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 Glass Hotel (out today in paperback), Emily St. John Mandel.
Book Marks: Favorite re-read?
Emily St. John Mandel: Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson. I very rarely reread books—so many books, so little time, etc.—but I’ve read Monkey Beach three times.
BM: A book that blew your mind?
ESM: Suite Française by Irene Nemirovsky. It’s about the Nazi invasion of Paris, and it’s got a clarity and lucid beauty that I love. It was written longhand in pencil, under appalling circumstances—the novel is shorter than Nemirovsky intended, because she was arrested by the Nazis and murdered at Auschwitz—and it feels like a miracle that it exists at all, let alone that it’s so good.
BM: Last book you read?
ESM: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. I loved it.
BM: A book that made you cry?
ESM: Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy. The climate crisis is sometimes more than one can stand.
BM: What book from the past year would you like to give a shout-out to?
ESM: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. I read it months ago and still think about it almost every day.
BM: What’s one book you wish you had read during your teenage years?
ESM: I may have been the only bookish teenager in the western world who was never given a copy of Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, and I feel that I might actually have benefited from it.
BM: Favorite book no one has heard of?
ESM: Something Pretty, Something Beautiful by Eric Barnes. It was published by a small press, which makes it very hard for a book to find very many readers, but it’s a beautifully written and very moving coming-of-age book that I often find myself thinking about. I think Barnes deserves a much wider readership. He’s an excellent writer.
BM: Favorite book of the 21st century?
BM: Favorite book you were assigned in high school?
ESM: I attended an alternative program for dropouts that only assigned short stories. (I didn’t actually drop out of school. The requirement for entry to this program was that you had to be fifteen and you had to have been out of school for a minimum of three months, and since I was fifteen and had been homeschooled since kindergarten, I qualified.) The only story I really remember was Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” I still think about it a lot.
BM: Book(s) you’re reading right now?
ESM: Gil Adamson’s Ridgerunner. I love it. It’s wildly impressive. It’s somehow simultaneously very detailed and very fast-paced.
Emily St. John Mandel’s The Glass Hotel is out today in paperback from Vintage