Welcome to the Book Marks Questionnaire, where we ask authors questions about the books that have shaped them.
This week, we spoke to The Lightness author Emily Temple.
Book Marks: First book you remember loving?
Emily Temple: In sixth grade, I memorized the entirety of Maurice Sendak’s Outside Over There for a declamation contest and performed it in front of the whole school. I only got an honorable mention, but I have no regrets.
BM: Favorite re-read?
ET: Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. But also Maggie Nelson’s Bluets. And Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. Also James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. This is just a list of my favorite books because I do a lot of re-reading.
BM: A book that blew your mind?
BM: What book from the past year would you like to give a shout-out to?
ET: Not enough people read Susan Steinberg’s Machine, but it is very, very good. Jenny Offill fans, take note.
BM: A book that actually made you laugh out loud?
ET: Quan Barry’s We Ride Upon Sticks is so ridiculous in the best way (read: ’80s).
BM: Classic book you hate?
ET: Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Look, I know it influenced a whole generation but what this sentence presupposes is . . . maybe it shouldn’t have?
BM: Classic book on your To Be Read pile?
ET: Do I really have to read Proust? I do. I can. I will. Not yet. Maybe soon.
BM: Favorite book no one has heard of?
ET: I have no idea why more people haven’t read Kate Christensen’s The Epicure’s Lament, which features one of my favorite misanthropes in literature. Also Fleur Jaeggy’s Sweet Days of Discipline, a perfect book—though it has been getting some well deserved love recently, due to its New Directions reissue.
ET: Favorite children’s book?
BM: I will forever love Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles, beginning with Dealing with Dragons, in which Princess Cimorene absolutely refuses to learn how to be proper and when to curtsy and how loudly to scream during giant raids and instead bullies the castle staff into teaching her Latin and fencing and eventually runs away to become best friends with a dragon named Kazul. I know that kind of thing is all the rage now, but when I was twelve, Cimorene was a revolution.
BM: Favorite book to give as a gift?
ET: I like to give Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation to people as a test. If they don’t need to be tested, they can have Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies or N. K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, depending on their general temperament.
BM: Book you wish would be adapted for a film/tv show?
ET: Please, universe, give me an adaptation of Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love. I know it’s basically impossible considering the very . . . specific physical features of the cast, but what else is technology for besides bending time and space and the nature of reality to turn all my favorite novels into television?
Emily Temple was raised by Buddhists in Central New York. She now lives in Brooklyn, where she is the Managing Editor at Lit Hub. The Lightness is her first novel.
Emily Temple’s The Lightness is out tomorrow from William Morrow