Humphrey's new book is Spells of Blood and Kin, her first novel.
Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I have three primary types of reading. The first is, of course, for my own enjoyment. The second is for research to support my writing. And finally, I work as a buyer for a book retailer, so I often read advance copies of books we’re considering, books we’ve commissioned or books publishers are promoting.Visit Claire Humphrey's website.
In reverse order: the most recent book I read for my job was Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin. Martin presents herself as a sociologist, living among the people of the Upper East Side for the purpose of studying their customs and culture; it’s a funny conceit at times, but a false one, as Martin is actually quite invested in “going native”, as she calls it, and becoming a fully-fledged member of this privileged society. Part gossipy pleasure, part cultural document, part personal memoir, this book doesn’t quite hang together, but it has some fascinating moments—I wouldn’t have imagined a whole chapter on purchasing a Birkin bag to be so interesting, but it really was.
For research: Forgotten Tales of Pittsburgh, by Thomas White. I don’t yet know what piece this research is for, but it’s a near-guarantee that I’ll write something about Pittsburgh soon; I’ve had a consuming crush on this city for a few years now and I can’t help but write about something I think about this often. The tales in this little book are presented in scattershot fashion, a bit like having a conversation with an erudite local over a pint. Some are serious, some are curiosities, some are dull. One, at least, will spark a story for me.
And for enjoyment: The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson. Baru is a precocious child in one of the colonies of a large empire; she grows up under the wing of a merchant who ensures her education and helps her to a position as an economist in another of the empire’s conquered nations. A fantasy about economics initially struck me as a dry idea, but it’s so well-executed that I forgot my misgivings. It’s also a fantasy about colonization, about power structures, about privilege and intersectionality. I found the ending elegant, foregone; some others, I believe, found it surprising; we probably all felt the impact of the payload.
Next up will likely be something about hockey, because the Stanley Cup Finals will end within the week and I’ll be hungry for something to fill the summer off-season!
The Page 69 Test: Spells of Blood and Kin.