Name: Katherine Czyzewski
Where you live: New Jersey (Summers at the Jersey Shore!)
Insta handle: @thesaltybookworm
Current read: On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
What has been your favorite read of the past year?
This is a tough one! I started my #bookstagram about a year ago and I couldn’t have had a better year of reading! If I have to pick just one, it would be Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime. This story, a memoir of Trevor’s early life in South Africa, shows his mother taking extreme measures to protect him from the government that may take him away. He was born to a Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother and their marriage is punishable by government law. I am more of a fiction reader, however, this book was impeccably written- witty, heartbreaking and triumphant!
What is one book that you think will (or should) become a classic in the next 30 (or 50) years? Why?
I am totally biased on this question. To be honest, in my mind, I already consider this a classic. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is hands down going to continue to be read for years to come. I am lucky enough to teach this book each year to my seventh grade students. This book makes a reader out of even the most apprehensive students. Ponyboy’s story of struggle, friendship and growing up speaks to so many. It is difficult to find anyone who did not enjoy some aspect of this book. If you haven’t read it, what are you waiting for?
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?
Ok, I love this question. I’m pulling a line that Wendy Williams says when she refers to celebrities. She calls them “friends in her head”. In my mind, John Cusack is that celebrity for me. I adored him in “High Fidelity” and “Say Anything”. If I had to recommend one book to him, it would be Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter. Dark Matter is a fast-paced Sci-fi thriller. The main character, Jason Dessen, is walking home one night when he is suddenly kidnapped by a masked man. Jason finds himself questioning (and living) a life he dreamed of earlier in his career. Which is the better life—all the fame or all the love of family? I feel that John Cusack would devour this book.
How do you choose your next read?
I choose my next read a few different ways. I tend to be a mood reader, so if it speaks to me, I’ll read it. However, the #bookstagrammademedoit seems to be a running theme for me lately. If I see a review saying “you have to read this book”, chances are, I’m reading it.
What book meant the most to you as a child?
This question gives me such warm feelings. The book that meant the most to me as a child is The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. Probably one of the most simplistic books ever written, it reminds me to enjoy the small moments. Enjoy that cup of coffee, that snow day. Each time I read this book (which is usually on a snow day), I am reminded of my kid self, anxiously anticipating a day outside in the snow. Recently, I purchased A Poem for Peter. This book chronicles the life of Ezra Jack Keats. The book also highlights Ezra’s creation of Peter, the main character in The Snowy Day. Ezra Jack Keats created Peter, a child of color, because he felt, at the time in which this was written, children of color were missing from children’s books. Ezra Jack Keats was adamant that all children deserve books about them and characters that look like them. And you thought the book was just about a snow day…… 🙂
What is your favorite adaptation from book to film, theater, or television? What book do you wish would be adapted?
My favorite book to film adaptation has to be The Wife by Meg Wolitzer. First of all, I read the book last year and absolutely loved it. Wolitzer writes with such honesty. I felt so strongly for Joan, the main character, throughout the novel. Wolitzer captures the struggle of supporting one’s spouse while still maintaining one’s own individuality. Glenn Close starred in the movie version this past year and WOW. She delivered quite the performance. I left the movie theater crying because of how powerful she was! You must see this film, but of course, read the book first!
I would love to see Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine become a movie. Rumor has it, it is in the beginning phases!
What’s the one book everyone loves that you just cannot stand?
Everyone loves The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh. It’s a feminist revenge fantasy that centers around three sisters who have a deep fear of men. The writing was beautiful, I must say, however the storyline left me saying, “Huh?” It was not the book for me.
What is your favorite book set in or around the area where you live?
I’m a born and bred Jersey girl. I spend my summers at the shore and my winters dreaming of summer at the shore. A book that I loved in my younger years, that happens to be set in New Jersey, is Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty. I read this book in high school and the character’s struggle of first love, a new school and teenage torment spoke to this beach kid. Jessica, the main character, seemed like a real friend I would have had in high school. She works at a boardwalk in Seaside Heights (I grew up in Lavallette), and complains that her summer job takes away from her enjoyment of summer activities (this sounds familiar!) I think I worked every possible summer job on our little barrier island— the boardwalk, waitressing, ice cream shops- all referenced in this novel. If you’re looking for classic Jersey-isms and fun, Sloppy Firsts is for you!
