – clean and straightforward.  It was a delight.

I imagine that most people enjoyed it for the plot… because it seems plot is what sells a story.  But I enjoyed it for plot as well as writing.

That was a happy surprise.


Donna-Jo Napoli’s site with details of all her books is here.

Next week: Ahmed al-Rawi, Concordia University, Montreal, expert in social media in the Middle East


Tell Me What You Read: David McKay and literary translation

In Tell Me What You Read I interview well-kenned folk in public life about how their reading has shaped their lives, in the past and now. 

McKayDavid McKay, literary translator of Stefan Hertmans’ War and Turpentine, and Everything to Nothing by Geert Buelens.

Tell me which authors, or what reading, you can see now were influential in your life and career?

I’ve been thinking recently how lucky I am to have read so much of Mark Twain’s writing so early in life. A lot of children have Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn foisted on them at an early age because they’re supposed to be children’s books. But I preferred fantasy and science fiction as a child, and maybe for that reason, the Twain books that made the deepest impression on me were A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and The Mysterious Stranger. Both have elements of the adventure story, as well as a lot of very funny moments, but when I returned to them later in life, I was surprised to find that both are inflamed with rage and bitterness about the human condition, and more specifically about the inhumanity and hypocrisy of what Twain called the ‘damned human race’.

GodelThere are two other authors I have to mention – the first is David Hofstadter, whose book Gödel, Escher, Bach fascinated me in high school, and who turned to the subject of translation, in Le Ton beau de Marot, around the time that I became a professional translator. Hofstadter draws fascinating connections between translation, personal identity and the nature of creativity, and his explorations have helped me to appreciate the philosophical dimensions of my modest craft.

Annie Dillard’s memoir An American Childhood combines the elusive sense of waking up to the world around you as a child with a vivid openness to the possibilities of language, the richness of human experience and the mystery of the zone where language and experience meet  ­– a zone intimately familiar to writers, including translators.

ErdichWhat or who do you read to forget about the world, to escape?

In recent years I seem to be getting fussier — I can only take so much of the competent but bland writing in a John Grisham novel or the Game of Thrones book series. Fat 18th– and 19th-century novels seem to be the most reliable means of escape: Trollope (Phineas Finn, The Irish Member), Thackeray, Dickens, Wilkie Collins, George Eliot, Herman Melville, and of course Jane Austen. Sometimes I think the whole point of an e-reader is that you can download the Western canon from Project Gutenberg. I also enjoy curling up with twentieth- and twenty-first-century writers who can communicate the texture of a time and place and community the way Austen does. Louise Erdrich (The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse) and Jhumpa Lahiri come to mind, along with Carol Shields (Happenstance) and of course Alice Munro.

There’s also something very relaxing about tales of other people’s gruelling long-distance walks. To gear up for a trip to Japan I read The Roads to Sata and Looking for the Lost, Alan Booth’s engrossing books about exploring Japan on foot. Exceptionally good science fiction and fantasy can still take me away to another world too: the compelling characters and richly conceived settings in Kim Stanley Robinson’s books (particularly The Years of Rice and Salt) make it hard to believe that he hasn’t walked on Mars and lived through alternate histories himself. I’m enthralled by China Miéville’s hallucinatory cities, and I cherish the way Jo Walton combines science fiction and fantasy elements with realistic narratives that feel very close to home.

OharaWhat reading do you choose for a long journey?

Sometimes a long journey gives me the opportunity to read a book that requires persistent, relatively uninterrupted attention. I recall the otherworldly experience of reading Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary cover to cover on a transatlantic flight and gaining a radical new way of thinking about the human mind. Who knows whether I would ever have made it through the book otherwise?

These days, I often try to pack light by bringing my e-reader, but that raises nail-biting questions: What do I do if I run out of power and can’t recharge? What if they won’t let me use it on the plane? For that matter, what if it breaks? One strategy is to have a little volume of poetry in reserve – because once I’m done with a novel, short stories, or non-fiction, I want to lay the book aside at least for a while, but good poetry tends to invite immediate rereading. Maybe I would slip my 90g copy of Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems into my pocket.

