Every Book You Should be Reading Right Now


Every week the New York Times Book Review does this clever little Q&A with an author. It’s so clever that whenever I read it, I supply my own answers to the questions inside of my head.

Remembering that I do indeed have a blog, I realized I could share those answers with you too. So, every week when I remember to do it, I’ll post my own little NYT Book Review Q&A here.

What book is on your night stand now?
I just finished this crazy memoir, “Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality” by Jacob Tomsky that I just loved. It wasn’t incredibly well written, but it was so refreshing. Usually memoirs are a little morose or life-affirming or something and this was just a straight-forward take on how this guy worked as a front desk agent in a  hotel.

What was the last truly great book you read?
I loved “Liar’s Poker”. Just so incredibly well-written.

What is your favorite literary genre? Any guilty pleasures?
I read memoir. I’m absolutely fascinated by people and how they choose to present themselves to the world. I’ll watch any reality show and read pretty much any memoir ever. There’s this great Quaker saying of “Let your life speak”. I love seeing how other people are letting their lives speak.

Have you read any good books on philosophy lately?

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be? The prime minister?
Every person at all times should be required to read Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.” I’ve always said that when I win the lottery, I’ll stand on street corners and pass out free copies of that book. I read “A People’s History” about the same time as Theodore Dreiser’s “Sister Carrie” and Dorothy Day’s “On Pilgrimage”. The combined effect of reading each of those in such a short period of time were really foundational in my progression toward being a latte-sipping East Coast elitist liberal.

What were your favorite books as a child? Did you have a favorite character or hero?
My all-time favorite book as a child was “Poky Little Puppy”. I mean seriously. What’s not to love about roly-poly puppies? I was also a huge big fan of the under-rated “Tommy Goes to the Doctor”. This was kind of a brilliant read because not only did Tommy go to a doctor, but running underneath Tommy’s journey was the story of a bunny (Fluffy, maybe?) who also went to a bunny doctor. So brilliant. Tommy’s doctor gave him a lollipop after the visit and Fluffy got a carrot.

I loved the structure of that book. Two stories! In one!

What books had the greatest influence on you when you were a student?
I had this amazing classics professor in college who taught Oedipus just brilliantly. I had never read any classics before then and was BLOWN AWAY. I remember just being so completely shocked at the end of that book. Reading that and the other classics helped me really understand humans have always craved a certain bit of structure in the stories we’ve told one another throughout time.

What was the last book that made you cry?
I can’t think of one. I try to not read books that make me cry.

The last book that made you laugh?
I apparently don’t read funny books either.

The last book that made you furious?
“The Receptionist” by Janet Groth. Honest-to-G*d it just could have been so much better. What a great story she had to tell as a long-time receptionist at the New Yorker! And she just wasted it by being a name-dropper. And tedious. She was so very tedious.

What’s the best love story you’ve ever read?
Cutting for Stone was just so beautifully written. A love story in every sense of the word. I wish I were still reading that book.

Are there any architects that you think are also particularly good writers? What are your favorite books on architecture?
I don’t know if it’s by an architect, but “House as a Mirror of Self” is just brilliant. It’s all about our emotional connections to our homes. How we surround ourselves with things… or not.. how we decorate them and the houses we choose as a reflection of our selves.

If you could meet any writer, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you want to know?
Since I was 8-years-old and fell asleep on Christmas Eve clutching my new collection of Little House on the Prairie books, I have wanted to meet Laura Ingalls Wilder. I stand by that wish. There’s not anything really I’d want to know, but I’d probably make her my best friend and we’d hang out together writing awesome memoir.

And if you could meet a character from literature, who would it be?
Oedipus!!!! I mean. COME ON.

Who are your favorite writers of all time? And among your contemporaries?
Dorothy Allison, Minnie Bruce Pratt and Peggy McIntosh. All of whom have saved my life any number of times.

And if you had to give a young person a list of books to be read above all others to prepare for adulthood, what would you include?
A People’s History of the United States. Standard.

What are you planning to read next?
I like to keep a few books going at a time. So up next on the Kindle are Wendy Lawless’ “Chanel Bonfire”, Stephen King’s essay “Guns” John Kenney’s “Truth in Advertising” and Lois Frankel’s “Nice Girls Just Don’t Get It.”

About Kristie Helms

Boston-based #digital marketing guru, inadvertent community organizer, life-long voracious reader, ENFJ & former NYC tour guide. I really am from Possum Trot, Kentucky.
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  1. I had the Pokey Little Puppy too and mine looked just like that! It was published just a few years before I was born. This is a great idea — I’ll have todo neon my blog.