Lily King’s Book Recommendations

Welcome to the lifespan, The books section of ELLE.com, in which the authors share their most memorable readings. Whether you’re looking for a book to console you, move you deeply, or make you laugh, consider a recommendation from the writers of our series who, like you (since you’re here), love books. Maybe one of their favorite tracks will become one of yours as well.

Five-time novelist Lily King recently published her first short story collection, Five Tuesdays in winter (Grove), next Euphoria (2014), inspired by the life of Margaret Mead, who won the Kirkus Award, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Award and was shortlisted by the BBC for a limited series, and Writers and lovers (2020). For the latter, the Massachusetts-raised Maine author tapped familiar territory for protagonist Casey Peabody, a writer in his late thirties who has yet to be published in mourning for the death of his mother, living in a 6×10 potting shed, and support herself as a waitress. The book is adapted for the cinema by Toni Collette, who will also direct and produce.

The NYT-best-seller King spoke of the financially precarious road from holding jobs at a bookstore, restaurant and teaching to publishing his first novel at age 36. Other events that affect me: a Macdowell scholarship, a Whiting award, to interview Judy Blume, who inspired her to start writing at the age of eight.

She lived in Spain (as a high school English teacher in Valencia, she knew so little Spanish that she didn’t even know it know “Hola” was spelled with an “h”), France (as an au pair) and Italy; handwritten with mechanical pencils in lined spiral notebooks Staples To office her late stepfather did, luxury her shoulder twice during sex, has two dogs named Theo and Albus (Dumbledore), and could see each other as a singer-songwriter or anthropologist. Fan of: languages, ampersand, Chip bag, to eat eggs before writing in the morning. Not a fan of: Golf. Take his recs.

The book that:

… made me cry uncontrollably:

Man fell by Michel Thomas. I was traveling in China and cried openly in public for a long time when I finished this book.

… I recommend again and again:

So much, but maybe above all The evening of the holidays and The transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard because not many people have read it yet. She writes about place, love and sorrow with beauty and wisdom.

… shaped my view of the world:

Cammie McGovern Hard landings. It is both a deeply moving memoir on the education of her autistic son Ethan, as well as an impeccably well-documented history of the treatment of people with disabilities in this country.

… Is currently sitting on my bedside table:

Ah Guillaume! by Elizabeth Strout. I love her so much and I don’t want it to end. Strout is brilliant.

… I would pass on to my children:

I pass all the books I love to my children, who are now young adults. I think they are very grateful for Gilead by Marilynne Robinson and A visit to the Goon squad by Jennifer Egan.

… I would give a gift to a new graduate:

Beloved by Toni Morrison. It doesn’t get any better than that.

… made me laugh out loud:

All Dan Zevin‘s books — I keep my husband awake if I read them in bed.

… I would like to turn into a Netflix show:

Landslide by Susan Conley. It is the story of a mother and her teenagers in a fishing village in Maine after her husband had a very serious accident on his offshore trawler. Lively, moving, poignant, Kate Winslet would be perfect in the role of Jillian.

… I first bought:

All Judy Blume novel in the 70s as soon as they were published. I was obsessed.

… I bought for the last time:

The right to sex by Amia Srinivasan. I sent it to my daughter, but now I want a copy too.

… has the best title:

Alice Munro’s Friend of my youth. I would like to call every book Friend of my youth.

… has the best opening line:

Sylvia Plath The bell: “It was a weird, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.” I remember reading this in ninth grade and didn’t yet know who the Rosenbergs were, but I felt the power of this event, the way it riveted the book at one particular moment, to a particular desperation.

… I consider literary comfort food:

I capture the castle by Dodie Smith, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and Brother of the most famous Jack by Barbara Trapido. For me, literary comfort is really good writing with a lot of humor and a beautiful love story.

… I was only able to discover in Print:

A library, in Portland, Maine: Delicate edible birds by Lauren Groff, because Owner Emily Russo is so passionate about this book that she has a tattoo of it on her arm.

… which contains the recipe for a favorite dish:

Jill’s fillet and roasted tomatoes minus Ann Hood’s fillet Kitchen wires.

Bonus question: if I could live in any library or bookstore in the world it would be:

A few months ago I hosted a virtual event through my Italian editor at a bookstore in Tropea, Italy called Libreria il Pensiero Meridiano. I’ve only seen pictures of it online but it’s perfect and I would love to live right above it and visit a lot.

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