HackerBut standing in front of my poetry shelves, I would probably give in to impractical temptation and toss a couple of heavy tomes into my carry-on, like Edward Snow’s bilingual edition of The Poetry of Rilke (which I could easily spend the rest of my life reading if circumstances required) and Joy Harjo’s How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems: 1975–2001.


Then again, what better traveling companion than Marilyn Hacker, who has proved many times over that rhyme and meter aren’t reactionary and that, even in a world of free verse, the sonnet retains its power to move the heart and delight the mind. This one is from the collection Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons.

Your choice of ‘Oh lord I’m bored’ reading?

witnessOn a drizzly Saturday morning, I might feel ambitious enough to dip into one of those books that are rewarding in small doses but too dense or harrowing to read all at once, like Harold McGee’s magnum opus of culinary science On Food and Cooking or Martin Chalmers’s translations of Victor Klemperer’s diaries of the Nazi years, I Shall Bear Witness and To the Bitter End. On a long, lethargic Sunday afternoon, I might reread just about any Graham Greene novel, but especially Travels with My Aunt. On a Thursday when I’m alone in my home office and don’t feel like working, I might open up Will Eno’s monologue Title and Deed and read a few pages out loud to myself.
On a Friday evening at home, I could open up Ted Gioia’s The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire.

What was your last huge reading disappointment?

I’ve recently been looking carefully at a lot of recent literary translations, which is enlightening and often humbling for me when I see the skill, integrity, and imagination that some of my fellow translators show. But it can also be distressing — for example, when a well-known, experienced, prize-winning translator makes a hash of something, and I strongly suspect that he or she could have done better and just didn’t take the time to do the job properly. We’re talking about basic misreadings of words in the original language, word-for-word translations that don’t make much sense in English, ambiguities introduced by the translator — embarrassing things like that. Every translator slips up in these ways occasionally, but not over and over again with such frequency.

This is doubly distressing because, in at least one case, I think the original book really merits a first-rate translation. By agreeing to do the translation and then producing shoddy work, this translator has stood in the way of somebody else doing the job, somebody who would take the book seriously and treat it with respect. To be sure, there’s often great pressure on translators to work quickly. Publishers sometimes set challenging or even unreasonable deadlines, and if you expect literary work to make a serious contribution to your income, then you have to be prolific. Even so, what this translator did was just plain unethical.

And then it’s triply distressing to see that book reviewers for newspapers and journals tend to assume that, because the translator is well known and experienced and has won awards, the translation must be all right, so they make the usual passing reference, some variation on ‘ably translated by X’, a stock phrase which is sort of a joke among professional translators, and ignore the obvious fact that there’s something clunky and confusing about the writing.

One thing we could consider bringing into that discussion is whether we translators should try to fill the gap by publicly reviewing each other’s work more often. Some of the reasons we don’t are obvious. For instance, the community of Dutch-English literary translators is small and chummy. Most of us here in the Netherlands can fit around a large picnic table and sometimes do. I don’t want to alienate my friends and acquaintances, or even their friends and acquaintances, by saying less-than-glowing things about somebody else’s work. Fortunately, despite obstacles like these, there are a few good sources for book reviews that subject translators’ work to serious scrutiny — above all, the Three Percent blog.

And finally, what was your last happy reading surprise?

novelI’ll spare you my wonky enthusiasm for the main thing I’m reading at the moment, Antoine Berman’s Toward a Translation Criticism: John Donne, and instead tell you about the latest work of fiction that amazed me. A True Novel, Minae Mizumura’s Japanese reworking of Wuthering Heights, is a two-volume tour de force — after finishing it, I went back and re-read Wuthering Heights for the first time since my school days. To be totally honest, I prefer Mizumura’s version. Juliet Winters Carpenter, the translator, who worked together closely with the author to produce the English version, is one of my translation heroes.

If you’d like to suggest someone whose reading you’d like to know more about, tweet me at @KateRLTB, or email me at kate dot brussels at yahoo dot com.


