Bookmas! with Emily Schultz

Book­mas: James Pat­ter­son fans need not cel­e­brate. Those aren’t real­ly books.

Today’s not-so-secret Book­San­ta: Emi­ly Schultz!

Emi­ly Schultz  is the co-founder of Joy­land and the host of the pod­cast Truth & Fic­tion. Her nov­el Heav­en Is Small was named a final­ist for the 2010 Tril­li­um Book Award along­side books by Mar­garet Atwood and Alice Munro. Schultz’s nov­el The Blondes was a Cana­di­an best­seller, and is forth­com­ing in the U.S. for Win­ter 2015. Her writ­ing has appeared in many pub­li­ca­tions, includ­ing The Wal­rus, Prism, Geist, Des­cant, New Quar­ter­ly, Cell­Sto­ries, and Prairie Schooner. She lives in Brook­lyn.

What 2014-pub­lished fic­tion would you rec­om­mend?

Sta­tion Eleven by Emi­ly St. John Man­del. This is her best work yet: smart, huge­ly affect­ing, deep themes, a post-mortem on our cur­rent soci­ety with­out any soap-box­ing. A book where cell phones are part of a cul­tur­al muse­um and Shake­speare is ref­er­enced through­out just calls to me.

What 2014-pub­lished non-fic­tion would you rec­om­mend?

I’m not sure if you can qual­i­fy Clau­dia Rankine’s Cit­i­zen: An Amer­i­can Lyric as essay exact­ly, but I’m going to break the rules. It’s poetry/essay. I ran out and bought this after read­ing this amaz­ing essay with her on Guer­ni­ca Mag­a­zine.

What one 2014-pub­lished book do you believe needs more love?

Jonathan Bennett’s The Colo­nial Hotel. It’s a sur­pris­ing nov­el that ref­er­ences Hil­da Doolittle’s Helen in Egypt. It’s set dur­ing an unnamed civ­il war that is nonethe­less incred­i­bly real as a for­eign doc­tor and nurse cou­ple become sep­a­rat­ed by an attack. Bennett’s a hard­work­ing tal­ent, plus over on Goodreads it’s killing.

What book that you’ve read in 2014 (not nec­es­sar­i­ly a 2014 book) would you rec­om­mend?

I was late in com­ing to Aimee Bender’s The Col­or Mas­ter (a 2013 book). High­ly rec­om­mend­ed espe­cial­ly for aspir­ing short sto­ry writ­ers.

What author would you rec­om­mend?

Megan Stiel­stra (Once I Was Cool). She’s one of those authors who can tell about a per­son­al expe­ri­ence that was har­row­ing and still make it hilar­i­ous and charm­ing. I inter­viewed her for my pod­cast:

What’s the one book you’ve read in your life­time that you think every­one should read?

I don’t think every­one should read the same things. There is always that cul­ture of “the one book you have to read this year” but as peo­ple we are more com­pli­cat­ed than that. I have read some books that have changed my life, or changed how I thought about writing—but I almost don’t want to tell you what they are, because if you read them they may not have the same effect on you and I don’t want you to be dis­ap­point­ed. You come to such books unexpectedly—often when a close friend hands one to you. My advice is when a friend or rel­a­tive gives you a book, don’t shelve it, read it. They know you best.

Let’s go spe­cif­ic: what books would you rec­om­mend for:

  • The sci­ence-fic­tion fan: The Periph­er­al by William Gib­son
  • The hor­ror fan: The Fever by Megan Abbott, not quite hor­ror but it walks the line in the same way my nov­el The Blondes was try­ing. It’s about col­laps­ing, growl­ing girls, based on the real-life twitch­ing girls of LeRoy, New York, a news sto­ry that fas­ci­nat­ed me.
  • The thriller/mystery fan: Joy­land by Stephen King. It and he were pret­ty good to me this year when our books got mixed up.
  • The non-fic­tion fan: Hard Times: An Oral His­to­ry of the Great Depres­sion by Studs Terkel. I’m read­ing this for research for my next nov­el. The sto­ries are fan­tas­tic and it’s a great dip-in book for any­one who can only read in short stretch­es.
  • The (your nation­al­i­ty) fan: My nation­al­i­ty is both Cana­di­an and Amer­i­can so I’m going to pick Adam Sol. He’s an Amer­i­can liv­ing in Toron­to, and his lat­est poet­ry col­lec­tion, Com­plic­i­ty, is a stun­ner. Tremen­dous work.
  • The (genre I couldn’t think of) fan: Leslie Fein­berg died this year, a ground­break­ing writer and activist for LGBT peo­ple every­where. I read Stone Butch Blues in 1997. I was 23 and saw Fein­berg speak that same year. The jour­nal­is­tic-like plot details a woman pass­ing for a man in the 1960s and tran­si­tion­ing. Def­i­nite­ly worth revis­it­ing.

If, god for­bid, peo­ple couldn’t find any of your books, who else would you sug­gest they seek out for a sim­i­lar lit­er­ary fix?

Neil Smith has a new nov­el called Boo com­ing out in 2015 and I was lucky enough to receive an advance review copy. That, def­i­nite­ly. It explores an unusu­al after­life, kind of like I tried to in my sec­ond nov­el Heav­en is Small. But his han­dling is amazing—the writ­ing and the sto­ry both.

What would you rec­om­mend for the hol­i­days in a non-lit­er­ary con­text?

San­i­tize your hands. Often. That is a gift to every­one, includ­ing you.