The journalist, whose latest book is the memoir '' Lost & Found '' used to read while waiting for the subway : ''I didn't care if I stood there for 45 minutes before the train showed up.''

.- What books are on your night stand ?

An ever-evolving combination of books I'm in the middle of reading.

[ Rousseau's ''Emile,'' which I decided to revisit just before the birth of my daughter ], books I'm going to read next [ Clint Smith's '' How the Word Is Passed ''], books I've already finished but haven't gotten around to shelving [ Kirsten Valdez Quaade's ]

'' The Five Wounds '' and Patrick Radden Keef's '' Empire of Pain '', books I'm reading for work [''The Hound of Florence,'' by the Austro-Hungarian author Felix Salten, better known for writing '' Bambi ''], books I'm reading for pleasure [John Steinbeck's ''The Grapes of Wrath''] and books that basically live there permanently [ a lovely first-edition of Robert Frost's '' West-Running Brook,'' which was an anniversary gift, and another of James Baldwin's ''The Price of the Ticket,'' which was a wedding gift.

.-  What's the last great book you read?

Among contemporary novels, Mariam Toews's ''Women Talking,'' which I admired as intellectually serious, morally challenging and formally interesting without being gimmicky; it is also spare of language yet shocking of stakes.

Among the classics, Virginia Woolf's ''To The Lighthouse,'' which I reread every handful of years and picked up again after my daughter was born.

Those were leisurely days, strange as that may sound, and it somehow felt very precious to read such a familiar book under such new circumstances - though the '' Time Passes '' section undid me more than ever this time.

.- Describe your ideal reading experience [ when, where, what, how ]

I'm somewhat less interested in reading under ideal circumstances than in the way that reading makes non-ideal circumstances vastly better than they would otherwise be.

I have had countless annoying experiences rendered at worst manageable and at best sublime by the company of a book; back when I lived in New York. I used to love reading while waiting for the subway, because it meant I didn't care if I stood there for 45 minutes before the train showed up.

That said, I do love to read in bed at night before falling asleep.

.- Do you count any books as guilty pleasures?

I'm not sure I count any pleasures as guilty, with the possible exception of schadenfreude. I adore William James and Henry James, but did I also read E.L. James back in 2011? You bet.

More to my taste, however, are some literary inclinations I've retained since childhood - among them, a love of mysteries and detective fiction and a fondness for medieval tales of all kinds.

Thomas Malory's '' Le Morte d'Arthur '' is rendered respectable by being six centuries old and T.H. White's ''The Once and Future King'' is a genuinely outstanding book, but I have a very high tolerance for what you might call Arthurian trash.


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