British magic: Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London: Body Work

In my teenage years I collected Elfquest, and Grendel, and suffered with all my friends when issue 121 of the X-Men mysteriously failed to arrive in Britain in that dark, dark month just before my O-Grades. When I was a student I worked on Saturdays at Aberdeen’s science fiction bookshop, and read the week’s new comics when the owner went to the football in the afternoon. I grew up on US comics and cosy recycled DC Thomson strips from the 1950s, but with 2000 AD the doors were flung open to gritty futuristic and alternative realities in British and US clear line style. I enjoyed Viz until the Fat Slags just got too vile to bear reading. Discovering Love and Rockets was stupendous: I found the collected edition in Escape, that excellent little comic shop that used to be opposite the British Museum, and lugged it home on the Eurostar, worrying the too-cool Frenchman sitting next to me. Non, mais vous lisez quoi?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow, British comicdom, I’m back. Titan Comics have got me now. Ben Aaronovitch has written the first in an intra-book comic series called Rivers of London, part of his Peter Grant stories about that branch of the Metropolitan police that deals with magic. It’s British, it’s a proper London comic and it is wonderful. How can any story fail to entrance when the first four (living) characters are a river goddess in a purple wetsuit; DC Guleed in a hijab, her boss DI Stephanopoulos, a butch lesbian in a seriously good-looking frock coat; and the chap we’ve all been waiting for, DC Peter Grant (in a plain black suit). He’s a junior police officer from the Folly, the unit that does the ‘weird stuff’ for the Force, which means he does magic. Rivers of London is co-written by Andrew Cartmel, beautifully drawn by Lee Sullivan, and finished by Luis Guerrero and Rona Simpson. To get up to speed on the story, read my review of the first five books of Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series here, and come back when you’re ready.

So, ‘Body Work’ is a very short episode placed somewhere in between books two and three. Peter turns up unexpectedly just as a crashed BMW is being winched out of the Thames because he’s been forewarned by Beverley, the goddess who found it. He can sense vestigium – the trace of magic – on the car, so Stephanopoulos sends him to interview the driver’s ex-girlfriend, with Guleed to keep him in order. Dealing with magic as a routine thing, and learning to be a practitioner makes a detective constable liable to take unorthodox ways round a problem, which the Met do not appreciate. Ever since Peter hijacked an ambulance to get a river god back to the Thames before he died from loss of blood, he’s been a byword for over-reacting. When his best mate Lesley, a far better police officer, had a ghastly encounter with a shapeshifter in book 1, also called Rivers of London, other officers are less willing than they should be to work with Peter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe strongest element of the storytelling in ‘Body Work’ is the showing, not the telling. The interview with the ex in the police station is drawn with the faces aligned to show flip-book reactions. Aaronovitch’s trademark inversion of casual racism works in the books with Peter’s narrative voice noting that, for instance, ‘a white girl came out’, or ‘the bus was driven by a white guy’. In the comic, in a superb and biting moment, the ex-girlfriend of the dead man doesn’t realise Sahra and Peter are the police because, as she says, they don’t look like police, do they? Cue the next panel, with a gritted-teeth woman in a hijab and a black guy, both in suits, both so clearly figures of authority, silently asking ‘what the hell do we look then?’ They’re silent, because this is what it’s like running into everyday racism in Britain.

One of the strengths of Aaronovitch’s writing is that he underpins the fabulously complex police procedural plots with really detailed vignettes of London life as it is not lived by, for example, the London literati, the Members of Parliament and the people on the telly. ‘Refreshing’ doesn’t even begin to convey the relief of reading stories by a writer who doesn’t work on those power circuits. Gawd bless ya, Mr Aaronovitch, for writing Britain like it is and ought to be.

And there are extras! Two two-page chats from Peter about classic BMW cars, and Putney (why Putney …?), and, best of all, a one-page story about Beverley Brook, the river goddess who introduced Peter to a whole new kind of skinny dipping in Foxglove Summer.

The next issue of Rivers of London is out in August: don’t miss it.


Tell Me What You Read: Susan Vollenweider

In Tell Me What You Read I interview well-kenned folk in public life about how their reading has shaped their lives, in the past and now. 

SusanSusan Vollenweider, half of the women’s history podcasting dynamo The History Chicks, columnist for the Kansas City Star, mother, aspiring novelist, and school sports cheerleader

Tell me which authors, or what reading, you can see now were influential in your life and career?

