Madeline Myers

Name: Madeline Myers
Where you live: Manhattan, New York City
Insta handle: @madelinesmyers
Current read: Less by Andrew Sean Greer and The Double Helix by James Watson

What has been your favorite read of the past year?

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

What is one book that you think will (or should) become a classic in the next 30 (or 50) years? Why?

I think All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr will become a classic because the story itself is so poignant and because the writing style is so rich and expressive.

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?

IMG_1800 3I would choose former First Lady and new author Michelle Obama to become my celebrity friend, and I would recommend Act One by Moss Hart to her.  I think she would love the story of how Hart grew up in an impoverished Jewish neighborhood in the Bronx, clung tightly to his dreams of becoming a Broadway playwright despite the inordinate amount of personal and professional setbacks he faced, and achieved them through chutzpah and heart.

How do you choose your next read?

Usually I have lots of ideas and direction for what I am choosing to read next when it comes to reading for research for my musicals, and when reading expressly for pleasure, I love to get recommendations from friends and from my mother, who is also an enormous book lover.  I also read a ton of online publications— like NYC Book Girl and The New York Times— so any time I come across a book that sounds like something I would enjoy reading, I add it to my “hold” list at the New York Public Library.

What book meant the most to you as a child?

Because my name is Madeline, the Madeline books by Ludwig Bemelmans meant a lot to me as a child.  I loved my literary namesake’s courage, grit, imagination, and compassion. The other books that were incredibly meaningful to me growing up were the Harry Potter books and The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (which I started turning into a musical when I first read it, and, to be honest, I still want to turn into a musical).  

What is your favorite adaptation from book to film, theater, or television?  What book do you wish would be adapted?

I almost always prefer books to any kind of film/television/theatrical adaptation, but I will say that I absolutely loved the movie adaptation of Crazy Rich Asians and thought it actually improved upon the book!  (The mahjong scene at the end!) And I think Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton is an astonishingly beautiful adaption of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow.

As soon as I read Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders last year, I felt that it had to become a piece of theater because the story itself is so magical and theatrical (and not just because of the formatting of the text).  As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one who thought this, and I was thrilled to read earlier this fall that the Metropolitan Opera is commissioning its first two female composers, Jeanine Tesori and Missy Mazzoli; Mazzoli will be adapting Lincoln in the Bardo into an opera.  (Morgan, we obviously have to go see this together!)  

What’s the one book everyone loves that you just cannot stand?

I was not a fan of The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (though I really do wish I had loved it!).

What is your favorite book set in or around the area where you live?

I grew up in a rural community of about a thousand people in the northwest corner of Georgia.  The South has such a rich literary history, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee stands out to me as my favorite book that takes place in the South.

What is one classic you think is not overrated?

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.

If you had to declare yourself an expert in one extremely specific genre, what would it be?  

True stories about theater writers or plays/musicals that are in dire trouble and manage to triumph through grit, tenacity, magic, and heart

What is your go-to book recommendation?

I have gifted Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert to probably 20 people in the past two years.  I believe I first read it in November 2015, and then I continued to read it nearly once a week for the next year (this is not an exaggeration!).  Gilbert’s ideas about creativity and inspiration, why we make things, and how we make things are extremely meaningful to me as a musical theater writer, and I think I found this book (or, rather, in the spirit of Big Magic itself, this book found me) at a time when I needed it most.

What book changed your worldview in some way?

Night by Elie Wisel had an extraordinary impact on me when I read it in high school.

If you could inhabit the life of one fictional character for a day, who would you choose?

I would love to inhabit the life of Nancy Drew to solve a few crimes and bring justice to some literary villains.  After emerging from a Nancy Drew story, I would hope to bring back with me into my real life Nancy Drew’s pluck, sharp sense of self, poise, kindness, and quick-on-her-feet thinking.

Who do you think is the greatest female author?

J.K. Rowling.  

Why reading?

Stories are how we connect; stories transform and transport us.  Stories inspire empathy and compassion from within us; stories expand us. Stories give us access to places, ideas, worldviews, and time periods we might not otherwise experience.  Stories make visible the interior lives of people we might not otherwise know. Stories reveal magic and give us hope. Stories ask us to look inward; stories invite us to engage with our worlds and communities.  Stories remind us that change is always possible. Stories bring us closer to basic human truths; stories share with us the miracle of the human spirit. Stories make us better.

What’s at the top of your TBR or wish list?

I’m enormously passionate about public libraries, and I think I probably utilize the NYPL more than any other person I know!  Here are the books currently on my NYPL “hold” list:

  • Free For All: Joe Papp, the Public, and the Greatest Theater Story Ever Told by Kenneth Turan and Joseph Papp
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  • Dance to the Piper by Agnes de Mille
  • The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  • Becoming by my imaginary celebrity best friend Michelle Obama