Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or has it come between you?
My sister Clara (Kiki) is a voracious reader. A few years ago, she told me what impact “The Heat of Other Suns” had had on her. She said it was the most important book she had ever read. I read it and thought it was a masterpiece. This sparked several rich and memorable conversations between us. Then, when my husband and I planned to visit Auschwitz a few years ago, my mother-in-law, Paula, suggested that I read “If it’s a man” by Primo Levi. The memories made the experience even more meaningful and made me appreciate Paula even more.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned from a book recently?
Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang’s brilliant Facebook presentation, “An Ugly Truth,” exposed the infamous actions of company executives months before Frances Haugen blew the lid off the entire company. These two should win a Pulitzer Prize.
Even before the pandemic, I was interested in exploring the epidemic of loneliness. “Together,” by Vivek Murthy, highlighted how loneliness and social isolation affect our emotional and physical health. This is 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?
What topics would you like more authors to write about?
There have been so many great books written recently on the environment and I would welcome more. Recently, in my podcast, I introduced Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, the authors of “The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis”. My friends Laurie David and Heather Reisman have also written a book called “Imagine It! Both books explain in an accessible way our current environmental challenges, but more importantly, they help us understand what we can do collectively and individually.
Meanwhile, more and more writers are writing honestly about loss and grief, which I have 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 have helped me metabolize my own experience.
What touches you most about a literary work?
Beautiful descriptive sentences that play with language in an original and unexpected way. I know I like a book when I read a passage and it stops me dead and makes me reread. I did this several times when I read Lisa Taddeo’s book “Three Women” as well as her novel “Animal”.