Name: Caitlin Clements
Where you live: Manhattan, New York City
Insta handle: @Cait7911
Current read: I just started A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit, the most recent selection for the “Life’s Library Book Club,” a digital book discussion group started by author John Green. I’m also currently reading Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. It has been on my TBR pile for ages, and I’m determined to make sure I experience the novel before finally watching the Netflix movie that was recently released.
What has been your favorite read of the past year?
It’s oh-so hard to pick just one! However, Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal (by Amy Krouse Rosenthal) would probably take the top slot. It’s an inventive and wholly original interactive reading experience. You might have encountered Rosenthal’s work via her beautiful and heartbreaking piece titled “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” Reading her book was exhilarating, life-affirming, and also terribly bittersweet, knowing that she passed away less than a year after its publication.
If I were to have some runners up, though, they’d be Alone Time by Stephanie Rosenbloom, My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan, and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli.
What is one book that you think will (or should) become a classic in the next 30 (or 50) years? Why?
Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn. It’s a lush, beautiful period piece, yet also so wholly relatable for anyone faced with the reality of bidding farewell to home, wherever that “home” may be. (I’d say the 2015 film adaptation starring Saoirse Ronan also deserves classic status.)
Imagine this. You and a celebrity of your choice are becoming friends. They have asked you for a book rec. Who is the celebrity and what book do you recommend?
The celebrity is most definitely John Green, because there’s no other public figure who I’ve more desperately and consistently wished were actually, magically, a close personal friend. I would recommend Carol Rifka Brunt’s novel Tell the Wolves I’m Home (more on that later) because it is, without question, my all-time favorite book. I believe there’s no greater gift to bestow upon someone than a truly memorable and meaningful reading experience. As such, I’d hope that said recommendation would help win me some brownie points with my dream-BFF John.
How do you choose your next read?
Sometimes it’s based on what my book club is reading next. I’m a member of the NYPL Young Lions and they host a book club that meets several times a year, and then of course there’s the aforementioned Life’s Library Book Club that meets virtually. Other times, it’s whatever I’m racing to finish before the film adaptation hits theaters. More often than not, though, it’s whatever is coming due in my always-towering stack of borrowed library books, when I’ve finally run out of renewals and realize it’s now or never.
What book meant the most to you as a child?
Hands down, the first thing that comes to mind is the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. For me, those books started as bedtime stories lovingly read by my parents and evolved into one of my beloved first independent reading experiences. I even did a big research project on Laura Ingalls Wilder during elementary school. Always up for an adventure, my parents took me on an epic road trip through the midwest to visit some of the historic sites pertaining to her life for “inspiration.”
Growing up as a horse-crazy little girl, the Misty of Chincoteague books by Marguerite Henry also meant the world to me. I have my grandmother’s old copies of all the books, and Pony Penning Day in Virginia remains a bucket list item.
I feel I also have to give a nod to A Cricket in Times Square by George Selden and The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood. It is probably fair to say that the former had a little something to do with leading me to the city I now call home, and the latter had a hand in cultivating my love of theater, which is also now my profession.
What is your favorite adaptation from book to film, theater, or television? What book do you wish would be adapted?
Besides the previously mentioned adaptation of Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn, I also adore the film Seabiscuit, adapted from Lauren Hillenbrand’s book of the same name. (Because I’ll always be that horse-crazy little girl at heart… ) I also think that the film adaptation of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars is pretty darn perfect, and I can’t wait to see what’s next with the upcoming adaptations of both Looking for Alaska and Turtles All the Way Down.
In terms of what I wish would be adapted… well, I hesitate to say some of them outright because I work in producing and I selfishly hope that I might have a hand in adapting one of them someday 🙂 But I will say, without equivocation, that a dream would be to adapt something, for the screen or the stage, based on the novels of my maternal grandmother, author Lolah Burford.
What’s the one book everyone loves that you just cannot stand?
I am reticent to admit that I really couldn’t get into George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo. “Cannot stand” might be a little strong in this instance, but I definitely wasn’t moved by it in the way that I know so many have been. I started with it in print, then switched over to the much-lauded audiobook. I’ll probably have to revisit it someday…
What is your favorite book set in or around the area where you live?
For the sake of variety, I’m going to first refer to my home state of Oklahoma in answering this question. My pick would absolutely be S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. I first read it in 7th grade, and was just blown away by the reality that she wrote it as a teenager, barely older than I was at the time. They’re about to open an Outsiders Museum in the restored house that served as the Curtis Brothers’ home in the film, and I eagerly check in on the progress every time I’m back in Oklahoma. Can’t wait to visit!
Were I to pick a New York-set book, though, I’d have to go with Christmas on Jane Street by Billy Romp. It’s a memoir of his experiences selling Christmas Trees in the West Village with his family each holiday season, and it’s utterly charming. His tree stand is just a short walk from my first NYC apartment, and I still go there every year to get my tree and catch up with Billy.
What is one classic you think is not overrated?
Well, my dog is literally named Gatsby, so I guess my choice is somewhat obvious? In a few weeks I’ll get to experience the novel like never before when I go see a theater piece called Gatz, that’s essentially an 8-hour dramatic reading of the novel. Seeing it at Princeton, Fitzgerald’s alma mater, is just the icing on the cake.
If you had to declare yourself an expert in one extremely specific genre, what would it be?
Quirky travel memoirs set in Ireland. It all started with McCarthy’s Bar by Pete McCarthy. I used his book as a de facto travel guide when I first visited Ireland ten years ago, and it unquestionably enriched the trip. For example, I have McCarthy to thank for my unforgettable encounter with Fungie the Dingle Dolphin.
What is your go-to book recommendation?
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. I literally recommend it to everyone – doesn’t matter how old they are, where they’re from, if they’re male or female – they all uniformly fall madly and deeply in love with this story and its insightful young narrator. If a person could be in a passionate lifelong love affair with a novel, that would be me and this book. I would say more, but everyone should really just go read it immediately.
What book changed your worldview in some way?
Vanishing New York by Jeremiah Moss. I’ve been a fan of Moss’s blog for years, so I was really excited for the publication of his first book. It ultimately proved enlightening in helping me think about ways to “put my money where my mouth is” when it comes to preserving the spirit, history, and glorious eccentricities of this city I now call home.
If you could inhabit the life of one fictional character for a day, who would you choose?
Hermione Granger. Even if I’m actually a proud Ravenclaw. This choice is half because she’s just the greatest, and half because it would mean that, for a day, I was living and breathing within the incredible worldbuilding of her creator, JK Rowling. I fully realize Hermione is probably the go-to answer for about 99% of the readers of a blog with the words “book girl” in the title, but what can you do? Granger / Lovegood 2020, ftw.
Who do you think is the greatest female author?
Harper Lee. What can I say? I’m a firm believer in the old adage about quality, not quantity. Later this spring, I’m beyond excited to be making a pilgrimage of sorts to Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, to experience her masterpiece in a whole new light at the annual local production of To Kill a Mockingbird, staged in the town courthouse.
Because my wanderlust is incessantly insatiable, and reading helps fill that void when reality (or my wallet) can’t otherwise allow it.
Also, when I do get to indulge my wandering nature, I’ve found there’s no better way to get to know the heart of a place than by visiting its local bookstores and libraries. That’s always my first stop in a new city.
What’s at the top of your TBR or wish list?
The whole amazing treasure trove of books I received for Christmas – among them, Sam Anderson’s Boom Town about my hometown of Oklahoma City, Susan Orlean’s The Library Book, Dave Van Ronk’s The Mayor of MacDougal Street, and Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni.