Sara Voigt

Name: Sara Voigt
Where you live: Virginia
Insta handle: @meaningfulmadness
Current read: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton and Becoming by Michelle Obama (audio)

What has been your favorite read of the past year?

I really loved Bad Blood by John Carreyrou and Dopesick by Beth Macy. Both were books I didn’t expect to find so compelling. And boy, was I surprised. I am trying to incorporate more non-fiction this year, and honestly, I have been so enjoying the narrative non-fiction I have selected. The key is to listen to the audio, especially if you can hear an own voice audio! Interesting note, Dopesick reports heavily on the region where I live, so it was particularly of interest and (terrifying) for me to read.

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

I know a previous Girl Who Reads chose this one, but I have to say it too! S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders has to be my choice. (Secretly, I love that Katherine Czyzewski also chose this one!) I have taught The Outsiders to A LOT of eighth grade students and I would say that 99.8% of them LOVE it. Hinton masterfully includes characters that all teenagers can relate to, and in addition,  I love the way she speaks to family in the novel and her message that blood ties don’t necessarily make a family. Families are formed in many different ways. How awesome is that?

The Outsiders was first published in 1967 and has remained relevant for generations of readers. I expect that this book will remain relevant for generations to come.  Also, Hinton wrote this in a creative writing class when she was 16. I think because of this, it is so relatable to teenagers, no matter the generation.

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?

Okay. If you knew my absolute fondness of all things celebrity you would know how hard this question is for me! Ack! I am going to go for a male and a female.

I love Busy Philipps and I listened to her memoir, This Will Only Hurt a Little,  on audio last month, and I just loved it. She was matter-of-fact and she just went for it. She called out other well-known celebrities, she was so real when she talked about the perils of being female in Hollywood. She talked openly about her struggles as a woman, an actress, a mother. It was amazing for me, owning two out of three of those labels. So, for my female celebrity, she is my choice. (Plus, I LOOOVVVEEDD Dawson’s Creek, and she was one of my favorites.) My pick for Busy is The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle. I think she would be up for the magical realism in the book, and she seems like she would be a sucker for a love story. I know she is sensitive, because she often tears up in her Instastories, so I think this would be a perfect pick for her.

My second and male celebrity (eek this was hard) but I am going to go with Jimmy Fallon. I love a man who can make me laugh, and he is just so damn funny.  He had me at he can do an impression of anyone. LOVE it! For my pick for Jimmy, I would choose Me Talk Pretty Some Day by David Sedaris. Because Jimmy Fallon is a comedian, I think he would appreciate Sedaris’s wit and anecdotes from his early life and his life later, when he is living in Paris with his boyfriend. In addition, Jimmy Fallon seems like a really busy guy, and he could easily dip in and out of this essay collection.

How do you choose your next read?

Well, it’s complicated. Since I co-host a podcast (@unabridgedpod) and also moderate an IRL book club, a lot of times what I read is dictated by those commitments. However, when I do have a moment, I read based on my mood. Sometimes I just can’t handle the heavy, you know? And sometimes I just want something to speak to me. Often my recommendations come from Jen and Ashley, my podcast co-hosts. In addition, I also listen to tons of podcasts, and I get recommendations from them as well. And of course, Bookstagram. (Obviously!)

What book meant the most to you as a child?

I was a voracious reader when I was a kid and I loved SO many books. But I have to say I have two books that solidified my love of reading and whenever someone asks me my favorite book as child, these both automatically pop into my head. The first, my fourth grade teachers gave me as a Christmas gift. It was Misty of Chincoteague Marguerite Henry. And while I am not a huge reader of books where animals are main characters, something about Misty spoke to me. The other book was a gift from my parents called Daphne’s Book by Mary Downing Hahn. It is the first book that brought me to tears and made me want to write. After those two books, I became a complete book nerd. All I wanted for Christmas in the years after were gift certificates to the bookstore. That is back when the bookstore (the now defunct B. Dalton) still issued paper certificates. (I’m old.)

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

Oh geez. This is a hard one for me. I love the idea of the book to movie adaptation, but I am almost always SO disappointed. That being said, I am a huge John Green fan, and while, The Fault in Our Stars isn’t my favorite of his work, I thought the movie adaptation was excellent and well cast.  I also really enjoyed the Netflix adaptation of To All the Boys I Loved Before.

