That trees communicate with each other, alert each other to danger, and tend to each other’s well-being. They can also learn. I think of the Amazon as I write this and my heart just breaks.
What moves you most in a work of literature?
When I come upon some idea or story that alters my personal trajectory and when an author has used unique words in a unique way to bring some moment or character alive.
Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?
I’m not interested in romance or scary novels. I will occasionally read classics — Dickens, Tolstoy, Proust — or terrific contemporary novelists. But I mostly read nonfiction books focusing on whatever topic I am trying to learn about. Lately, I’m reading books about racism by Black authors like Baldwin, Hurston, Langston Hughes, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Isabel Wilkerson and Ibram Kendi. I’ve spent years reading books about Christianity including about the Gnostic Gospels. I’ve read scores of books about childhood sexual abuse, everything written by Alice Miller.
How do you organize your books?
Novels and poetry fall into two groups, but all the nonfiction is organized by topic. The largest sections in my library are books by and about women, psychology, religion, biographies, politics, economics, labor and the environment.
What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?
What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?
“The Village of Ben Suc,” by Jonathan Schell. A group of American soldiers who had fought in Vietnam gave it to me. It changed my life. I left my French husband, moved back to the United States and joined the anti-Vietnam War movement.
What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?
I loved all the Nancy Drew mystery books and the novels about horses like “Black Beauty” and “The Black Stallion.” But reading “Green Mansions” when I was 12 was the most memorable. That’s when I lost awareness of reading and became the book.