Welcome to the Book Marks Questionnaire, where we ask authors questions about the books that have shaped them.
This week, we spoke to Belladonna author Anbara Salam.
Book Marks: First book you remember loving?
Anbara Salam: I’ve never been a “good” sleeper; it takes me hours to get to sleep, and then the slightest noise will wake me up. When I was about ten I pulled a battered copy of Anne of Green Gables from my mum’s shelf and read it under the covers, religiously, every night. When I finished, I’d start all over again. I used my pocket money to buy an audiobook on cassette and listened to it in the dark until I knew the whole book by heart. Even now I can recite pages of it from memory.
BM: Favorite re-read?
AS: Probably The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I re-read it again on a flight from the UK to Boston last year and didn’t look up once!
BM: What book do you think your book is most in conversation with?
AS: In a way, it might be The Talented Mr Ripley. I only read the ‘Ripliad’ series a few years ago, and I couldn’t believe it had taken me so long to get around them! Ripley is so compelling, and there is something delicious about rooting for a villain to get what they want.
BM: A book that blew your mind?
AS: Beloved by Toni Morrison. I had a copy with the old cover that made it look like an erotic thriller, and when I actually read it, it blew me away. Utter genius.
BM: What book from the past year would you like to give a shout-out to?
AS: It has won prizes all over the place so it hardly needs my shout-out, but The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins is fantastic. I had to put it down every few pages and blink into the distance because Collins is so talented it is almost overwhelming.
BM: A book that actually made you laugh out loud?
AS: How To Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell. A totally hilarious and tragic romp through self-destruction.
BM: Favorite book to give as a gift?
AS: By far, Tiny Beautiful Things, a collection of Cheryl Strayed’s advice letters from her time as the anonymous ‘Sugar.’ It’s the perfect book to give as a gift—honest, kind, heartbreaking and uplifting.
BM: Classic book you hate?
AS: About ten years ago I was working on a remote island in Melanesia—it was very basic living, and, although I had a pillowcase, I only had one extra t-shirt to stuff inside it. There was a modest collection of classic books left by previous visitors, and every time I couldn’t finish one of the books, I stuffed it into the pillowcase so at least it would serve a (pretty uncomfortable) purpose. Into the pillowcase went classics such as: Gulliver’s Travels, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, and Moby-Dick. I figured that if I found them unreadable on a remote island with no electricity; I would never be able to finish them.
BM: Favorite book you were assigned in high school?
AS: We were assigned Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber during sixth form and I was obsessed with it. Gothic perfection.
BM: Book(s) you’re reading right now?
AS: In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park as an e-book and Amy & Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout as a paperback. I like to switch between formats so I can have one book for the bath, and one to read under the covers.
Anbara Salam is half-Palestinian and half-Scottish and grew up in London. She has a PhD in Theology and is now living and working in Oxford.
Anbara Salam’s Belladonna is out now from Berkley