What is one classic you think is not overrated?
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Hands down. Done. I know that, at times, it seems to be everyone’s go-to classic, however, it is a book that has always resonated with me. Atticus Finch, Scout’s father, approaches raising his children with kindness and firmness, never hiding the truth from them. He treats their housekeeper, Calpurnia, with the upmost respect, while others in his community are filled with racist thoughts and hate.
I am particularly drawn to the mystery that surrounds the character, Boo Radley. Harper Lee’s portrayal of Boo Radley and his mistreatment by the townsfolk taught me, as a young person, that the most troubled and misunderstood people need our love and care.
That being said, my husband and I adopted an abused and neglected Old English Bulldog last year and we nursed him back to health. Without question, we named him “Boo” Radley.
If you had to declare yourself an expert in one extremely specific genre, what would it be?
If I had to declare myself an expert in one extremely specific genre, it would be fictional stories about awkward girls who tend to lean toward tomboy tendencies and march to the beat of their own drum. Examples: Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty, Catherine Called Birdy by Katherine Cushman, Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
What is your go-to book recommendation?
My go-to book recommendation is Christina Baker Kline’s Orphan Train. It is a historical fiction novel about children on the orphan trains that were abandoned and sent to work on various farms during the early 1900s. Some families adopted them and were kind, whereas others were treated poorly working as servants. I had never heard of the orphan trains before, and this novel was so brilliantly written. She also released a “young readers” edition for middle school readers as well.
What book changed your worldview in some way?
A book that changed my worldview is Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things. I read it in less than two sittings.
Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. (Goodreads)
The reason that this book changed my life is that Jodi Picoult’s storylines always have a way of making you uncomfortable, making you think, and pushing you to self-reflect and ask questions. I grew up with friends from all different backgrounds and never really thought about race the way Jodi makes you think about it. I have had the honor of listening to Jodi speak multiple times and I know that she spends countless hours researching, interviewing and spending time with people who share similar struggles to that of her characters. She tries to give a voice and power to characters/people who haven’t had the opportunity before.
I constantly look forward to her future novels and that is why Small Great Things is a book that still sticks with me.
If you could inhabit the life of one fictional character for a day, who would you choose?
This may be a little unconventional, but if I could trade places with one fictional character for the day, it would be Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web. Ever since I was a little girl, the story of Charlotte’s web has always touched my heart. I’m a huge animal lover, have been since I was a little girl. I would love to be Charlotte for the day, building up Wilbur’s confidence and showing off my talent for the rest of the world to see!
Who do you think is the greatest female author?
This is a really tough question! There are so many female authors that I greatly love and respect. For me, a top female author has to be Agatha Christie. Her mysteries are always books that I love rereading over and over again. Also, she herself disappeared for 11 days, was eventually found, but the mystery of where she was for the time was never fully resolved. Was it a publicity stunt? Who knows? However, she will forever be the queen of “Who Dun It?”
Reading has always been at the center of my life. My paternal grandmother was a kindergarten teacher for over 40 years. I was blessed in that she lived with us all through my youth. I was “playing” school before actually attending school, reading with her all the time. In addition, my mother always made sure we had weekly visits to the local library. I’m pretty sure we read every children’s book they had!
I feel like this upbringing in reading has not only shaped me as a personal reader, but also as an educator. My grandmother lived to 94 years old and you could still catch her reading her Danielle Steel or Nora Roberts up until a few weeks before she passed away.
I love reading for reading’s sake, but nothing makes me happier than seeing my students reading something they love. I try to carry that joy my grandmother and mom gave me in my daily world of reading.
What’s at the top of your TBR or wish list?
Right now, I’m overwhelmed by my ambitious TBR list! Thanks bookstagram! Currently, I cannot wait to read James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk, Mary Beth Keane’s Ask Again, Yes and Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.