|photo: Kate Uhry
Dani Shapiro is the author of the memoirs Devotion and Slow Motion, as well as five novels, including Black & White and Family History. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, One Story, Elle, Vogue, the New York Times Book Review and the Los Angeles Times, and has been widely anthologized. She has taught in the writing programs at Columbia, NYU, the New School and Wesleyan University, and she is a co-founder of the Sirenland Writers Conference in Positano, Italy. She is a contributing editor at Travel + Leisure. Shapiro's latest book is Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life (Atlantic Monthly Press, October 1, 2013).
On your nightstand now:
It's a teetering pile: The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer; Always Apprentices, an anthology of writers on writing, from the Believer; a book of poems by the children of Newtown, Conn., called In the Yellowy Green Phase of Spring; A Path with Heart by the great Buddhist writer Jack Kornfield (this one is always on my nightstand); and The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Like so many women my age, I was entranced, when I was a girl, by Are You There God, It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume. It was the book that let me know I wasn't alone in what I thought and felt.
Your top five authors:
I'm going to pick five of my contemporaries who I think are doing amazing work; who, by their example, remind me to be bold and take creative risks: Jennifer Egan, Nick Flynn, David Mitchell, Jess Walter--and what about the incredible example of Elizabeth Gilbert, who turned away from all that public adulation and went back into the solitary cave and came back out with a beautiful new novel?
Book you've faked reading:
I faked reading Proust's In Search of Lost Time for many years, but then I decided to teach it as my penance--and now I know it intimately.
Books you're an evangelist for:
Janet Hobhouse's posthumously published novel, The Furies. Renata Adler's Speedboat and Pitch Dark. Elizabeth Hardwick's Sleepless Nights. Oh, and Jerome Badanes's magnificent Holocaust novel, The Final Opus of Leon Solomon.
Book you've bought for the cover:
I don't think I've ever bought a book only for its cover, but Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish by David Rakoff is my favorite recent book jacket--just brilliant.
Book that changed your life:
Thomas Merton's Thoughts in Silence. Merton was a Trappist monk, a great spiritual thinker and an antiwar activist, and his writings are pure, poetic, distilled wisdom. I keep his book on my desk, within reach.
Favorite line from a book:
"For she was a child, throwing bread to the ducks, between her parents, and at the same time a grown woman coming to her parents who stood by the lake, holding her life in her arms which, as she neared them, grew larger and larger in her arms, until it became a whole life, a complete life, which she put down by them and said, 'This is what I've made of it! This!' And what had she made of it? What indeed?" --From Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates.