Books

bibliophiles

Drawn to stories by female authors

Tamara Staples

The writer Jennifer Weiner has made a name for herself with a long list of best-selling novels, such as “Good in Bed.” She’s also well known for the frequent shots she takes at the literary establishment for overlooking or dismissing female authors. Weiner published her memoir “Hungry Heart” earlier this year. The second in her trilogy for middle-grade readers, “Little Bigfoot, Big City,” is coming out Oct. 31.

BOOKS: What are you reading?

WEINER: Maile Meloy’s “Do Not Become Alarmed,” a thriller set on a cruise ship about these two moms whose children get kidnapped. I reread Stephen King’s “Gerald’s Game” and “Dolores Claiborne,” both set in Maine during an eclipse. I liked him even when people thought he was just a schlocky horror writer. I reread Liane Moriarty’s “Big Little Lies” because I was watching the TV show. The book was better. Now I’m reading Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened?” in the tiniest little bites because it makes me so aggrieved and anguished.

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BOOKS: How would you characterize the books you pick up?

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WEINER: I read a lot of contemporary fiction. I like to keep up with whatever books are in the paper or people are talking about. I read the anonymously written “The Incest Diary” because The New York Times gave it a rave review. I read it and thought, “How did this get published?”

BOOKS: How do you use book reviews?

WEINER: It has less to do with thumbs up or thumbs down for me, but whether it sounds like an interesting subject or way to tell a story. One of the tragedies of my life is there is a critic who works for an Internet magazine, and we were sharing a brain. She loved every book I did. Then she wrote the cruelest review of my book. Now I can’t read her anymore.

BOOKS: Does your feminism manifest in your reading somehow?

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WEINER: I gravitate toward female authors and read a lot of romance, like Eloisa James’s books. It’s tricky to find an author you like in that genre, but when you do usually they’ve written 30 books. I have to push myself to read guys. I also try to be aware of reading women of color, and using my platform to boost their books. I’ve been reading Carmen Maria Machado whenever she has a story published online. Her stuff is so good and so weird, like Kelly Link meets Sarai Walker, who wrote “Dietland,” another book I love.

BOOKS: Do you read nonfiction?

WEINER: I’ll read to learn about something. Right now I’m reading a lot of political books, like Joshua Green’s “Devil’s Bargain” about the rise of Steve Bannon to figure out what happened in the last election. The book that I’m waiting for is Curtis Sittenfeld’s Hillary novel, which she is working on. I think nonfiction gives you the facts, but fiction helps you make sense of things.

BOOKS: What would people be surprised to see on your shelf?

WEINER: People might be surprised that I read a lot of literary fiction. I know it’s nothing that I can do, but I don’t think there’s many literary writers who could turn their hands to thrillers or screenplays or to chick lit.

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BOOKS: Which literary novelists are your favorites?

WEINER: Jhumpa Lahiri, lots of Anne Tyler. She’s on the divide between literature and commercial fiction. Emma Donoghue. “Room” is the one everyone talks about, but I love her newest, “The Wonder,” about this fasting Catholic girl in Ireland.

BOOKS: Do you have any pet peeves about books?

WEINER: I don’t like when I am paying more than $20 for a book that is less than 200 pages. Those giant fonts make me ragey with rage. But it’s not the books that bother me. It’s the critical establishment. There’s chick lit, but there’s no category for light reading for men. Men read thrillers and science fiction, and The New York Times has columns devoted to those genres. They get taken seriously because men read them. When it comes to romance, it’s just a punch line.

AMY SUTHERLAND

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