Today’s blog post comes from A Friend of the Family author Lauren Grodstein. We asked her to tell us about her favorite books, and she provided us with this great list!
I’ve been traveling around the country lately to promote my new novel, A Friend of the Family, and talking to lots of people about writing and reading and books in general. Inevitably they ask me what my favorite novels are, which is when, inevitably, I start to panic. You’d think by this point I’d anticipate the question – someone asks it at literally every single appearance – but for reasons I can’t figure out it still catches me off guard, and I end up standing there, stammering, trying to figure out what it is I like to read besides Us Weekly and the instructions on the back of the Toll House chocolate chip bag. What do I like to read? Gosh – well… I like, um… wait, do I even know how to read? I mean, seriously, have I ever read a book? I have? Really? What’s wrong with me?
But then I get a grip and remember a book or two I’ve read, and I mention them, and the person who’s asked me the question smiles politely because I didn’t name her favorite book or even anything she’s ever heard of (usually, in my blank idiocy, I mention a book about home decorating I’ve had on my nightstand for almost a year) and soon enough we start talking about something else.
But here, in the comfort of my own home, I can ponder the books I love the most, and share them with you without sweating and stuttering and scratching at my own cheek like a moron.
I love Mr. Bridge and Mrs. Bridge, both by Evan S. Connell, which are two perfect portraits of Kansas City society in the middle of the twentieth century. They are so beautifully written and affecting that every time I get to the end of one or the other I tear up a little and start again.
I love Independence Day by Richard Ford, which tells the story of a New Jersey realtor in the midst of a domestic crisis. I read it while I was working on my own novel, and it held my hand the entire time I was writing.
I love Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance, which is about corruption and misery in India in the 1970s and is even more depressing than it sounds, but is also as gripping and passionate as any book I know.
I love the Stone Diaries, by Carol Shields, which tells the story of a small Midwestern life and makes it huge and important.
I love We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver, which is a sprawling – perhaps too sprawling – story of an ambivalent mother, a nasty son, and a rampage of violence in the suburbs. It made me question for a good long time whether or not I wanted to be a mother myself, but then I went ahead and did it anyway.
Speaking of, my mother gave me the following books when I was maybe nine or ten and I’m still grateful to her: The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E. L. Konigsburg, and The House with A Clock in Its Walls, by John Bellairs. Give them to a kid you know and blow his little mind.