Mitch Albom, the award-winning sports writer and author of the just-released novel “The First Phone Call from Heaven” and the best-selling memoir “Tuesdays With Morrie,” found his passion for reading fiction late, in his early 40s when he began writing novels. He’s never looked back.
BOOKS: What are you reading currently?
ALBOM: Nelson DeMille’s revised edition of “The Quest,” which is a novel about the search for the Holy Grail, and “The Imperfectionists” by Tom Rachman. I like both. “The Quest” is an Indiana-Jones-kind-of-thing. I also have Amy Tan’s “The Valley of Amazement” in tow.
BOOKS: How would you describe yourself as a reader?
ALBOM: I’m not easily pigeonholed except by what I don’t read. I don’t read political books, crime for the most part, and romance novels. I rarely read nonfiction. I’m liable to read anything else.
BOOKS: What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
ALBOM: I just reread Marilynne Robinson’s “Gilead,” which I reread often. I really adore the way that book is put together.
‘I don’t read political books, crime for the most part, and romance novels. I rarely read nonfiction. I’m liable to read anything else.’
BOOKS: Who are some of your favorite authors?
ALBOM: I read everything from Hemingway and Faulkner to Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer to Anne Tyler and Alice McDermott. These are people who I’ve read multiple books by. I also read all the books by my friends such as James McBride, Amy Tan, Stephen King, Ridley Pearson, and Scott Turow, who all played in the band the Rock Bottom Remainders with me.
BOOKS: Do you have anything on your bookshelf that might surprise people?
ALBOM: “The Royal Road to Romance,” which is one of my favorite books. It’s the story of Richard Halliburton, an adventurer in the 1930s. He was a guy who chucked it all to see the world. This was in a day before you could travel easily, when an airplane was like a big, exotic thing.
BOOKS: Do you read about sports?
ALBOM: Not anymore. When I was younger I did. One of my early books was about the 10 greatest NBA games ever played. One was Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game. Once I started writing sports, I was so inundated with it that I wanted to read about something else.
BOOKS: Do you read self-help or inspirational books?
ALBOM: I find a great story to be inspirational, such as “City of Thieves” by David Benioff, a novel about two people searching for a dozen eggs during the Nazis’ siege of Leningrad. One of the most inspirational books for me is “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Viktor Frankl’s memoir of his life in concentration camps. I don’t read a lot of self-help books, though. I have read some on forgiveness and fear that were very good. I think people sometimes dismiss self-help too quickly. Some are beautifully written. Some are schlocky.
BOOKS: Did anyone influence you as a reader?
ALBOM: When I was about 6 my mom used to drop me at the local library every Saturday morning. At noon I was supposed to come out with a book. One day I came across Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.” I was really into submarines then. I tried to check it out, but the librarian told me it was too hard for me and to get a book from the children’s’ section. So I grabbed a “Curious George” book. In the car, my mom saw the “Curious George” and said, “You’ve read that a 100 times before.” I told her the librarian wouldn’t let me have the book I wanted because it was too hard. My mother slammed on the brakes. We rushed back into the library where she yelled at the librarian and got the Verne book. That book was way too hard for me, but I read it because I had learned that reading was obviously important enough that my mother was going to deck another woman over it. I’ve been a reader ever since.