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 Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family (out now in paperback), Robert Kolker.
Book Marks: First book you remember loving?
Robert Kolker: Shout!: The Beatles in Their Generation by Philip Norman. An early encounter with narrative nonfiction: I kept asking myself, how’d he know these things if he wasn’t there?
BM: Favorite re-read?
RK: The Trauma of Everyday Life by Mark Epstein. (For hard times.)
BM: What book do you think your book is most in conversation with?
RK: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. For better or worse, Hidden Valley Road actively resists treating mental illness as an on-ramp for a political and social argument the way Kesey does. And of course Philip Roth’s amazing American Pastoral; his tale of the collapse of a 20th century American family inspired me from the start.
BM: A book that blew your mind?
BM: Last book you read?
BM: What book from the past year would you like to give a shout-out to?
RK: Gods of the Upper Air by Charles King. A revealing, surprising history of very important things about our culture that seemed to be hiding in plain sight.
BM: What’s one book you wish you had read during your teenage years?
RK: Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison.
BM: Classic book you hate?
RK: I got through two thirds of The Hobbit.
BM: Classic book on your To Be Read pile?
RK: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
BM: What’s a book with a really great sex scene?
RK: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving has a funny one.
BM: Favorite book you were assigned in high school?
RK: The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner.
BM: Favorite children’s book?
RK: The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss.
BM: A book that made you cry?
RK: Far From The Tree by Andrew Solomon.
Robert Kolker is the author of Hidden Valley Road, a nonfiction instant #1 New York Times best-seller and selection of Oprah’s Book Club that was named a Top Ten Book of the Year by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and Slate; one of the year’s best by NPR, the Boston Globe, the New York Post, and Amazon; the #1 book of the year by People; and one of President Barack Obama’s favorite books of 2020. His previous work includes Lost Girls, also a New York Times best-seller and New York Times Notable Book, and one of Slate’s best nonfiction books of the quarter century. He is a National Magazine Award finalist whose journalism has appeared in New York magazine, the New York Times Magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek, Wired, O, the Oprah Magazine, and The Marshall Project.
Robert Kolker’s Hidden Valley Road is out now in paperback from Anchor Books