the bookshelf diaries: michelle law
The Bookshelf Diaries takes a peek into the reading life of writers, readers and book lovers. This week, Michelle Law talks Jane Eyre, Hyperbole and a Half, and reading bad books.
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. I found out about it after my friend linked me to an excerpt of her book on The Guardian, and I was totally blown away by Gay’s accessible writing style, honesty and intelligence. The book is a collection of essays about Gay’s lived experience (of being a writer, a professor, a woman of colour, a Scrabble player, a hip hop lover, and more) and how her experiences often directly clash with her identity as a feminist.
Where did you buy it?
I bought it from Avid Reader Bookshop in West End, Brisbane, where I also happen to work as a bookseller. Avid is one of the few remaining independent bookstores in Brisbane and is well known as a hub for writers, readers and baked goods enthusiasts. (We’ve got a cafe where Stuart, the cafe manager, makes fresh muffins and cupcakes every day.) Avid stocks a staggering range of titles and has author events and book launches at least once a week.
Was there a book that first interested you in writing?
I’m not sure if there was a book, because I think writing was a habit I just started doing as an outlet, but reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte definitely showed me the value in writing. It was so amazing to me that I could connect so strongly with a fictional character, and one that was created by someone who lived centuries before me, and it was there for me during that teenage period where you feel utterly alone and misunderstood. It made me realise that writing is important because you’re doing it not only for yourself, but for other people too.
What was your favourite book as a teenager?
It’s a toss up between Jane Eyre and the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. I loved fantasy growing up, but I was also getting into realism in novels, and the trilogy struck a neat balance between both those worlds. It had this fiery female protagonist named Lyra, who I named my goldfish after, and she was the fiercest, bravest and most passionate character I’d encountered. I also loved the idea of having an animal representation of your soul that existed outside of your body.
Have you ever stopped reading a book?
All the time. Life’s too short to be reading bad books. That said, I generally push myself to read at least half of a book before giving up on it. Studying writing at university was great for the reading lists; they forced you to finish important books as part of the curriculum so you could dissect their significance. Now I’ve become lazier and will stop reading a book if I’m bored, or get distracted, but if it comes with a friend’s suggestion, especially if I know we’ve got similar taste, I’ll persist.
What’s in your to-read pile?
I’m yet to finish The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan, which is a posthumous collection of her works. She died tragically in a car crash shortly after her graduation from Yale. Her writing is so good and is a testament to the huge talent she was and would have been. I’ve also been meaning to read The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss, andFangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I’m a big fan of YA and I’ve only heard good things about Fangirl.
Where do you like to read?
At home on the couch or in bed (never lying down though, you’ll fall asleep) with good lighting. Good lighting is really important—I started wearing glasses when I was nine. I can’t read in public because I get far too distracted by the world around me. I can’t really read on public transport either, because I’m worried I’ll miss my stop. I have to be in a head space where I know I’m not going to be interrupted so I can be fully immersed in the story.
What do you read to feel inspired?
Essays and short stories in The New Yorker and pieces written by my writer friends. Hyperbole and a Half is also really great, as is Megan Amram’s blog. At the moment Bad Feminist is really inspiring me, but I find I go long stretches between finding books that make me feel that way. Usually I find inspiration in magazines, journals, blog posts and my friends’ work.