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Anne Whitney Pierce reads fiction because the real world is enough reality

Anne Whitney Pierce is the author of "Galaxy Girls: Wonder Women" and "Rain Line."Steve Monahan

Author Anne Whitney Pierce sets her family saga of twin brothers, “Down to the River,” in her old stamping grounds of Harvard Square, where she grew up in the ‘60s. Pierce is also the author of the award-wining story collection “Galaxy Girls” and the novel “Rain Line.” She still lives in Cambridge.

BOOKS: What are you reading?

PIERCE: I just caught up with all the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan novels. That was quite a ride. One of my daughters is a big reader, and she gave me some books to read, “A Little Life,” by Hanya Yanagihara, which was wonderful, and “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides. I also read Jennifer Egan’s “The Candy House.” I was so blown away by her earlier book, “A Visit From the Goon Squad.” I don’t think her newest book measured up to that. That’s the way it goes sometime.

BOOKS: How would you describe yourself as a reader?


PIERCE: I loved all those long books with endless conversations and introspection. That was the kind of reader I was even in my teens. I loved the Brontës and George Eliot. I majored in French literature in college so I was reading Stendhal and Thomas Hardy, the old-fashioned soap operas. That is what I love.

BOOKS: Do you read largely fiction?

PIERCE: I do. The real word is real enough for me. I love that sense of getting lost in a novel. There are times when you have more time to get lost in a book than others. When I had three kids who were close in age that was a great time to read short stories.

BOOKS: What contemporary short story writers do you read?

PIERCE: I always go back to Alice Munro. There’s no one better. She doesn’t write sagas per se but her whole body of work is a saga of rural Canada. She also wrote me a nice letter so I’m very thankful to her. My mother dared me to send her my stuff. I did and she wrote me back, which was extraordinary.


BOOKS: Do you always finish books you start?

PIERCE: I can’t think of a book I wouldn’t finish. I guess if I’m 50 pages into a book and it hasn’t pulled me in I might stop. Generally if I read a fair part of a book I want to get to the end, not only as a reader but as a writer. I want to see how the writer works things out. I finished [Jonathan] Franzen’s “The Corrections,” which was pretty brilliant, and “Freedom.” After “Freedom,” however, Franzen lost me as a reader.

BOOKS: Did growing up in Cambridge shape you as a reader?

PIERCE: Only to the extent that I was encouraged to read. After school we went to the library. You’d ride your bike down there. It was early ‘60s. You had a wire basket on your bike and filled it up with 10 library books. Cambridge is a place still imbued with this academic aura. I’m sure that played a role.

BOOKS: Do you have a favorite book to give as a gift?

PIERCE: “Little Fur Family” by Margaret Wise Brown is my favorite children’s book to give to young families. In terms of adults’ book, I recently gave someone Elizabeth Strout’s linked story collection “Olive Kitteridge.”


BOOKS: What is the best book you were given as a gift?

PIERCE: A friend gave me a French copy of Stendhal’s “The Red and Black,” which her grandmother, an amateur bookbinder, had bound. It is absolutely beautiful. My father-in-law gave me a signed edition of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.”

BOOKS: Do you keep all your books?

PIERCE: I’ve been trying to cut down on my books. Summer is when I do some purging. I consider if I will ever want to read this book again or if my children or grandchildren will. Sentimental value really hinders the process. But if I saved all the books I’ve had in my life I’d have no room for me.

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @GlobeBiblio. Amy Sutherland is the author, most recently, of “Rescuing Penny Jane” and she can be reached at