Elizabeth Crook’s latest novel, Monday, Monday, comes out in April. In the meantime, she answered some questions for us about the books she loves, the books she remembers best, and the books she reads with her daughter.
What’s one book you return to over and over again?
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’m such a slow reader that I almost never go back to a book. If I were faster, or had less research to read, I’d read Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose once more. Also Lonesome Dove, Light in August, A.S. Byatt’s Possession, Trinity by Leon Uris. Volumes of Yeats–start to finish. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien and Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. The Eustace Diamonds. I’d re-read a recent wise and funny FSG publication called The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking. I read it very slowly and it made me a slightly happier slow reader. And I’d love to re-read an old biography of John Donne called Take Heed of Loving Me that I loved as a teenager, just to see if it’s as great as I thought at the time. But for now I’m glad to have read these books even once, and there are so many I’m hoping to get to.
What’s the last book that made you cry?
The Child from the Sea by Elizabeth Goudge two nights ago, reading aloud with my twelve-year-old daughter, Lizzie. The book is a little old for her and overly long, but it’s beautiful historical fiction that I loved at age sixteen, and I couldn’t wait another year to start reading it with her. It’s about Lucy Walter, the secret wife of Charles II. A few nights ago we reached the part where Lucy’s dear old nanny dies and Lucy, about ten years old at the time, makes her way with her younger brother to Saint Paul’s Cathedral to find comfort from an old man whom she knows as Old Sage. Her grief is so exquisitely real that Lizzie and I were both too choked up to keep reading. Lizzie put the blankets up over her head, and I put the book face down on my lap. We talked seriously about not picking it up again. Last night we retreated to a children’s book called The Bee-Man of Orn. We’ll have to be in the mood for heartbreak before we go on with The Child from the Sea, because I happen to know how that book ends.
If possible, can you send a photo of your bookshelf?
This is all current research material.
What’s your favorite indie bookstore?
Book People here in Austin. It’s been the leading independent bookstore in Texas since 1970 and it’s very close to my house.
What are you reading now?
Mostly research for a novel. The books currently in front of me are: Brush Men and Vigilantes: Civil War Dissent in Texas, Animal Tracking Basics, and a history of Kerr County Texas. My bedtime reading is a terrific book about how we could fix our schools: The Smartest Kids in the World and How they Got that Way.
What is the first book you ever remember reading (or having read to you)?
There’s no sequence to my early memories about books. I was fortunate to have a mother who read to my brother and sister and me every night for hours, long after we could read for ourselves. She read a lot of poetry, A.A. Milne, Louisa May Alcott, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Tolkien trilogy, a lot of historical fiction: the Newberry winners like Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer, The Bronze Bow and Caddie Woodlawn, classics by Mark Twain and Fred Gibson and Francis Hodgson Burnett, and so many others—The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Faraway Lurs, Blue Willow by Doris Gates, All-of-a-Kind Family and Thee, Hannah! I especially loved a little book by Dorothy Lathrop called The Colt from Moon Mountain.
What’s one book that ended up different from what you expected, whether for better or for worse?
Every one of my own.
ELIZABETH CROOK is the author of three previous novels. Her most recent, The Night Journal, won a Spur Award from Western Writers of America and a WILLA Literary Award from Women Writing the West. She has written for magazines and periodicals, including Texas Monthly and the Southwestern Historical Quarterly. She lives in Austin with her family.