BOOK PERSON | Vol. 33
Writer Sara Harowitz recommends Kiese Laymon, Carmen Maria Machado, and Raven Leilani.
We’ve reached that forgiving season where everyone starts gesturing vaguely toward the new year when making plans, like, “Let’s get together in January!” I love it, I find it very relaxing, even though I know it’s an illusion of reprieve.
I have one more week of work and then I am spending two weeks doing as little as possible, working through my library books— I am currently alternating between The Sentence by Louise Erdrich, What Makes You Think You’re Awake? by Maegan Poland and my 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar. I am late on a couple of writing projects but I’m forgiving myself too. It’s already been a long December.
I am very happy that my last BOOK PERSON of the year is Sara Leslie Harowitz. (I have one more letter coming before 2022, just for you.) Sara has exceptional taste in many things, books included, and is also a sublime writer. It’s a pleasure to share her favourite books with you, and imagine you postponing your obligations and plans until the new year in favour of reading one of them in front of a cozy fire.
Where are you from, and where do you live now?
I grew up in the very exciting suburb of Richmond and now live in Vancouver on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations.
Describe your literary tastes.
Oh gosh. Particular? I am picky with my books; I'm drawn more to writing style and mastery of language than to a specific kind of story or genre.
What are the last five books you read?
I'm writing this in the Calgary airport without access to my bookshelf, but to the best of my memory it goes:
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
Matrix by Lauren Groff
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
What book is next to your bed right now?
The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall (technically it's currently with me at the airport!)
What's the best book you read in the last year?
Probably In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado or Long Division by Kiese Laymon.
What draws you in while reading? What elements or qualities make it impossible for you to put down a book?
It's all in the language, baby! Sentence cadence, flow, manipulation of structure—I love when I read a book and it almost feels physical because of the way the words come together. If I have to reread sentences purely because I'm trying to figure out how the author got there, I know I'm reading something truly special.
Were you a big reader as a child? What was your favourite book?
Oh yeah. My grandmother always took each grandkid out shopping for our birthdays, and one year I asked to go to Chapters instead of the toy store. She was shocked and amused. I loved Frindle by Andrew Clements as a young kid, and Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty as a preteen.
Are there any classic books you genuinely love?
Does Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking count as a classic?
Do you have a favourite book that you think would make a great film? What is it, and who would star?
It might already be in the works, but The Push by Ashley Audrain would be a really entertaining suspense film. I'd cast Emma Roberts as Blythe and Henry Golding as Fox.
What book would you give someone if you wanted them to really understand you?
Stray by Stephanie Danler and Motherhood by Sheila Heti.
Have you ever had an argument with someone else over a book? If so, which one?
It wasn't an actual argument, but a guy I went on a date with told me to read Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins, and for some reason I took his advice. I truly hated it, and if I ever run into him, it will be my duty to let him know.
What's the last book you devoured as fast as you could read it?
Heavy by Kiese Laymon. Absolutely incredible. His writing is sticky and sweet like molasses.
What is a book that makes you hopeful for the future?
Luster by Raven Leilani, because it's an impeccable debut and is unlike anything I've read before. She will have imitators.
What book are you most excited to read next?
I'm curious about Mona Awad's new book, called All's Well.
Bonus round: What pairs best with…
… sitting alone at a bar, savouring a perfect cocktail?
Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq.
… a snow day?
The Vegetarian by Han Kang.
… a long flight?
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo.
… a broken heart?
Where Reasons End by Yiyun Li.
… a bubble bath?
Severance by Ling Ma.
… a bad mood?
Bunny by Mona Awad.
… a really fancy hotel room, plus room service?
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters.