Thursday, April 28, 2016

Caragh O’Brien

Since earning a master’s in writing at Johns Hopkins University, Caragh O'Brien has been a high school teacher, a published author of romance novels, and now a novelist for teens. Her first young adult novel, Birthmarked, was a Junior Library Guild Selection, a YALSA Best Book for Young Adults, and on the ALA Amelia Bloomer list.

O’Brien latest novel is The Rule of Mirrors.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
You should probably know up front that I’m a slow reader. I’m also an impatient reader. For a book to work for me, it has to grip me both with a certain line-by-line delight and ideas that startle and intrigue me. The following five books all do.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

People have been telling me for ages to read this novel, but the toys on the cover always made me doubt that it was my sort of book. It is completely my sort of book. It’s thoughtful, funny, challenging, sad, and philosophical. When Junior is the only Indian kid in his otherwise white high school, he faces discrimination, self-doubt, and the rage of his old friends. The familiar story of acceptance, of winning approval from the mainstream crowd, is blessedly secondary to the deep questioning of what it is to grow up and be human. This novel reminds me how important it is to write from the heart from personal experience, and it challenges me to see how I might do that more. I’ll be pondering this book for a long time.

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

I discovered this from lists on Goodreads when I was browsing for a good romance, and it did not disappoint. The two main characters, Alex and Brittany, are from opposite social and economic worlds when they’re teamed up as lab partners in chemistry. Though the premise is not original, Brittany’s relationship with her disabled sister and Alex’s involvement with his gang are bases for deep, conflicted characters. I’ve been rereading sections to see how Elkeles handles pacing so well, and I’m in no hurry to return my copy to the library.

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

I read this knowing I would be on a panel with Rae at the Tucson Festival of Books, and I keep thinking about her novel. The main character is a girl traveling across country in 1849 in time for the California Gold Rush, and it’s full of pioneer details. It also has a little bit of magic because Lee can sense gold, and this secret gives her potential power and sets her up for danger. What I liked most was how strong and good Lee was, even when she faced intolerance and greedy, evil people. This is the beginning of a series, and I’ll definitely be reading more.

Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity by Hugh MacLeod

I’m proud to say this was a total impulse buy from Green Apple Books in San Francisco. It’s a funny, quick read with the author’s alternately quirky and insightful tips on being an artist and figuring out the artist’s relationship with marketing. When he talks about how sovereignty over your own work is the most satisfying, empowering, valuable aspect of that work, it resonates with me. Some of his advice and stories are downright wacky, but I like that, too. I also enjoy the little, abstract drawings from the backs of business cards that are interspersed through the pages.

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak

My son read a couple of these stories aloud to me on a road trip, and I subsequently picked up a copy from the library. I did the obvious thing—read all the shortest stories first—just as B.J. Novak predicted some of his readers would do. But then I had to go back and read them all, from the beginning, because some wryly refer back to earlier stories. I kept renewing my library copy, then finally went out and bought my own, and then I kept giving mine away and getting more copies. The stories are that good. They’re funny, soul-searching, and brilliant. They expose the absurdity of our time and our relationships. They make me want to be a braver, more original writer, and best of all, they make me laugh.
Learn more about the book and author at Caragh O'Brien's website.

My Book, The Movie: Birthmarked.

--Marshal Zeringue