|photo: Adrianne Mathiowetz
R.L. Maizes is the author of the short story collection We Love Anderson Cooper. Her work has aired on National Public Radio and has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, McSweeney's Internet Tendency and elsewhere. Her debut novel is Other People's Pets (Celadon, July 14, 2020)
On your nightstand now:
Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman. It's funny and moving and the main characters suffer from anxiety, which, sadly, I can relate to. I just finished Cathleen Schine's The Three Weissmanns of Westport and Fin & Lady, and enjoyed both. Deacon King Kong by James McBride is up next.
Favorite book when you were a child:
I loved Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking books. I have three sisters, and sometimes I thought it would be nice to replace them with a chest of coins and a monkey. When I got a little older, I read Chaim Potok's books The Chosen, The Promise and My Name Is Asher Lev. They're about the conflict between individual and communal identity. As a young Orthodox Jew who was already thinking about leaving the religious community, I identified with the struggles of the characters.
Your top five authors:
It's very difficult to choose just five, but these are some of the writers whose books I treasure: Kent Haruf, Ramona Ausubel, Ruth Ozeki, Alice Munro and George Saunders. I love magical realism and especially the way it's used in the Ausubel novel No One Is Here Except All of Us and the Saunders collection Tenth of December.
Book you've faked reading:
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. I picked it up again recently and only managed a chapter. Also, A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. I want to be the kind of person who finishes that book, but I'm not.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Lately, I've been recommending You're Not Listening by Kate Murphy to everyone I know. It helped me to have deeper conversations with friends and family. For a long time, I couldn't stop telling people about Mad Boy by Nick Arvin. It's funny and tender and has talking dead people. Hard to top that. I recommend everything by Steve Yarbrough, and especially his most recent novel, The Unmade World. He has immense compassion for his characters, even the less-likable ones, which is something I strive for as a writer.
Book you've bought for the cover:
I will read anything by Kevin Wilson. His latest novel, Nothing to See Here, is wonderful. But I also loved and was jealous of the cover, which features a cartoon child bursting into flames.
Book you hid from your parents:
A racy novel whose title I honestly can't remember. Something to do with a mountain, maybe? I dog-eared all the sexy bits, and read them over and over, though it's possible you wouldn't call what I did reading.
Book that changed your life:
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. It's a deeply moving book, and it taught me about parts of the world and a history of oppression I knew nothing about. It made me realize how inadequate my education had been.
Favorite line from a book:
Mary Oliver's poem "Wild Geese" (from her collection of the same title), which begins, "You do not have to be good." I get a thrill when I see or hear the opening line quoted and have to stop whatever I'm doing and read the entire poem, usually more than once.
Five books you'll never part with:
Among my top five:
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
No One Is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Rebecca Makkai's The Great Believers, because I love the characters and want to spend time with them again before they encounter certain difficulties. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It would be wonderful to come across the remarkably beautiful language in that book again for the first time.
Book you read aloud to someone:
A Theft by Saul Bellow. A boyfriend and I took turns reading it aloud to each other. It was the high point of the relationship. Make of that what you will.