Book Brahmin: Martine Leavitt

photo: Candace Fisher

Martine Leavitt is the author of 10 novels for young readers, most recently Calvin (a novel about a teenager who thinks he is Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes, come to life), chosen by Shelf Awareness as one of the Best Books of 2015. My Book of Life by Angel was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and winner of the Canadian Library Association's Young Adult Book of the Year Award. Her other titles include Keturah and Lord Death, finalist for the National Book Award; Tom Finder, winner of the Mr. Christie's Book Award; and Heck Superhero, finalist for the Governor General's Award. Leavitt teaches creative writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts. 

On your nightstand now:

I have only one book on my nightstand at a time or they begin to feel like they're ganging up on me. I also delete books from my e-reader as soon as I've read them and send them to live in the clouds. The book I'm reading now is the sequel to The Good Earth, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932. I read it as a teenager and just recently learned that Buck wrote sequels.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The book that made me fall in love with books in second grade was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I liked that the main character was an ugly, horrid little girl just like me.

Your top five authors:

Jane Austen, Ursula K. Le Guin, Marilynne Robinson, Bill Bryson and Shakespeare.

I chose these authors because I've read everything they've written, or close to.

Book you've faked reading:

Middlemarch by George Eliot. I read and loved all the family and romantic parts and skipped all the political stuff.

Books you're an evangelist for:

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Old Filth by Jane Gardam
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

None of these books need me to evangelize them, of course, because they are all famous. But I evangelize away anyway.

Book you've bought for the cover:

A more relevant question for me would be, "How many perfectly wonderful books have you never read because the cover frightened you away?" I'm afraid of books at the best of times, but covers, even pretty ones, can make them that much scarier.

Book you hid from your parents:

My parents let me read anything and everything. No wonder I'm afraid of books.

Book that changed your life:

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, and not only because I became so engrossed in it that I neglected to show up for my 12th grade final exams. I chose this one among many because it made me want to be a writer. 

Favorite line from a book:

"But he first thought that he would knock very loudly just to make quite sure... and while he waited for Piglet not to answer, he jumped up and down to keep warm, and a hum came suddenly into his head, which seemed to him a Good Hum, such as is Hummed Hopefully to Others." --from The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne. This is one of many perfect sentences in that book that make me want to lick my e-reader.

Five books you'll never part with:

My Calvin and Hobbes collection
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks, edited by Elizabeth Alexander
Little House on the Prairie books--annual must-reads when you are a SAD sufferer

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Holes by Louis Sachar. It is so intricately plotted that subsequent readings cannot replicate the delight of seeing all the pieces fall together sweetly at the end.

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