Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?
My sister Clara (Kiki) is a voracious reader. A few years ago, she told me what an impact “The Warmth of Other Suns” had on her. She said it was the most important book she ever read. I read it and thought it was a masterpiece. It prompted several rich and memorable conversations between us. Then, when my husband and I were planning to visit Auschwitz a few years ago, my mother-in-law, Paula, suggested I read Primo Levi’s “If This Is a Man.” The memoir made the experience even more meaningful and made me appreciate Paula even more.
What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?
Sheera Frenkel’s and Cecilia Kang’s brilliant exposé of Facebook, “An Ugly Truth,” revealed the nefarious actions by company executives months before Frances Haugen blew the lid off the whole enterprise. These two should win a Pulitzer Prize.
Even before the pandemic, I’d been interested in exploring the epidemic of loneliness. “Together,” by Vivek Murthy, underscored how loneliness and social isolation damage our emotional and physical health. It’s the equivalent of smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.
Sanjay Gupta’s book “Keep Sharp” says that occasionally holding your fork with your less dominant hand helps with brain health. Who knew?
Which subjects do you wish more authors would write about?
There have been so many excellent books written lately about the environment and I’d welcome even more. Recently on my podcast I featured Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, the authors of “The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis.” My friends Laurie David and Heather Reisman also wrote a book called “Imagine It!” Both books explain in an accessible way our current environmental challenges, but more important, they help us understand what we can do collectively and individually.
Meanwhile, more and more authors are writing honestly about loss and grief, which is something I tried to do in my memoir. “When Breath Becomes Air,” by Paul Kalanithi, “The Light of the World,” by Elizabeth Alexander, and “Notes on Grief,” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, helped me metabolize my own experience.
What moves you most in a work of literature?
Beautiful, descriptive sentences that play with language in original, unexpected ways. I know I love a book when I read a passage and it stops me in my tracks and makes me read it again. I did this repeatedly when I read Lisa Taddeo’s book “Three Women” as well as her novel, “Animal.”