Sabaa Tahir is the author of the YA novels
|Photo: Christophe Testi
An Ember in the Ashes,
A Torch Against the Night and the recently released
A Reaper at the Gates (Razorbill, June 12, 2018). She grew up in California's Mojave Desert, at her family's 18-room motel. There, she spent her time devouring fantasy novels, raiding her brother's comic book stash and playing guitar badly. She began writing
An Ember in the Ashes while working nights as a newspaper editor. She likes thunderous indie rock, garish socks and all things nerd. Tahir lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.
On your nightstand now:
The Storm by Arif Anwar. This also doubles as the book that I bought for its cover--gray storm clouds and a woman in a bright orange sari. The contrast drew my eye.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Bahija Lovejoy and Barbara Cohen. This was my very first mirror book--I had never seen anyone even remotely resembling myself in fiction, and Buran, the heroine of this story, is both Muslim and brown. I checked the book out so much that eventually my school librarian gently suggested that perhaps I should "lose it" and then pay a fine (i.e., keep it forever). But I didn't want to get in trouble with my parents, so I just longed for it like it was my long-lost love. Eventually I bought my own copy in college.
Your top five authors:
I don't really have a top five list, but here are some of my auto-buy authors:
Mohsin Hamid, a Pakistani author who can make you laugh and rip out your heart in one page.
Alison Croggon, author of the Pellinor Quartet, a YA fantasy that is one of my favorites.
Patrick Rothfuss. The Name of the Wind is a fantasy book that I still reread every couple of years.
Marie Lu, author of the Legend Trilogy, the Young Elites Trilogy and her latest, Warcross. Marie writes with a keen eye for both plot and characterization--and I'm a sucker for her heroes.
Nicola Yoon. I devoured The Sun Is Also a Star on a plane ride and then immediately started again from page one.
Book you've faked reading:
Nicholas Nickleby in seventh grade. I don't even know why. I guess since it was big I thought people would be impressed? I had a lot to learn about what impressed middle schoolers.
Book you're an evangelist for:
The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman. I absolutely adore this series and am forever pestering people to read it. It's like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but in Regency England. The lead character, Lady Helen Wrexhall, has to balance the demands of her high society life while murdering demons from another dimension.
Book you hid from your parents:
The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman. But it's not exactly fair to say that I hid it. I stole it from my brother who hid it in this giant green steamer chest filled with comics. Then I would sneak into his room, find his key (which he kept in an extremely obvious place) and then sneak them back to my room to read by flashlight.
Book that changed your life:
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. It's a story about mankind's first (doomed) mission to an alien planet and combines science fiction, philosophy and theology with questions of faith and trauma. It is the book that taught me what it means to try to write honestly.
Favorite line from a book:
This changes constantly, but my current favorite is from Circe by Madeline Miller: "But I saw the thought in him, living like a second body, and feeding in the dark."
Five books you'll never part with:
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
The SAS Survival Handbook by John Wiseman
The Random House Book of Fairy Tales, adapted by Amy Ehrlich, illustrated by Diane Goode
The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
I wish so much that I could re-read Harry Potter. I was a freshman in college when I first read it. Everyone had gone to a concert but I had a cold and was miserable in my dorm room. A friend of mine dropped it off for me and while at first I refused to read it, she made me promise to read the first quarter of the book. I did and I was hooked. I snuck into her room a few hours later to read Book 2... and then Book 3. It was then that I learned there was no Book 4, and joined the legions of Potterheads forced to wait ages for the next book.