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Kerri Maher, author of ‘The Paris Bookseller’ and other historical novels, takes a contemporary approach to reading

Kerri Maher is the best-selling author of "The Girl in White Gloves" and "The Kennedy Debutante."Peter Su

For her third novel, “The Paris Bookseller,” Kerri Maher turned to the story of famed bookstore owner Sylvia Beach, who, by opening Shakespeare and Company in 1919, created a de facto home-away-from-home for famed American expat writers of the 1920s. Beach also published James Joyce’s “Ulysses” when nobody else would. Maher’s first novel was “The Kennedy Debutante,” which is inspired by Kathleen Kennedy. Her second, “The Girl in the White Gloves,” is based on the actress and Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly. She lives in Weston with her daughter and teaches at Emerson College.

BOOKS: What are you reading?

MAHER: All my pleasure reading is on audio books these days. Currently I’m listening to Tomi Adeyemi’s “Children of Blood and Bone,” which is a terrific YA fantasy series. The one I read before was “Lessons in Chemistry” by Bonnie Garmus. That is set in the early 1960s and is about a female chemist who becomes a TV chef. It’s a hilarious and profoundly feminist novel. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

BOOKS: How much of your reading is historical fiction?


MAHER: Probably two-thirds to three-quarters. That has been the case for the past six or so years. After I wrote my first novel, I started making more of a point of reading it. One of the first ones I read was Paula McLain’s “The Paris Wife,” which I loved. I’ve always been entranced by the expat writers of the 1920s, such as Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and Ezra Pound. “The Paris Wife” is about that decade.

BOOKS: Who are some of your favorite historical fiction authors?

MAHER: Renée Rosen, who wrote “Park Avenue Summer” and “The Social Graces,” and Kip Wilson, who writes YA in verse. Another writer I love is Kate Quinn. Her books are absolute page-turners. “The Diamond Eye” is set in World War II and is based on a real Russian woman who was a librarian and became a sniper.


BOOKS: What did you read for your book that you would recommend?

MAHER: Sylvia Beach’s own memoir, “Shakespeare and Company.” She’s a charming writer. I first read that in college and that is how I discovered what an amazing life she led. Another book I revisited was Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast,” and I dipped back into Amanda Vaill’s “Everybody Was So Young,” which focuses on Sara and Gerald Murphy, who were a prominent American couple in Paris then.

BOOKS: Do you read nonfiction?

MAHER: I enjoy nonfiction but I don’t read as much of it as I would like. I’m a profoundly slow reader. Audio books saved me. I can be reading while folding laundry, walking the dog, or making dinner. It makes me feel like I’m not wasting time.

BOOKS: When did you start using audio books?

MAHER: Way before Audible, like 15 or 16 years ago. I had to kill two hours a day commuting to a teaching job. I could only listen to so much of NPR. So I got books on CD from the library. That’s how I read Caleb Carr’s “The Alienist,” a great historical novel. That’s a doorstop. That took many drives. Another huge book I listened to was Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch.” The reader for that is terrific.

BOOKS: What did you read about Paris for your project?


MAHER: I went to Paris! I stayed in an Airbnb in a building with a plaque that reads “James Joyce lived here in the summer of 1921 when he wrote Ulysses.” So I got to imagine Joyce living there and enjoying the courtyard. Just up the street was Hemingway’s first apartment in Paris. I had this amazing live research experience.

BOOKS: What are you reading next?

MAHER: I’m in a rare moment where I’m not sure what I’m going to read. All I have to do is dip into my Instagram account and I’ll find something. There is so much great chatter about what to read there. Back in my days of running the literary journal Yarn, when Instagram was new, I had a young woman on staff who suggested we get on it. All us old fogies were like, “What are we going to do? Take pictures of books?” It turns out that is what millions of people want to see.

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