Hello, and welcome to this month’s Book Talk! This week we visit with book artist Ali Manning of Vintage Page Designs. Ali and I met five years ago when we both attended Squam Art Workshops in Holderness, New Hampshire. I was immediately intrigued by the fact that she created hand-bound books, something I have always had a weakness for. Her talent and generosity in sharing her knowledge with others is inspiring. If you have ever had a desire to create your own hand-bound journal, be sure to check out her website!
Put the kettle on, curl up in your favorite chair and be sure to have a paper and pen handy. Ali has many great recommendations for you!
1. What books are currently on your nightstand?
I usually have three books on the go: a work of fiction, a work of nonfiction and an audio book. The work of fiction I’m currently reading is Time’s Convert by Deborah Harkness and non-fiction is Srinivas Rao’s An Audience of One. I’m currently listening to Possession by A.S. Byatt.
2. What book first got you hooked on reading as a child?
As a child I adored books by Enid Blyton, the Famous Five adventures and her six Malory Towers novels. One of my earliest memories is ripping open the boxed set of the Malory Towers books and reading them under the bed covers with a flashlight early one Christmas morning.
3. How do you choose what to read?
Many of the books I read/re-read are classic British authors, such as George Eliot, Jane Austin and Charlotte Bronte. But when I’m looking for new books I listen to podcasts, such as Between the Covers and BBC Radio 4’s Books and Authors. I often find new authors and titles by reading the On Being blog/podcast and the Brain Pickings blog. The Guardian’s Books section offers good book reviews and author interviews too. It’s where I discovered Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13 and A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, two books I really enjoyed reading.
4. Do you reread books? Which ones and why?
I re-read books all the time. Last year I re-read the complete works of George Eliot and Jane Austin. This year I’m re-reading a favorite author’s from my twenties, Anita Brookner. My plan for 2019 is to tackle all the works of Virginia Woolf.
5. If you could be a literary character, who would it be?
I can’t pick just one: Anne Elliot from Jane Austin’s Persuasion. Jacqueline Winspear’s post World War I detective, Maisie Dobbs. But most of all I want to be Anne Shirley!
6. Are there any authors whose work you have read completely? What about their writing appeals to you?
Oh my goodness, yes! I’m definitely a binge reader. There are so many authors whose complete works I read. For example, in 2016 I read most of Anthony Trollope’s major works, including the six Palliser novels and the Barsetshire novels. Trollope was criticized for not editing his work, but I love getting lost in all the details of Victorian domestic and political life.
I regularly re-read all Lucy Maud Montgomery's books on Anne Shirley because I yearn to live in a simpler time and place.
One of my guilty pleasures are detective novels. I’ll often get on a tear and binge read authors, such as M.C. Beaton, Louise Penny and the above mentioned Jacqueline Winspear.
7. Which three authors (living or dead) would you invite to join you for dinner and why?
I would love to have dinner with Margaret Atwood, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf to discuss the ‘me-too’ movement and gender equality in today’s world.
8. If you could require every person you know to read one book, what would it be and why?
One book that I’ve gifted many women friends is Gifts from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I found great comfort in it as a young mother, especially her mediations on love, marriage and solitude.
9. Are there any books on the craft of writing that you recommend to others?
There’s one book that I re-read every few years about creativity - The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp. I love the exercises she sets for the reader to help form creative habits. Reading about the practices and rituals she uses to maintain a consistent creative output is so inspiring.