I read the same book every night for years, its repetition becoming almost meditative even as it put others to sleep. That book? “Goodnight Moon,” of course, which I read to my kids until it eventually rotated out of our evening mix.
Are you a re-reader? If so, what is it about a book that makes you return to it? For many, the act of re-reading is more illuminating than any initial read, though there’s also something to be said for just returning to a childhood favorite to try to recapture that feeling. Some books just become part of who we are.
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So when I reached out to author and colleague Samantha Dunn, she didn’t hesitate telling me about her choice. “I’m always thinking about horses,” said Dunn. “Books and horses.”
She has a treasured copy of a novel she figures she’s read at least eight times. “Black Beauty. It’s one of the most heart-rending books about animals, and our responsibility to them, there is,” she said before the line goes quiet while she, I assume, thinks more about books and horses.
Besides answering unsolicited questions about what’s she’s reading, writing and thinking about – she’s also got ghosts on her mind, but that’s for another time – Dunn and I were discussing the literary-themed edition of SCNG Premium magazine she’s been working on. Called Bookish, it arrives in the Jan. 30 Sunday paper.
In it, National Book Award-winning author Charles Yu shows off his bookshelves, writer Annabelle Gurwitch shares her favorite haunts and there’s a feature on Southern California literary hotspots.
There’s also a treat for book readers: The first look at our inaugural 10 Noteworthy Southern California authors.
“We are unveiling our inaugural 10 Noteworthy books by Southern California authors that made an impact in 2021,” said Dunn. “I’m really excited about it because it’s specific to California authors.”
We think you’ll like it, too. If you would like to see Sam’s treasured copy of “Black Beauty,” scroll down to the bottom, but first we have a Q&A with author and professor Myriam J. A. Chancy.
Thanks, as always, for reading.
Myriam J.A. Chancy on the author she re-reads the most
Myriam J. A. Chancy is the author of “What Storm What Thunder” and the Hartley Burr Alexander Chair of Humanities at Scripps College of the Claremont Consortium. Here she shares what she’s reading, the book that gives her pause and the works of James Baldwin.
Q. What are you reading now?
I’m currently reading Héctor Tobar’s “The Barbarian Nurseries.” My next read will be Xavier Navarro Aquino’s “Velorio” on Hurricane Maria.
Q. How do you choose what to read next?
There are some authors who are always on my radar, especially if they are philosophers or literary critics. Most of my fiction reads come from recommendations, either through other writers who let me know about a book they’ve read in galleys or by a friend of theirs, or, increasingly, through posts on social media or book clubs that announce their next reads (though I’m not in any book clubs myself). If I see a book recommended several times over, in similar ways, I tend to keep it in mind.
Q. Is there a book you’re nervous to read?
Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time.” I’ve wanted to read this book in the original for the longest time but its length is daunting.
Q. Is there a genre or type of book you read the most — and what would you like to read more of?
I definitely lean towards fiction most of all, though I do like to read philosophy and food memoirs. I probably would like to read more poetry but that’s a harder sell for me.
Q. Do you have a favorite book or books?
The collective works of James Baldwin are probably those I return to time and again; I also teach a seminar on his works every few years so that gives me the chance to reread them. I have one or two of his final books that I haven’t read yet and hope to this coming year.
Noteworthy Book Event
Subscribers should look for Bookish, SCNG’s Premium Magazine, launching Jan. 30. The issue includes Noteworthy, our first annual salute to 10 local authors who made an impact in 2021. There will be a special Noteworthy edition of SCNG’s virtual program Bookish on Feb. 4.
How to join the event: Click here for link.
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What books do you re-read?
Here’s Samantha Dunn’s treasured copy of “Black Beauty.”
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