The New York Times interviewed Delia Owens, author of Where the Crawdads Sing, and asked her so many great questions on the kinds of books she reads, from classics to modern tales.
I’m no Delia Owens, but I do have a strong passion for reading, and I’m ready to share that passion with anyone who will listen. So I swiped some of the questions NYT asked Owens, and have supplied my own answers.
What’s the last great book you read?
The last great one was Without Merit by Colleen Hoover. I’ve been a fan of hers for a few years, and this was the final book of hers that I haven’t read. I’d waited on it because it’s geared more for the Young Adult crowd. However, it was such a great read. The characters are all a little quirky, and the storyline is constantly moving with totally off the wall events, all while dealing with a very real issue. I don’t want to give too much away. I enjoyed this book so much because I went into it mostly blind, and I think you should too. But trust me, this is a book you want to read.
Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?
The most recent classic novel I read was just over a year ago when I read Jane Eyre. Oh wow, I loved that book so much. I had to read it for a Critical Thinking class, and I read it through three times in that semester. This book was ahead of its time in the women’s movement, all the way to Jane’s proclamation, “Reader, I married him.” I get chills just thinking about it.
Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?
Barbara Kingsolver is my queen. That woman can write circles around anything, but I absolutely love how she blends science with prose. I feel like I don’t just read her work, I breathe it. Another writer I love is the late Mary Oliver. I admit that I only dappled in her poetry while she was alive. But the day of her death, I began reading her poems on a more regular basis. Oliver has a way of saying something simply, but the message within the lines is profoundly deep.
What moves you most in a work of literature?
The characters. I want to see them as real people, imagining their conversations happening the exact moment I’m reading the words. If they’re sad, I want to cry. If they’re laughing, I want to laugh, too. I want them to have interesting habits, unforgettable characters, and I want to care about what happens to them. For me, the people are what drive the story.
Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?
I’m a poly-genre reader. If it’s interesting, I will read it. That said, I’m a sucker for a love story. My favorite kind of romance stories are the ones where the buildup toward their inevitable falling together builds slowly, but with so much chemistry. A skilled romance author can create a tempest of sexual tension without getting dirty in the details. Look up Tarryn Fisher, particularly her book Mud Vein. This book is the epitome of a buildup that makes you glued to the pages.
As for genres I avoid, horror. I used to read Stephen King books in my younger years, but I’ve softened as I’ve aged. I just can’t read something that puts horrible images in my mind. In the times when a book has included horrible details, I’ll skim those while my stomach does flip flops.
How do you organize your books?
In every available space. Truly, I use a Kindle for a reason. I’m reading all the time, and I’m constantly feeding my book habit with new books. If I had to shelve all my books, we’d have to buy a new house to store them.
As for my actual print books, I wish I could say I was more organized. I have all the books I plan to read on a shelf closest to my chair, and have tried organizing the rest according to genre. But mostly, I place books where they fit.
What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?
Steamy romance and spiritual all on the same shelf. 😉
What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?
When my daughter (she’s 21) finds a book that blows her away, she loves to give a copy to me as a gift. The most recent book she gave me was In the Woods by Tara French. This was a mystery novel, which isn’t a genre I usually reach for. But the story was incredible. It revolves around a missing person’s case, but opens with the main character’s own missing person story from his childhood. This book is a total page turner.
Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine?
I don’t even know how to answer this, so I’m just picking one. I recently read The Sarah Maas series, A Court of Thorn and Roses, and I absolutely, 100% fell in love with Feyre and Lucien in an almost obsessive, fangirl kind of way.
What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?
I started reading milk cartons (remember when they had missing children posted on them?) before I graduated to my very first book at four years old (Jack and the Beanstalk). I’ve been reading ever since. The authors I read the most were Francine Pascal, Beverly Cleary, and VC Andrews (my teenage guilty pleasure, and first foray into risqué romance). But my absolute favorite children’s author to this day is Katherine Paterson who wrote Bridge to Terabithia, and my favorite children’s book, Jacob Have I Loved. I read the latter book recently as an adult and cried buckets.
Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?
Water for Elephants was one. I could not get into it at all. The Paper Magician was another. For classics, Anna Karenina. People rave about that book, and I just couldn’t finish. Catcher in the Rye is another. Sorry folks, don’t hate.
Whom would you want to write your life story?
Barbara Kingsolver because I’d love to see her literary spin on my reality. I hope she makes me more interesting.
How do you decide what to read next? Is it reviews, word-of-mouth, books by friends, books for research? Does it depend on mood or do you plot in advance?
First, I read everything from the authors I love. Then I read books by authors they love, or that their readers suggest. I also subscribe to random book newsletters and get many books from them. And word of mouth. But almost always, my decision is made on what other readers have stated in their reviews. That is why reader reviews are so important. If you love a book, please take the time to leave a review!
What do you plan to read next?
I’ve recently discovered Claire Contreras, a romance author who’s mastered the slow burn, and writes romance without being cheesy. I have a couple of her books on my to-be-read list that I can’t wait to dive into.