You read a wide variety of genres. How do you decide what to read next from your TBR list/stack?
It’s really just based on my mood at the time. I try to alternate between fiction and nonfiction, or between something pretty dense and lighter fare, but it depends. Often, I just stand in front of my bookcase and see what grabs me. Right now, I’m reading Frankenstein because I recently watched National Theatre Live’s production, which they are currently streaming, and that put me in the mood to revisit the story.
Your bio says you especially enjoy Victorian literature and Psychology. Have those always been your favorites, or have your reading tastes evolved over the years?
I’ve always been a fan of Dickens. I remember A Christmas Carol being the first “grown-up” book I ever borrowed from the library, and I still revisit it most years at Christmas. In high school I fell in love with A Tale of Two Cities, although Great Expectations has since replaced it as my favorite. In terms of nonfiction, I can’t recall when I started reading so much of it. I’ve always been fascinated by the brain, but I didn’t discover how much I love science until I reached adulthood. When I became a docent at the L.A. Zoo I realized I didn’t just love animals, I love the science of nature and adaptation. That opened up a whole new avenue of reading for me.
You and MsWas used to do long-distance George R.R. Martin book discussions? Did that early incarnation of reading and internet chatting help prepare you for CBR?
Yes, that was back in the days before Zoom, before smartphones, even before any decent chat system. We sometimes communicated by Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels, where there could be a 10-second delay between responses. It was hilarious.
Anyway, the first thing I learned from that is MsWas reads way faster than I do. We would agree to read up to a certain chapter and then regroup, and she’d always have to wait for me. What I really liked about it was, like any book club, it let us talk about our observations, and we’d often share something the other person missed. Because we planned to discuss, I think I was more focused and took note of interesting points, which is what I do now when reading for CBR. It was also a great way to stay connected since we lived in different states. Books bring people together!
Who’s your all-time favorite book character?
That is a tough one. I’m going to say A. A. Milne’s Eeyore (but I identify more closely with Piglet).
Are you sheltering in place? Is it affecting your ability to procure books? Have you read everything in all 10 nearby Little Free Libraries?
Let me tell you, I’ve walked every block of my neighborhood since I’ve been sheltering at home, and I’ve discovered even more Little Free Libraries! The quality of books on offer is sketchy, but I’ve got a few promising ones on my shelf waiting to be read, including The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and Michelle Obama’s Becoming.
I do miss the library being open, but I have to admit that my husband and I buy a lot of books online (usually from Powell’s), so I’m not worried about a shortage. Since I enjoy classics, I’ll also download books from Project Gutenberg. And in case of emergency, my husband has many books that I haven’t read yet either. If I ever get a sudden itch for nautical fiction, I’m set.
Tell us a story about being a marsupial aficionado and docent at the LA Zoo! Too fun!
I started volunteering in 2002 and became a docent in 2003. I’ve already mentioned how that experience has broadened my reading interests! In 2013, I started teaching the incoming docent classes on monotremes (the egg-laying mammals) and marsupials. If anyone wants to hear me expound for 3 hours on the awesomeness of marsupials, I can do it!
I think my favorite Zoo memory, though, is the time I got to take a family behind-the-scenes of a critically endangered Sumatran rhino named Andalas. Andalas was born in 2001 at the Cincinnati Zoo and was the first Sumatran rhino to be born in captivity in over 112 years. He lived at the L.A. Zoo for several years, and he was my favorite resident. I was over the moon when I got to see him up close and help feed him. In 2007, he went to live at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in south Sumatra and, while I was sad to see him go, it felt right that he was going “home.” Since then, he’s fathered two offspring, and his son Andatu has his own Facebook page. I’ll never forget the day I got to hear him munching away as we fed him.