Author Leigh Bardugo is the author of, among many others, the Shadow and Bone trilogy and the Six of Crows duology. The Netflix series “Shadow and Bone” is based on its own magical Grishaverse. Her latest novel, “Hell Bent,” the sequel to “Ninth House,” is available in stores this week, and she answered our questions as she embarked on her latest book tour.
Q: Is there a book or books that you always recommend to other readers?
“Shadow Hero” by Jin Luen Yang. It is the story of the first Chinese superhero, told in the manner of the golden age of comics. I’ve given it to kids, adults, and even my mom, who I don’t think has picked up a comic book before. It has heart, humor, beautiful legends. If you don’t find this graphic novel delightful, I don’t think we can be friends.
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Q: How do you decide what to read next?
I’m now writing historical fiction, so research dictates all of my reading. But when it comes to reading pleasure, it’s all about mood and recommendations from friends. On my recent vacation, I brought Alexander Che’s “Queen of the Night,” Jon Krakauer’s “Under the Banner of Heaven,” and Anthony Horowitz’s “Magpie Murders.”
Q: Do you remember the first book that influenced you?
Maybe “Many Moons” by James Thurber. It was a favorite when I was a kid, a great fairy tale. She taught me the word “excess” and to beware of bureaucrats.
Q: Do you listen to audiobooks? If so, are there titles or narrators you would recommend?
I listen to relaxing riddles when I’m on tour. I love all of Agatha Christie’s works told by Hugh Fraser. It’s so good I forgot I’m not listening to a multi-act recording. And I love Joan Hickson’s recordings of Miss Marple’s Short Stories, but these copies are impossible to find in the States. I must mention the wonderful narrator in my audiobook Lauren Furtgang. She has been expressing my books for ten years. Even if you don’t like my writing, you’ll love what you do with it.
s. Is there someone who has had an impact on your reading life – a teacher, parent, librarian, or anyone else?
My grandfather gave me an early love of language and an extraordinary selection to choose from. He loved Steinbeck, Hemingway, Saroyan, Kipling, Frost. Big manly voices. But also Longfellow, Wilde, Yeats. He loved Puccini movies, John Wayne, and an old vaudeville routine. It was a mixture of high culture, low culture, and everything in between.
I will admit that I often clashed with the teachers. I had a real problem with authority figures, and that has served me well in life. But the teachers who got me really got me. I think of my high school music teacher, Tim Bruno, in particular. It had a weird, wonderful taste. When every other school was doing “Fiddler on the Roof,” he had us do “Work” and this weird operetta called “Sweet Charlotte.” He saw how weird I was too, and he encouraged that. He’s got my sense of humor. I had no musical training but I deeply loved singing, and he found ways to let me sing and be a ham. I will be forever grateful for that.
When you’re young and alone and not like everyone else, you need people who nurture your talents, but you also need people who show you that there is a future where your weirdness is celebrated rather than tolerated.
Q: What do you find most attractive about the book: the plot, the language, the cover, the recommendation? Do you have any examples?
It’s a kind of seduction, isn’t it? It’s always interesting to think about what makes you reach out and grab something. The cover of “Big Swiss” is a great example. this is funy. It is provocative. You get into the mood of the book instantly. Then we move on to the summary, and if things are still going well, this is the first page. These first few lines of the story make promise, and it’s up to you to decide if you want to continue reading and fulfill that promise.
I remember being stuck in an airport in college and walking into a bookstore. I was trying to choose between two thrillers, so I read the first lines. I don’t remember the one I left behind, but the one I took with me was something like, “The killer has been living in the walls of the house for three weeks.” Well my friend, you won. Tell me more.
Q: What memorable book experience – good or bad – would you like to share?
I remember reading “The Lovely Bones” on the flight back from Australia and crying so hard the flight attendant asked if I needed help. What I needed was a cup of cocoa and a hug, but I was a flight instructor so I just asked for a pack of tissues.
Q: If you could ask your readers one thing, what would it be?
On occasions, I always ask readers about their favorite characters. I tend to get the same answers frequently, but there are always outliers, and I like knowing who might be special to someone.
Unless a character was killed. this is embarrassing.
What’s next in Bookish
The next free Bookish event will be our noteworthy second annual celebration, SCNG’s tribute to ten Southern California authors whose books have left an imprint. We expect to hear from our honorees with host Sandra Tsing Luo on February 3 at 5 p.m