What genres do you particularly like to read? And what do you avoid?
That depends on my humor. Before the pandemic, when I had more time, I read books about WWII and the courage of those who worked underground in the resistance movements – especially the German resistance. And books on the Holocaust and the horrors of the slave trade. Or fictional novels by authors like Barbara Pym and Graham Greene, or romantic novels by authors like Rosamunde Pilcher or Mary Wesley. When I’m exhausted these days, mostly audiobooks.
I avoid most science fiction movies, with the exception of John Wyndham, who wrote “The Day of the Triffids” and “The Midwich Cuckoos”.
How do you organize your books?
Unfortunately, if everything was once well organized, I don’t have time to organize myself, and everyone kindly sends me their books, and there are the books from my childhood and my mother’s childhood. Then there are the books of two aunts and my sister and her family. The huge Bibles of my grandfather, a pastor of the Congregation, even a few medical books from my uncle Eric. We cannot bear to part with it. There are books in shelves on the three floors of our family home, along three long walkways, in piles in the office (now a chaotic mess – no time – things are pushed), on shelves, on the table and in a pile on the floor. Sometimes there are even books stacked on the stairs.
What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?
If they examined the Catholic character of all the piles of books, nothing would surprise them.
What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors mean the most to you?
There was no TV when I was a kid. I learned from books – and from nature. I read every animal book I could find. Doctor Dolittle and Tarzan made me dream of living with animals in Africa. And I spent hours and hours learning from a wonderful “adult” book, recently reissued: “The Miracle of Life”, which took you through evolution, the different animal species, from primates to insects. through plants, human anatomy and the history of medicine. I collected poetry books – I especially liked the romantic poetry of Keats, Shelley, etc., then war poets like Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen. I loved some of Shakespeare’s plays. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe impressed me a lot, so I am passionate about racial discrimination and work to address it, even in a modest way, by bringing young people from different cultures together in JGI’s Roots & Runs environmental and humanitarian program for young people.
If you could ask President Biden to read a book, what would it be?
I wouldn’t have assumed – but I asked someone related to the Biden administration and he said Biden is inundated with horrible news daily and that I should recommend my book (about to be published by Celadon) “The Book of Hope”. In which, prompted by interviewer Doug Abrams, I express my belief that if we act now we can make a difference. If we lose hope now – if the President of the United States loses hope – then we are doomed. We must come together and act. Now before it’s too late.
You are organizing a literary dinner. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
Shakespeare, Tolkien, Jane Austen Where Charlotte Brontë. Or, oh – I want Keats, Byron, Rachel Carson, Dickens, Darwin – and, oh, I want Churchill so badly and, and, and – my dinner will need a banquet hall to accommodate them all!