The book that I wish would be adapted is The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I LOVED this novel, and was so moved by it. I think it would make an excellent movie. (An honorable mention to Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners by Gretchen Anthony–I thought this book read almost like a screenplay and I could vividly picture many scenes on the big screen.)

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

I actually have two. I am not one of those people who worries about not liking a book. The thing I love about books and the book community is that we all like different things. So, two that I really didn’t like that a lot of bookstagrammers seemed to enjoy are Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (And I am a huge post-apocalyptic/dystopian novel fan.) I wanted to like this so much, but just didn’t. I never really connected with the characters, and I felt totally underwhelmed at the end. The other is Meg Wolitzer’s The Female Persuasion. It just wasn’t for me. I became frustrated with most of the female characters, and just didn’t enjoy the trajectory of the narrative. While I am confessing, I am also not a fan of most classics (i.e. Austen, Bronte, etc.). I prefer contemporary books.

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

I am embarrassed to say that I don’t remember many books that I have read set in Virginia. However, most recently, I enjoyed the To All the Boys I Loved Before trilogy and that is set in Charlottesville, VA which is not far from where I live.

What is one classic you think is not overrated?

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

I probably wouldn’t have read this; however, my book club chose it as a pick, so of course, I had to read it. (I always read my book club book.) And I have to say, I was riveted by the story. And Kate. Oh, Kate. Let me just tell you, she is the absolute most evil villain and one of the most interesting characters I have ever encountered in a book. Even if you skip all the (excessive) descriptions of scenery, read East of Eden for the characters. You won’t be sorry.

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

Angsty star-crossed teenage love story melodramas (*hangs head in shame*) I can’t help it! I am a total sucker for angsty teenage love/melodrama. (Don’t judge me.)

What is your go-to book recommendation?

I loved The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid and recommend it to everyone.  In fact, I have given this one as a gift more than once.

What book changed your worldview in some way?

The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After It by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil.

This book profoundly changed my worldview and the way that I perceive the refugee experience. If you haven’t read Wamariya’s memoir, I cannot express enough how much reading about her experience meant to me. Here is one of the quotes that stood out so much to me:

“The only road to equality—a sense of common humanity; peace—is sharing, my mother’s orange. When we share, you are not using your privilege to get me to line up behind you. When we share, you are not insisting on being my savior. Claire and I always looked for the sharers, the people who just said, “I have sugar, I have water. Let’s share.”

I think what really stood out to me was Wamariya’s commentary on power, and who has the power in an exchange. If one person gives another person something, there is a power dynamic at play, but if the two people share, there is a different dynamic at play. This spoke to me so much and broaden my view of the refugee experience.

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

I think this might be the easiest question. As a unabashedly enthusiastic Harry Potter fan, it would have to be Hermione Granger or Minerva McGonagall. I would love to be a part of that world for a day. As a teacher, McGonagall is one of my favorite characters of all time. She is strong, fair, and strict, yet she cares infinitely for her students. All of the makings of a great teacher. Plus, she teaches Transfiguration. The coolest!! My Harry Potter fandom knows no bounds.

Who do you think is the greatest female author?

This is so difficult. But, I am going to go with J.K. Rowling. She has written a series that has transcended time, age, title, preference. There is not one person on our earth (I mean, there isn’t, right?) that does not know who Harry Potter is. She created characters that have spoken to generations of readers. And no matter what has happened, her characters and stories have remained relevant to these generations.

Why reading?

Well, I have to start with I am an introvert by nature and talking to new people and starting conversations is not my strong point. Imagine all the awkwardness. However, books give me a way to openly communicate with people I don’t know in a way were I feel comfortable and confident. I am terrible at small talk, but give me a book and I can talk all day.

In addition, being well-read has made me a better person, especially after my involvement with the DBC. I will be forever grateful for that experience, because it made me understand why reading with purpose can make me a more sympathetic, empathetic, and enlightened human being.

Plus, reading is just a way to escape and be whisked away to another place. So, I have to say why not reading? 🙂

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

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray. I have been dying to get my hands on this book!

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