|photo: Charles Osgood
Renée Rosen is the author of Park Avenue Summer (Berkley, April 30, 2019) as well as four other historical novels, including Windy City Blues. She's working on a new novel, The Social Graces, about Mrs. Astor and Alva Vanderbilt vying for control of New York society during the Gilded Age.
On your nightstand now:
My TBR pile is ridiculous, far too many books to list here, but at the moment, I'm milking the last 100 pages of The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai. I've admired her writing for a long time, but this book took her to a whole new level. Next up is You Know You Want This by Kristen Roupenian. I was blown away by her New Yorker short story, "Cat Person," so I'm eager to read the rest of her collection.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. I just loved that mischievous Sal and following her adventures on Blueberry Hill. To this day blueberries remain one of my favorite fruits, and I believe it has something to do with my fond memories of that book.
Your top five authors:
Michael Cunningham walks on water for me. I think he's one of the most gifted and compassionate writers out there.
Mona Simpson is a favorite, too. I've re-read Anywhere but Here at least a dozen times.
Donna Tartt brings a character alive on the page like no one else. For me, Boris in The Goldfinch remains one of the best-drawn characters in contemporary literature.
Amor Towles is just plain brilliant, witty and elegant. I can't wait to see what he'll write next.
Jhumpa Lahiri is a stunningly beautiful writer. Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth are books I've gone back to several times.
Book you've faked reading:
Middlemarch by George Eliot but to be clear, I didn't actually fake it as much as I surrendered to it. I've attempted to read this book several times and I get about 60 pages in and break into a sweat. I recognize her immense talent (how can you not?), but it's just frankly too much work. She packed so much into each sentence. I would have to stop and really digest every line. So yes, I have surrendered to the fact that I'll probably never be able to read Middlemarch.
Book you're an evangelist for:
In Need of a Good Wife by Kelly O'Connor McNees. This is seriously one of the most charming novels I've ever read. After the Civil War three very different women venture to the western frontier as mail-order brides. The writing is spectacular, the characters are witty and wonderfully rendered. I just can't say enough good things about this work of historical fiction.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. I was in a bookstore on that Tuesday of its release, saw it on the front table and marched right up to the counter and bought it. One page in, I assure you, I was not disappointed!
Book you hid from your parents:
I never really hid any books from my parents, but I do remember feeling quite scandalous and grown up when I read Sheila Levine Is Dead and Living in New York by Gail Parent. I would have been about 12 when it came out so I'm sure my older sister must have been reading it before I got my hands on it.
Book that changed your life:
A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham. I read this right after it was published in 1990 and was completely knocked out by the writing. This book changed my life because later that summer I was able to study with Michael Cunningham at the Santa Monica Writer's Conference. It was because of his workshop that I tapped into a childhood memory which evolved into my first published novel.
Favorite line from a book:
"We are each the love of someone's life." This is actually the first line from The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer. Such a powerful and beautiful sentence. How could you not read on after that?
Five books you'll never part with:
A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham. Did I mention that this is the book that changed my life?
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. I've re-read this three times and it gets better with each reading.
The Last to Go by Rand Richards Cooper. This is another book that I return to often, relishing my favorite scenes.
Anywhere but Here by Mona Simpson. Whenever I need inspiration, this is the book I reach for.
Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters. There is just too much wisdom in those pages to ever part with.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I remember reading it when it first came out, and it was the perfect blend of page-turning suspense, coupled with beautiful language and an extraordinary cast of characters.
A book you'd love to see made into a movie:
The One Man by Andrew Gross. This is a historical thriller that takes place during World War II. It tells the story of Nathan Blum, working on behalf of the U.S. government, who sneaks into Auschwitz to rescue the one man who holds the key to the Manhattan Project. The book was so vividly written and cinematic, I would think it's a natural for the big screen.