Welcome to the Book Marks Questionnaire, where we ask authors questions about the books that have shaped them.
This week, we spoke to the author of The Butterfly Lampshade (out now in paperback), Aimee Bender.
Book Marks: Favorite re-read?
Aimee Bender: One is definitely So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell. I had the chance to lead an online book group for it in the fall for A Public Space and it was such a good motivator to think about it again and even more thoroughly and discuss with many wonderful other readers and it dug itself even deeper into me. So much loss and beauty, both measured and hugely expressive.
BM: What book do you think your book is most in conversation with?
BM: A book that blew your mind?
AB: The Fever by Wallace Shawn. A monologue about a upper middle class white man starting to realize what privilege is.
BM: Last book you read?
AB: Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans. She’s so smart, funny, empathic, casting a net over our world today and catching in it societal, psychological movements with her super keen eye.
BM: A book that made you cry?
AB: The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen—a graphic novel that weaves fairy tales, family history, stories of immigration and youth together—it’s so beautifully done and I taught it in my fairy tale class this semester and many students also said it made them cry.
BM: What book from the past year would you like to give a shout-out to?
AB: Sarahland by Sam Cohen! Such funny, vibrant, unique, memorable stories.
BM: A book that actually made you laugh out loud?
AB: True Grit by Charles Portis. My friend Robert gave it such a great recommendation: “read it,” he said, “it’s like candy.”
BM: What’s one book you wish you had read during your teenage years?
AB: The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. A friend of mine said she read it in high school and I wish I had; it would’ve set some important thinking in motion.
BM: Classic book on your To Be Read pile?
AB: Persuasion by Jane Austen.
BM: Book(s) you’re reading right now?
AB: So enjoying Ted Chiang’s stories in Exhalation, most recently the last one which investigates the idea in quantum physics about living out other decisions in other parallel universes—and what if we could “check in” with those other selves and see how it’s going? He takes this premise and dives deep into it on a very human level.
BM: Favorite children’s book?
AM: So many! Since Norton Juster recently died, I’ll note The Phantom Tollbooth which I recently read to my kids. It’s incredibly clever, of course, but then then cleverness begins to tip into wisdom, a real feat.
Aimee Bender is the author of the novels The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake—a New York Times bestseller—and An Invisible Sign of My Own, and of the collections The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, Willful Creatures, and The Color Master. Her works have been widely anthologized and have been translated into sixteen languages. She lives in Los Angeles.
Aimee Bender’s The Butterfly Lampshade is out now in paperback from Anchor Books