|photo: Claire Leahy
Traci Thomas is the host of The Stacks, a podcast about books and the people who love them. She is passionate about books and the ways they shape cultural understandings of race, gender, politics and what it means to be alive. New episodes of The Stacks come out every Wednesday and the program has featured guests like Kiese Laymon, Bakari Sellers, Brit Bennett, Ibram X. Kendi and many more. Thomas lives in Los Angeles with her husband and twin sons.
On your nightstand now:
I don't keep any books on my nightstand. I have a platform bed, so my current book and my e-reader live there instead. My nightstand is for water, lip balm and my mouth guard (since I have a habit of grinding my teeth in my sleep). As for what I'm reading on my e-reader right now, All's Well That Ends Well by William Shakespeare and Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi. The physical book that's taking up space on my bed? Nobody: Casualties of America's War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond by Marc Lamont Hill.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White is a book I loved as a kid. I also loved James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. When I got to middle school, Go Ask Alice by Anonymous really excited me. It was not something I felt like I should be reading, and I loved that.
Your top five authors:
I can't name a top five. Mostly because I'm still reading through the catalogues of some of my favorite writers, like Jesmyn Ward and Jason Reynolds. I do know I love Jon Krakauer, Kiese Laymon and Lacy M. Johnson, who write in totally different styles but they're incredible. Then there are newer authors who I'm excited to see what they do next, like Brit Bennett and Saeed Jones.
Book you've faked reading:
I don't do that. Is that something people do? I'm not ashamed to admit I haven't read something. We've all got major gaps in our reading. Why pretend otherwise?
Book you're an evangelist for:
Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres is an incredible memoir, and I wished more people would read it. Also her other book, A Thousand Lives, which is about Jonestown and is an all-time favorite book.
Book you've bought for the cover:
I can't think of one, but I fully admit to judging most books by their cover. It's disingenuous to pretend otherwise. That's that first impression. Sure, I've read books with gorgeous covers that I've hated, and books that suffered from hideous packaging have found a place in my heart, but in truth most books I buy are because they caught my eye with the cover first.
Book you hid from your parents:
I never had to do that. Thankfully.
Book that changed your life:
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, about the Great Migration. I didn't know much of the history of Black people moving around the United States even though that history is the history of my family. My dad was part of the great migration and I never knew that was a thing until I read the book. It is a masterpiece in writing and form and the amount of rigorous research that went into it. The book changed the way I see myself and Black people around me in the world.
Favorite line from a book:
I am the worst at remembering lines from books. I so wish that I could. I love when authors come on the podcast and quote lines of text. I can barely remember the plot of most the books I read let alone lines.
Five books you'll never part with:
Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
Blood in the Water by Heather Ann Thompson
My box set collection from childhood of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Sula by Toni Morrison
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
I remember being so obsessed with The Hunger Games in my early 20s. It was a time when I was getting back into reading, and I just loved the suspense in that story. If I were to reread it now, I think it would be way less fun because I know what's going to happen and that was 95% of what kept me interested throughout the series.
Some books that are coming out soon that you're looking forward to reading:
I love looking ahead to books that are coming soon, and a few that have me very excited are The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr., Memorial by Bryan Washington, The Mouthless God and Jesus Number Two by Jason Reynolds, The Dead Are Arising by Les Payne and Tamara Payne, Anna K Away by Jenny Lee, Black Futures by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham. That's just to name a few but there are so, so, so many more, and I can't wait to read them all!