The journalist, whose new book is ''Raising Lazarus,'' says her parents preferred libraries to bookshops : ''My late mother refused even to buy my books because why buy them when you can get them free?''

.- What books are on your night stand?

I just finished Geraldine Brooks's ''Horse'' - set in contemporary times as well as the antebellum era and during the Civil War, but every story line is so pertinent to the issues of the day.

On deck I have a galley of Rachel Louise Synder's forthcoming memoir, ''Women We Buried, Women We Burned,'' which promises to be as poignant, propulsive and important as her previous book, ''No Visible Bruises.''

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

Abraham Verghese's ''Cutting for Stone'' kept me up reading until 5 a.m., and I'm always looking for another sweeping story that hooks me as thoroughly as that one. Maggie O'Farell's ''Hamnet'' came close.

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

In warm weather, on our deck overlooking a riffling creek in the nearby Appalachian Mountains, the  bird feeders busy and the cushy chaise lounge placed just so. A hot bathtub when it's cold. I drive a lot for my reporting, and I love listening to a novel on the road.

It's a really great book, I make it a twofer and buy the physical book, too, so I can keep reading it when I arrive.

.- Which subject do you wish more authors would write about?

People in rural America; people who haven't had everything handed to them.

.- What moves you most in a book?

Authenticity, honesty, intimacy. As I weigh my own journalism ethics, I think constantly of Bryan Stevenson's grandmother telling him, as quoted in the introduction of his memoir, ''Just Mercy : You can't understand most of the important things from a distance, Bryan. You have to get close.''

.- What's the best book you've ever received as a gift?

At my first daily newspaper job in Savannah, Ga.. I sometimes wrote food features, and someone gave me Laurie Ciolwin's ''Home Cooking : A Writer in the Kitchen.''

I loved that Colwin wasn't a snob - she shopped yard sales for her cooking - and she schooled you on cooking without making you feel dumb. Her tomato pie recipe is still a revelatory go-to.

.- What kind of a reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?

Food has always been the Macy family's love language. ''James and the Giant peach'' made me drool, and the escapade of ''Homer Price'' - also a native Ohioan - had me at first doughnut.

Louise Fitzbugh's ''Harriet the Spy'' was the first nonfood I nonetheless devoured. I used to hide out in a giant grove of lilacs down the street and take notes on passers-by a la Harriet.

My husband and I drove by the old-house recently, and I couldn't believe how tiny the ''grove'' looked  - a couple of bushes, barely four feet wide.

My parents never bought books, but they were huge library patrons  -my late mother refused to buy my books because why buy them when you can get them for free at the library?[ I gave her copies, of course.] ''Tom Sawyer,'' ''Charlotte's Web, ''The Catcher in the Rye'' were all formative books  -contrarian stories are delicious.

.- Disappointing, overrated, just not good : What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn't? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

J.D. Vance's ''Hillbilly Elegy'' makes me angry every time I think about it. Vance blamed Appalachians' woes on a crisis of masculinity and lack of thrift, overlooking the centuries of rapacious behavior on the part of out-of-state coal and pharma companies and the bought-off politicians who failed to regulate them, and he took his stereotype-filled false narratives to the bank.

So, please, please if you take one thing away from this interview, read Elizabeth Catte's ''What Are You Getting Wrong About Appalachia'' instead, and understand that the You in her title is foremost J.D.Vance.

The last book I put down without finishing was Amor Towles's ''The Lincoln Highway'' - but having it unread was not my intention. My husband, who is also Towles fan, took it before I could finish it, then gave it to our traveling musician youngest kid, who devoured it on tour, and who knows where it landed?

I have loved Towles from his first book, ''Rules of Civility,'' and lhs latest is destined to be another twofer.

The World Students Society thanks review author The New York Times.


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