Book Brahmin: Camille Perri

photo: Ash Barhamand

Camille Perri has been a books editor for Cosmopolitan and Esquire magazines, a ghostwriter of young adult novels and a reference librarian. She holds a B.A. from New York University and a Master of Library Science degree from Queens College. Perri wrote the first draft of The Assistants (Putnam, May 3, 2016) while working as assistant to the editor-in-chief of Esquire.

On your nightstand now:

My nightstand is stacked with galleys: You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott. Live Fast Die Hot by Jenny Mollen. Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman. Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman. Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam. What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was the first book I loved enough to read over and over. I'd make a cup of hot cocoa or have a candy bar nearby because reading it would make me crave chocolate--which turned me on to the incredible power reading can have on one's mind and body.

Your top five authors:

Alice Munro because as it's been said, she is our Chekhov.

Anton Chekhov because he is the original Chekhov.

James Baldwin because I could literally feel my worldview being altered with each of his books.

Toni Morrison because she is the greatest living writer of our time.

Nora Ephron because she taught me that everything is copy.

Book you've faked reading:

The cetology chapters of Melville's Moby-Dick. I trust I'm not alone in this, and I'm not sorry. If I reread Moby-Dick, I'll probably skip them again.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio. It's available full-text on What are you waiting for?

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Wisdom of the Heart by Henry Miller. It's my favorite book cover of all time. It features a shirt and tie with a giant black heart for a head and a scribbly title font. I keep this book propped up cover out in my living room. Guests are inevitably drawn to pick it up.

Book you hid from your parents:

Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown--the first "gay book" I ever read. And by this time I was probably too old to be hiding books from anyone. But that is my honest answer.

Book that changed your life:

Stephen King's On Writing. There's a line in there that said something like, If you need permission to do all the reading and writing you want, consider it granted by yours truly. I took that to heart because I did need that permission at the time. And for whatever reason, I accepted it from Mr. King. He also said that writing is essentially about enriching your own life and the lives of those around you. I'd never considered enrichment before, which made me realize I'd been missing something critical not only about writing, but about life.

Favorite line from a book:

"I don't want to make somebody else. I want to make myself." Sula Peace said those words in Toni Morrison's Sula. No two sentences in all of literature have moved me more. I knew I'd never forget them.

Five books you'll never part with:

When I was a young scrapper without much money and a debatable moral code, I used to steal books--mostly from my high school. I've saved them all, and they've come to be my most treasured possessions. The Great Gatsby. Of Mice and Men. The Catcher in the Rye. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Lord of the Flies. On any given day I can pick one of them up, open to a page, and see where my teenage self had underlined a passage or made a margin note, and I'm transported right back to that time when what I was learning from these classics felt urgent enough to steal.

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

I have such an awful memory that when I reread a book I often feel like it's for the first time. I'm unfortunately the same way with restaurants I've eaten at and people I've met. But I'll go with Tina Fey's Bossypants because part of the joy of that book is how her jokes can sneak up on you.

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