|photo: Mandy Baker
Laura Andersen has one husband, four children and a college degree in English that she puts to non-profitable use by reading everything she can lay her hands on. Books, shoes and travel are her fiscal downfalls, which she justifies because all three "take you places." She loves the ocean (but not sand), forests (but not camping), good food (but not cooking) and shopping (there is no downside.) She lives in Massachusetts with her family. Her first book, The Boleyn King, was published last month by Ballantine.
On your nightstand now:
Quiet by Susan Cain: for the introvert in me. Jane by April Lindner: Who doesn't love a good Jane Eyre re-imagining? The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey: Who doesn't love a second good Jane Eyre re-imagining? Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley: because I'm always reading a mystery and I adore Bradley's young narrator, Flavia de Luce.
Favorite book when you were a child:
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. I must have checked this book out of my school library 50 times. I adored the eccentric characters, the brilliant puzzle, and especially Turtle Wexler, the 13-year-old genius who puts it all together.
Your top five authors:
Do you have any idea how painful it is to winnow down this number? I decided to narrow the field to my Top Five Authors Who are Alive and Currently Writing. Louise Penny: for the generosity and humanity of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and her other flawed and complex characters. P.D. James: for the elegance of her writing and the psychological depth of her mysteries--and also the enigmatic Adam Dalgliesh. Sharon Kay Penman: for the details and brilliance of her settings and the emotional relevance she brings to history. Juliet Marillier: for the way she weaves magic and folklore into the fabric of history and for her enduringly powerful women. Brandon Sanderson: for epic original fantasy that creates worlds that make me say, "I want to believe."
Book you've faked reading:
My mother: "You've never faked reading a book in your life!"
Me: "I was an English major; I've faked reading many."
But the first was in high school, for junior year honors English: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. The title perfectly described how I felt while attempting to read it.
Book you're an evangelist for:
How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill. Through the centuries of the Dark Ages, literary scholarship almost vanished from continental Europe. Only on the remote, unconquered island of Ireland was the heritage of Western learning valued. Irish scribes labored lovingly to preserve the written records, and Irish missionaries returned those records to Europe. A must-read book for any lover of language and literature.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt. As a young teenager, I stumbled upon Holt's gothic novels and discovered I'm a sucker for covers featuring stormy weather, shadowy architecture, and darkly dangerous heroes.
Book that changed your life:
One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters. My senior year of college, I took a mystery novels seminar in which I encountered the 12th-century crime-solving monk Brother Cadfael. Before then I had read mysteries and I had read historical fiction, but this book introduced me to a combination that had me singing: "I didn't know you could do this!" This book led me into an entirely new arena of fiction that I continue to revel in today.
Favorite line from a book:
"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
--From The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. I have delivered that last line so often to my children that they have been known to say, "Watch out--mom's going all Gandalf again."
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. Just to relive those hours of fulfillment for which I had waited so many years. Though I can (and have) re-read all the Harry Potter books, nothing matches the experience of discovering for the first time the fullness of what happens to Harry and Ron and Hermione and weeping right along with them.
Which English royal would you most like to meet?
I should probably say a Tudor, but frankly every single one of them scares me to death. I would probably choose Henry V, to see if he's as noble as history makes him out to be. Or Anne Neville, so briefly queen to Richard III, to see what a wife has to say of her much-maligned husband.