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 Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness, Kristen Radtke.
Book Marks: First book you remember loving?
Kristen Radtke: Why lie? The Sweet Valley High series.
BM: Favorite re-read?
KR: I reread Adrian Tomine’s backlist at least once a year, especially Shortcomings and Killing and Dying. One of the pleasures of graphic novels is that you can experience them in so many different ways—I’ll often read a graphic novel in its entirety once, then page through it to appreciate the art regularly for years.
BM: What book do you think your book is most in conversation with?
KR: When we get down to it, a huge percentage of books are about loneliness in some way. If you’re awake and alive in this world, it’s hard not to be lonely, and writers—who need to spend large swaths of time alone by design—are often lonely people. So in a way I feel like the book is in conversation with most everything I’ve read.
BM: A book that blew your mind?
KR: I am extremely jealous of Nick Drnaso’s Sabrina (I’m sure pretty every cartoonist is, unless that cartoonist is Nick Drnaso).
BM: Last book you read?
KR: I was extremely late to the party on Kiley Reid’s divine Such a Fun Age. It’s also a joy on audiobook because the narrator Nicole Lewis makes books even more fun than watching TV.
BM: A book that made you cry?
KR: Tom Hart’s Rosalie Lightning, which is also a frequent reread.
BM: What book from the past year would you like to give a shout-out to?
KR: Megan Cummins’ If the Body Allows It.
BM: A book that actually made you laugh out loud?
KR: Love is an Ex-Country by Randa Jarrar.
BM: What’s one book you wish you had read during your teenage years?
KR: I wish I’d had access to comics and graphic novels in general while I was growing up. I didn’t know that kind of work existed, beyond superheroes, Archie, and newspaper gags, until I was an adult.
BM: Favorite book to give as a gift?
KR: I love giving Lynda Barry’s Syllabus to professors; it’s a beautiful homage to the craft of teaching.
BM: Classic book you hate?
KR: I tried very hard to read War and Peace last year. By “very hard,” I mean that I made it to page 47.
BM: Classic book on your To Be Read pile?
KR: Too many to list without having to confront feelings of shame.
BM: What’s a book with a really great sex scene?
KR: I’ll read any Melissa Febos sex scene (or any Melissa Febos writing about writing sex scenes)
BM: Favorite book no one has heard of?
KR: Many, many people have heard of her, but many, many more/all people should read Jenny Boully.
BM: Favorite book of the 21st century?
KR: This is a mean question!
BM: Favorite book you were assigned in high school?
BM: Book(s) you’re reading right now?
KR: Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder, which also fits into the book that made me laugh out loud/book that blew my mind, and many other categories.
BM: Favorite children’s book?
KR: If I ever have children, I’m going to read them books by Megan Reid every day.
BM: Book you wish would be adapted for a film/tv show?
KR: The Wendy series by Walter Scott, which would make for a delicious art world satire.
Kristen Radtke received a 2019 Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant for Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness. She’s the author of the graphic nonfiction book Imagine Want Only This (2017) and the forthcoming Terrible Men, a graphic novel. The art director and deputy publisher of The Believer magazine, her work has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Vogue, GQ, Marie Claire, NPR, and many other places. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Kristen Radtke’s Seek You is out now from Pantheon Books