Sara Nisha Adams is a writer and editor. She lives in London and was born in Hertfordshire to Indian and English parents. Her debut novel, The Reading List (Morrow, August 3, 2021), is partly inspired by her grandfather, who lived in Wembley and found a connection with his granddaughter through books.
On your nightstand now:
There is a whole stack of books on my nightstand at the moment, because I'm excited for so many yet am reading slower than usual, finding time in short snatches here and there between reading for work and writing. But a selection of these I can't wait to read are: Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud; The Shadows of Men by Abir Mukherjee; Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout--I know, I'm very late to the party; Popisho (or This One Sky Day in the U.K.) by Leone Ross; and The Midnight Library by Matt Haig.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones. It was the book I read repeatedly. It got to the point that I knew the book so well, I could sometimes just replay the whole plot in my head when I was bored, or I would pick it up and dip in if I couldn't settle, and immerse myself fully. It taught me about the power of imagination, I think, and sometimes, the scenes are so memorable, I forget if they're real or fiction.
Your top five authors:
This is so hard, because I probably have a top 20 authors. But the authors I love and who I have read again and again ever since I was a teenager are: Arundhati Roy, Zadie Smith, Ali Smith, Jhumpa Lahiri and A.M. Homes.
Book you've faked reading:
The Secret History by Donna Tartt (I've read it now!): I once went to a talk Donna Tartt did at my university, before The Goldfinch came out, and I got to meet her and have my book signed. I felt like such a fraud going along because I'd never read her books before, but had always wanted to, and was surrounded by stalwart fans. So, when I met her, I told her I loved The Secret History and felt so guilty about it for days afterwards. But then I read The Secret History and The Little Friend and adored them both. So maybe it wasn't a lie after all--just a premonition.
Book you're an evangelist for:
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. This is the book I've re-read the most. My copy is so worn and well-loved, one of my friends refused to borrow it from me in case it fell apart in their hands, for which they knew I'd never forgive them. But it's the book I recommend everyone to read. (As well as, more recently, Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny, which is joyous and smart.)
Book you've bought for the cover:
I buy lots of books because of their covers--one of the most obscure ones I've picked up is a cloth-bound artsy coffee-table book called From Cats to Kittens by Walter Chandoha (published in 1965), which we found in a second-hand bookshop, with a fancy Russian doll-style silhouette of a cat and a kitten on the front cover. And it's full of gorgeous black-and-white photos of cats and kittens. Who could resist?
Book you hid from your parents:
There is only really one book that I've hidden from my parents, and it was passed around between so many of my friends over months and months that the cover was completely battered and barely legible, so I can't remember the title now, and it spent most of its time with me hidden under my pillow or read with the cover obscured from view anyway, but it was a YA novel about relationships and sex, told from the perspective of teenage boys--and all the girls I knew read it and shared it with fascination and a terrified kind of curiosity.
Book that changed your life:
It has to be The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy--for so many reasons, but particularly because it made me think about books, prose and literature, and the power they hold, in a very different way.
Favorite line from a book:
I think it'd be too hard to pick just one favourite, but a line that moved me recently, and has felt particularly poignant since, is from Daisy Johnson's incredible novel Sisters: "Grief is a house with no windows or doors and no way of telling the time."
Five books you'll never part with:
The copy of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett that my Granny gave me when I was little--she saved it for years, determined the text was too small for me to read until I was a bit older, so when I eventually got to enjoy it, I savoured every page. My copies of The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, White Teeth by Zadie Smith, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, of course, and the battered 1963 Penguin paperback copy of The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck that my dad lent to me that I've never given back--but have never read, either.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
The Shining by Stephen King: I read it in the middle of the night during my school holidays one year, when I was probably a bit too young, and I've never felt so tense as I turned the pages, and I'd love to feel that rooted to the spot again.