Our latest BKBF Interview features Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Linda Greenhouse, author of Just a Journalist: On the Press, Life, and the Spaces Between. Learn what special book has been close to her side for half a century, the hilarious book she likes to give as a gift, and the role of the little locked room in the basement in her reading life. Join us each week as we prepare for September!
What is your favorite book to give an adult or a child? In recent years, I’ve most often given Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” a totally delightful account by one of my favorite current fiction authors of the year. She and her family spent time living on a small farm and trying to provide as much of their own food as possible. Parts of it are simply hilarious. All of it is engaging.
Tell us your best book-receiving experience. My high school AP English teacher, Mr. Rapuano, gave me Emily Dickinson’s Collected Poems as a graduation present – a completely unexpected and cherished gift that has never been far from my side in the ensuing half century.
What books are currently piled in your “To Be Read” stack … and where can the stack be found in your home? Emily Wilson’s feminist-inflected translation of Homer’s Odyssey; Ian Buruma’s A Tokyo Romance, John Banville’s Mrs. Osmond (his version of what happens to the lead character in Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady), Hannah Gray’s An Academic Life, the fourth and final volume of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, which I have spent much of the year reading as audio books. Because all my bookshelves are full, the piles are on the kitchen counter, on my computer desk, on an extra chair in my bedroom, and I’m sorry to say, on the floor in my study.
What book do you return to most often, whether passages or whole? To the Lighthouse.
Who made reading important to you? My mother read to me and with me as a child. But probably the most dramatic influence came from my elementary school principal, Miss Feldman. My elementary school had a small library, a little locked room in the basement, not open to casual visits. Miss Feldman took an interest in me, and in second or third grade told me that it was time for me to take out a library book. She brought me down to the library, handed me a copy of Anne of Green Gables and told me to let her know how I liked it. She made me feel that I was being initiated into something quite special and wonderful, which of course I was.
Linda Greenhouse covered the U.S. Supreme Court for the New York Times for 30 years, winning a Pulitzer Prize and other major journalism awards. She currently teaches at Yale Law School and writes a twice-monthly opinion column for the Times web site as a contributing columnist. Just a Journalist, a memoir and reflection on the practice of journalism today, is the latest of her five books, which include Becoming Justice Blackmun, a biography of the Supreme Court justice who wrote Roe v. Wade, and The U.S. Supreme Court: A Very Short Introduction.