Name: Jackie Claire
Where you live: New York, NY
Insta handle: @yorkavenue_
Current read: The Escape Room by Megan Goldin
What has been your favorite read of the past year?
I just read Fleishman Is In Trouble and it 100% lived up to the hype. I can’t remember the last time I read a book so quickly – it was just utterly compelling and wonderfully written. I can’t even pinpoint what it was that kept me turning the pages so fast…it’s like you just feel very invested in the story and the characters and it feels real and true. You almost recognize these people but then her writing elevates the story to something so beyond ordinary. It’s really a wonderful novel.
What is one book that you think will (or should) become a classic in the next 30 (or 50) years? Why?
A Little Life. It’s extremely powerful, emotionally resonant, and feels of-our-time but also enduring. The themes it explores – friendship, trauma, family – are timeless, but told through the lens of this moment. Any time I talk to someone who’s read it you can see it on their face the minute they realize you’re in the “club” too – it’s a devastating book and it’s like once you know, you know. I think people will be reading it for a long time to come.
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?
I love Nate Berkus and would love to be friends with him! He has his #natesreads on Instagram and he clearly likes a good memoir, so I would recommend I’ll Drink to That: A Life in Style, With A Twist by Betty Halbreich. I LOVE this book. Betty had a storied career as a personal stylist at Bergdorfs in NYC and her memoir is so wonderful. She’s led such a seriously fascinating life and since Nate is so stylish and just moved back to NYC I think he’d love it!
How do you choose your next read?
Bookstagram, podcasts like All The Books and Bad on Paper, Amazon recs, and publisher’s Instagrams. I also get great recommendations from Bookpage’s daily email and monthly roundups of new releases. Sometimes I’ll just wander the bookstore and see what I find (which I love), but then I usually wind up googling reviews!
What book meant the most to you as a child?
Anne of Green Gables meant so much to me as a kid, and unfortunately I have almost no recollection of it! I should really read it again…I just remember really loving the atmosphere of it and feeling like I wanted to go to where they were! Books I remember more vividly though and that basically formed my childhood were The Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley Twins – I read them religiously and had certain favorites I read over and over (there was this Christmas special of SVT where Elizabeth meets a guy and goes inside a snow globe to a magical world of some sort…no idea what that was about but I read it every Christmas for a few years!). I also got into the later years of Sweet Valley High. Some of them are so vivid to me, especially the really out-there ones. I remember one where the twins go to a spa with their mom that turns out to be run by an old frenemy of Mrs. Wakefield’s, and it turns out the whole spa was a scheme to steal her face through plastic surgery (or something like that)…what. In. The. World. I loved it.
What is your favorite adaptation from book to film, theater, or television? What book do you wish would be adapted?
Typically I (and most people, I think) find the adaptations to be lacking, but I actually liked The Talented Mr. Ripley as a movie more than I liked the book. It’s such a stylish movie in every way and so pitch-perfectly cast. As far as wishes, I’m eagerly awaiting news of the film adaptation of Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City – it’s been optioned forever so not sure if it will ever come to fruition but hoping!! It’s an absolutely amazing book.
What’s the one book everyone loves that you just cannot stand?
Lilac Girls. I couldn’t finish it. I know everyone LOVES it but I didn’t like the writing and I thought the characters were thinly drawn.
What is your favorite book set in or around the area where you live?
I feel like every book I read is set in New York City, which I love, so that makes this question both hard and easy since there are so many to choose from! I’d actually have to choose a non-fiction book called The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: the Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Huguette Clark. It’s truly fascinating and a great example of truth being stranger than fiction. Huguette was an heiress to one of the richest families in Gilded Age New York. She was raised on Fifth Avenue and in Paris, went to The Spence School, and was insanely wealthy…but she spent her last two decades living in Beth Isreal Hospital (by choice/insistence), and giving money away to her nurse. The book raises interesting questions about whether she was being manipulated and if so, by whom, or if she was in her right mind and just truly eccentric. The whole story is just fascinating and one of the most interesting aspects of it is the Clarks themselves – they were contemporaries of the Rockefellers and the Carnegies in Gilded Age New York, but “Clark” isn’t a household name like the others because the patriarch didn’t endow anything or build anything lasting – no museums or buildings or anything…I thought that was so interesting.
What is one classic you think is not overrated?
I’d have to say The Handmaids Tale. I think it’s a modern classic and it’s such a short story, but incredibly powerful. It’s truly enduring because of the way she creates this almost science-fictiony type of scenario that feels completely out there, and yet everything that’s happening in the book is something that has happened to women in some form, in one place or another, through history. That’s very powerful.
Portrait credit: Hope Taudevin Photography
If you had to declare yourself an expert in one extremely specific genre, what would it be?
For better or worse, I’d have to say “East Coast rich people problems”…I feel kind of lame for it but I love any book that takes place within the world of the Upper East Side, a new England boarding school (Prep, The Secret History), or a beach house in the Hamptons or Maine (Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead)…I just find it so entertaining. Against my will I feel I’ve become an expert in the genre of “woman is being stalked but no one believes her because of past and/or current history of alcoholism/trauma/crying wolf/memory impairment or paranoia of some kind.” I’ve inadvertently read waaay too many of those!
What is your go-to book recommendation?
I always recommend The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. It is the perfect creepy, haunting mystery that takes place post-WWI in a crumbling mansion in the English countryside. If I could have imagined a setup for a book that would be absolute perfection to me, that would be it. It’s wonderfully written, atmospheric, and a page turner. Her writing really makes you feel that you’re in that place and time and I think it has the best ending of any book I’ve read. The ending was always one of my favorite things about the book and actually when I saw the movie (not great), it made me realize that apparently I’d been interpreting the ending wrong the whole time! But I choose to believe that there are different ways of interpreting the ending and I like my interpretation best ;). So many others though – The Ruins, The Kind Worth Killing, The Light Between Oceans, and I Am Charlotte Simmons to name just a few 😉
What book changed your worldview in some way?
Gosh it’s dark but I guess I’d say We Need to Talk About Kevin…it showed me how devastating a book can be, it showed me that nothing is ever black and white, and it showed me how terrifying it can be to have a child!
If you could inhabit the life of one fictional character for a day, who would you choose?
I would say Nancy Drew…I loved those books so much as a kid. She’s apparently perfect and she gets to solve mysteries involving old clocks and hidden staircases so I think I would thoroughly enjoy that (for a day, anyway!).
Who do you think is the greatest female author?
I’m trying to think of someone where I love everything they’ve written…I’m not sure I have a current female author like that (or male for that matter!), but I’d have to say JK Rowling, because the Harry Potter books are so singularly amazing and the world-building is unparalleled. They’ll be enduring and are truly one-of-a-kind.
Reading means so much to me – I feel like it connects me to my family and my childhood because so many of my memories from my childhood involving reading-from my parents reading The Berenstain Bears and Little House on the Prairie to me and my siblings, to the American Girl Doll Books that I loved and that formed so many happy afternoons for me, to trips to the mall with my parents where I got to go to B. Dalton or Walden Books (RIP), and pick out new books…reading brings so many happy memories back. As an adult I just love the escapism and being able to enter an entirely different and engrossing world.
What’s at the top of your TBR or wish list?
I can’t wait to read American Royals – I think the premise, where after the Revolution George Washington became king instead of president, and we’re following the American royal family in modern day, sounds so fun!
Portraits of Jackie by Hope Taudevin Photography.