Alex Mutter has been reporting on the indie bookstore world for
Shelf Awareness since 2013. His first real job was at Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, N.J., where he had to take remedial gift-wrapping. He lives in Los Angeles, Calif.
On your nightstand now:
At the moment I'm nearing the end of The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe. I've got Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward and 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created by Charles C. Mann on deck. For no real reason, I've been doing a thing lately where I alternate reading fiction and nonfiction.
Favorite book when you were a child:
I loved the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It had everything I wanted as a kid. Medieval fantasy? Yes please. Talking animals? Into it. Sword fights?? I am on board!
Based on the above, it will come as no surprise to learn that I was also a big fan of the Animorphs books by K.A. Applegate.
Your top five authors:
This is a really tough question. But I have to go with Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, John le Carré, Richard Flanagan and Ursula K. Le Guin, who wrote science fiction and fantasy like no one else could.
Book you've faked reading:
Somehow I went through high school without ever being assigned The Great Gatsby, which is one of a handful of books that people just sort of assume you've read, no matter the circumstances. I remember nodding along during plenty of conversations about the book in college, pretending to know what everyone else was talking about. (Rest assured that I did eventually read it. Turns out it's pretty good.)
Book(s) you're an evangelist for:
Euphoria by Lily King and Gould's Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan. In Euphoria, watching the three main characters collide is like watching a car crash--you can't look away. Gould's Book of Fish, meanwhile, is one of the most funny, brutal, beautiful and disgusting novels I've ever read.
Book you've bought for the cover:
I can't say that I've ever bought a book solely for the cover, although I have been tempted to buy new editions of books I already own, usually when I'm stuck with one that has a movie tie-in cover (I am the not-proud owner of a horrific movie tie-in version of The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper). There have been plenty of instances, however, when a great cover made me notice a book that would otherwise have probably passed me by. Such was the case with Sudden Death by Álvaro Enrigue and Command and Control by Eric Schlosser, to name two.
And on occasion I have bought books simply for the title--How to Talk to Your Cat About Gun Safety: And Abstinence, Drugs, Satanism, and Other Dangers That Threaten Their Nine Lives by Zachary Auburn is probably the best example.
Book you hid from your parents:
I honestly can't think of a book I ever felt compelled to hide. Certain manga volumes or video games, though....
Book that changed your life:
At risk of sounding like that guy, I really do have to say Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.
Favorite line from a book:
It's kind of impossible to choose a single, all-time favorite, but this bit from Carl Sagan's Cosmos has always stuck with me: "We humans, as a species, are interested in communication with extraterrestrial intelligence. Would not a good beginning be improved communication with terrestrial intelligence, with other human beings of different cultures and languages, with the great apes, with the dolphins, but particularly with those intelligent masters of the deep, the great whales?"
Five books you'll never part with:
Paul Beatty's The Sellout; American Gods by Neil Gaiman; my old, beat-up copies of Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy and Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon; and a used, hardcover copy of Three Hainish Novels (Rocannon's World, Planet of Exile and City of Illusion) by Ursula K. Le Guin that has the sort of too-literal cover art that they just don't make for science fiction novels anymore.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
I'd love to read Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré without already knowing the mole's identity. I made the rookie mistake of seeing the movie before I read the book.