I started reading fairly young so words and books have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I think everything I read influences me somehow, even the crap, but the ones who are on the base tier of influencers are: Dr Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Judy Blume, Erma Bombeck, Richard Bach and John Irving. I think all of them taught me that as far as writing goes, even if there are serious subjects I wasn’t required to take them seriously. I was reading the last three all at the same age – I may have been one of the only 12 year olds reading Bombeck but she made me laugh, and in retrospect, she showed me that writers were just people. Ordinary people who think with their fingers.

BombeckIf you need to snuggle down into a book, or have some sofa reading time, which authors do you go for instinctively?

There is an oft-repeated piece of writerly advice that says to write the book you want to read. I read a lot of non-fiction for the podcast (which I love and I really enjoy writing about) but when I relax and read for no purpose other than to be entertained and transported, I reach for women’s fiction. When I sit down to write for no other purpose than for enjoyment, I write women’s fiction. At this point (this point being when I actually answer your question) I should probably list well-known, women’s fiction authors that I KNOW will take me someplace with a voice I want to hear but the truth is that when I reach for a chill-out book I feel drawn to reach for an author I have never heard of before.

NulsWhat reading do you choose for a long journey?

I load up my Kindle for those. I adore reading a physical book, but can’t beat the portability of an e-reader. Since I can take a lot of material, and assuming this is a very long journey, I would go for a mix of non-fiction and fiction, probably a 3:1 ratio. This would be when I repeat fiction novels or authors and go for a guaranteed good-read, but having fewer distractions on a trip it’s also a good time to force myself to concentrate on learning something new with non-fiction. Because no one can see an ebook cover, I can have, say, The French Revolution for Dummies or something geared for kids as well as more meaty content. And I flip around, too. Read a bit of one, go to another, then go back.

LordYour choice of ‘Oh lord I’m bored’ reading?

I don’t know that I get bored very often, but I would reach for something that has a variety of short pieces that don’t require huge time commitments. Looking around from where I am now (my living room sofa) I see two on a side table that I like a great deal and are terrific for flipping through: Winning the Vote by Robert Cooney and To Marry an English Lord by Carol Wallace and Gail MacColl. Short pieces, lots of photographs and very interesting content.

What was your last huge reading disappointment? (why and how, rather than who and what)

I was very disappointed in a highly recommended, well-reviewed novel recently. I loved the basic plot, the concept of the characters, even the setting was intriguing…it was very creative and different. The author was new to me, this was her first novel so I went in with an open mind that it wouldn’t be perfect but it could be perfectly flawed.

But four or five chapters in my eyes started to swim. All I could see was clichéd and oft repeated dialog. There are a lot of ways to say, ‘that makes me mad’ or ‘I’m concerned’ but I keep seeing the same phrases used over and over. Very cool things were happening in the story, but they happened sooooo slloooowwwwly. The pacing wasn’t really working for me.

Then the really bad thing happened: I started to edit sentences and paragraphs in my head. The novel lost me about halfway through, I returned it to the person who had lent it to me and did an awkward tap dance when she asked how much I liked it.

And finally, what was your last happy reading surprise?

CooneyI was given the aforementioned copy of Winning the Vote: the Triumph of the American Suffrage Movement by the author, Robert Cooney, Jr. Some people like the Crusades, others are World War I or II junkies, I am drawn to this historical mission like no other. But it is a very large, heavy book with a dry title and sorta boring cover, it looked very academic and stuffy. Although I knew I would learn something, getting excited about the book didn’t even enter my mind.

Then I opened it.

Bookgasm. The story of the movement is there, but so are colorful posters, beautiful photographs, flyers and details of specific campaigns. I’m not ashamed: I like my history books with illustrations and this one went beyond anything that I had ever seen or I had expected.

I wrote him a very gracious thank you note that I’m sure didn’t properly convey my appreciation. It’s one of my favorite books now.

If you’d like to suggest someone whose reading you’d like to know more about, tweet me at @KateRLTB, or email me at kate dot brussels at yahoo dot com.

Next week: David McKay, literary translator