My earliest reading memory
My mother always read to me as a child and one of our favourite books was Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. I remember she was very moved by that story and what it captures: the circle of life as seen by a son and his mother, growing older together. It’s a beautiful preparation for what is to come.
My favourite book growing up
When I was five or six in Eugene, Oregon, my favourite object was Maurice Sendak’s Nutshell Library. The packaging was so unique, a little box of four miniature books. I loved the artwork and was particularly fond of Chicken Soup With Rice.
The book that changed me as a teenager
In high school we read Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder, a sort of fictional introduction to various philosophers. It had a profound impact on me, making me question religion and existence in a way I hadn’t thought to before.
The writer who changed my mind
I read George Saunders’s A Swim in a Pond in the Rain recently. The book brought me back to creative writing courses in college, reading critically and applying lessons in technique to my own writing. His commentary on the Russian masters made the selections feel livelier and modern, and I was able to find something in them that I didn’t think could be there.
The book that made me want to be a writer
Maybe Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. I studied a lot of short fiction in college, and Carver’s style stood out for its accessibility. He made small, ordinary observations seem profound. He wrote about regular people. I’ve always gravitated to that kind of realism. It felt like something I could achieve.
The book I came back to
I read Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies in college and was less moved than I should have been. Perhaps at the time it was just too sophisticated for me. I recently read Whereabouts and fell head over heels for it.
The book I reread
Richard Ford’s Rock Springs is probably my favourite short story collection of all time. At a certain stage of writing Crying in H Mart, my editor suggested I include more atmosphere, more descriptions of the weather. To get a sense of how it should be done, I reread Rock Springs and underlined every passage about the weather. It improved my writing greatly.
The book I could never read again
Like most teenagers, I read a lot of Charles Bukowski’s poetry. Bukowski was another person who made writing feel accessible. According to his model, you didn’t need to be highly educated or naturally brilliant to write something profound. However, it’s not an oeuvre I need to revisit.
The book I discovered later in life
Somehow, I had never read Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre until last year. The language is truly exceptional and the story is so thrilling. I went down a rabbit hole with the Brontës after that. It’s especially heartbreaking, the way their tragic family history is recast in their literature.
The book I am currently reading
I wanted to challenge myself to read all the Jane Austen novels in a month, but I’m so busy, I’ve only managed to get through Sense and Sensibility.
My comfort read
Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping. I just adore this book and have probably reread it a hundred times. It’s devastating but also so comforting to me. Her command of language is beautiful and inspiring. I feel like I always discover something new when I return to it.