Reading with...Addison Armstrong

photo: Ryan Armstrong

Addison Armstrong is an elementary school teacher and author who lives in Nashville, Tenn. She wrote her debut, The Light of Luna Park (Putnam, August 10, 2021), while in school at Vanderbilt University. It is a historical novel about a nurse who chooses to save a baby's life--and risks her own in the process.

On your nightstand now:

I'm partway through Torrey Peters's Detransition, Baby. I also just ordered several books from presenters at this year's virtual Historical Novel Society North America conference, including The Company Daughters by Samantha Rajaram and Brontë's Mistress by Finola Austin.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Is "all of them" an acceptable answer? The first books I remember were the Oz books by Frank L. Baum and the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, both of which my dad read me before I was old enough to read myself. In first grade, my tastes ranged from Nancy Drew to Little Women. After that, I read just about everything! Some standouts include the Sisters Grimm series, Ann Rinaldi's historical fiction, mysteries by Joan Lowery Nixon or Agatha Christie, and Harry Potter.

As an educator, however, I'd be remiss not to point out that there are so many incredible books coming out now that explore much more diverse experiences from historically marginalized authors. Some recent children's and YA favorites include Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas, Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and Milo Imagines the World and Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson.

Your top five authors:

Jodi Picoult is my all-time favorite author and has been since I read The Pact in high school. Her books are so nuanced, so beautifully researched and so brilliant in their multiple perspectives.

Diane Chamberlain is another favorite, for many of the same reasons. I love the intimate family stories she uses to ask universal questions or reveal little-known periods of history. 

No historical fiction author could leave Kate Quinn off a list of favorite authors. The Huntress, The Rose Code and The Alice Network are so good that I'm mad I didn't write them myself.

I've adored Kate Morton since I read The Distant Hours in middle school and had to go on a long walk through the neighborhood to clear my head. She's part of the reason I write dual timelines.

It's hard to pick a fifth favorite, as so many different authors are vying for the spot. I'd say it's a tie between Helen Hoang, Talia Hibbert and Casey McQuiston. Their books are just so much fun, and they do so much for representation of characters whose joy is often forgotten in favor of trauma and pain.

Book you've faked reading:

In fifth grade, we were given a choice of books to read for a project, but the books had to be on our Lexile level. My only two fiction options were Charles Dickens and Nathaniel Hawthorne, and my mother quickly nixed The Scarlet Letter for her 10-year old. I ended up reading Great Expectations and only got about halfway through.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I've recommended Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar and The Book of Rosy by Rosayra Pablo Cruz and Julie Schwietert Collazo to just about everyone I know. Both address family separation and detainment of immigrants, but Land of the Cranes is a novel-in-verse intended for a younger audience, and The Book of Rosy is an adult memoir. Both will tear your heart out and leave you desperate to act, but they'll give you hope, too.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I don't know if I've bought any books exclusively for their covers, but I love the cover of The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd and the covers of S.A. Chakraborty's Daevabad series.

Book you hid from your parents:

Predictably enough for someone born in the late '90s, that would be the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. I was about to turn 11 when the last book in the series came out, and everyone was reading it but me. That is, until I started cat-sitting for my neighbor and found the first book on their shelf. I read several sneaky snippets before finally confessing to my mom and getting permission to read the entire series--so long as I promised not to declare myself willing to die for a boy like Bella was at age 16. Needless to say, I made it past high school with my life intact.

Book that changed your life:

Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness not only taught me so many important things about the topic, but also that I don't hate nonfiction after all.

Favorite line(s) from a book:

"If we continue to stand by, none of us will have clean hands." --The Pull of the Stars, Emma Donoghue

"They [her children] would be better than she was.... If the world displeased them, they would change it, cracking it open, instead of bending themselves to its demands." --Mrs. Everything, Jennifer Weiner

"He had taught her to love reading, one of the greatest gifts a parent could give a child, and in doing so, he had opened the world to her." --The Book of Lost Names, Kristin Harmel

Five books you'll never part with:

My signed copy of Angie Thomas's The Hate U Give is my prized possession. If you haven't read her books yet, do it now! Some others that I'll never relinquish include The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré, The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon and my signed copy of The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune wrapped me up in a warm blanket and convinced me the world was going to be okay. If I could recapture that feeling, I would.

Top ten historical fiction books:

In alphabetical order,

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel
The Children's Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin
Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon
The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline
The Huntress by Kate Quinn
The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue  
A Tip for the Hangman by Allison Epstein  
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson

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