Book It!
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Book It!

Behind every writer is a passionate reader. Six of our favorite authors show us where they love to kick back with a great read.


Location: New York City

Reading spot: My neighborhood Starbucks

Her first book, Push, became the Academy Award–winning film Precious. The novel's long-awaited sequel, The Kid,* was published in July.

I do a lot of my writing at a place in Manhattan called the Writers Room. After a few hours I'll take a break at the Starbucks across the street. I worked on The Kid for more than 10 years, and I'd go over there at all hours, drinking a soy latte or an Americano (high in caffeine but low in calories), reading Dickens or Dostoevsky and taking in the scene. Starbucks doesn't seem to have a move-along policy; for writers, who can't always determine the flow of income, that's important! It's a cavernous space, with high ceilings and cement floors. There are sleekly dressed people getting their $5 drinks, and homeless people in the corner nursing a $1.50 coffee -- all the economic strata, which I find fascinating. I actually incorporated this particular Starbucks into The Kid. It's where Abdul, Precious's son, meets with a dance troupe when he's beginning to work as a professional dancer. He even winds up getting a job there. The place gives me a tremendous sense of connection with my city.

Just read it and loved it:

Good Morning, Midnight, by Jean Rhys
"Rhys wrote about women struggling with poverty and alcoholism in Paris in the 1930s. You see that these aren't just African-American issues -- they're universal issues."

Nana, by Emile Zola
"I've been catching up with the classics I never read in college. This one turns out to be a really racy story about a French prostitute."

The Flowers of Evil, by Charles Baudelaire
"I read this with friends and with their support I was able to read some of it in French. That was quite a feat!"

Marisa de los Santos

Location: Wilmington, Delaware

Reading spot: My gym

The best-selling author of Love Walked In and Belong to Me publishes her third novel, Falling Together, this month.

After dropping my kids at school I go to my local YMCA and read on the elliptical machine. People ask, "How can you turn pages and move your arms and legs at the same time?" I've got it down to a science. An absorbing book gets my mind off how much I'm sweating. And somehow the combination of endorphins and good words often results in epiphanies about whatever I'm working on. A friend of mine calls them "epiphticals." I'll choose a novel because it's similar to what I'm writing -- or totally different. Sometimes it turns out to be both. When I was writing Falling Together I devoured the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. The books are set in Botswana, so I figured they'd have nothing in common with mine. But their beautiful depiction of place was useful when I realized my own plot involved a trip to the Philippines.

Just read it and loved it:

Instruments of Darkness, by Imogen Robertson
"A historical mystery, set in England in 1780, which I've been recommending to everyone. The plot just pulls you along."

The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor Brown
"Three daughters of a Shakespeare professor come back together as adults. It's funny and clever, but also quite powerful."

Faith, by Jennifer Haigh
"It's about a priest accused of abuse, but the story rises out of the characters, all of them carefully drawn. It's not ripped from the headlines."

Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella

Locations: Rural Pennsylvania and New York City

Reading spot: Our sofas

Scottoline, a best-selling novelist, and Serritella, her daughter, collaborate on a column for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Their new book, Best Friends, Occasional Enemies, comes out next month.

LS: I live on a horse farm outside Philadelphia. Francesca moved to New York City two years ago. But we love to read, and we're Italian, so when she comes home...

FS: ...we always pile into the same room.

LS: There's a big, soft couch in the family room. We just flop there with our iPads and Kindles and Nooks. I take the right end, Francesca takes the left, and the dogs are in the middle. We have three Cavalier spaniels, plus a golden retriever and a corgi.

FS: As a kid, I read all over the house. Now I'm more willing to be in the big puffy pile than when I was 16. I see the value in closeness.

LS: Every time I visit Francesca in New York, we sit on her couch and do the same damn thing. Wherever the couch is, we're on it, as are the dogs and the books.

Just read it and loved it:

Francesca Serritella:

Dog Years: A Memoir, by Mark Doty
"Doty's partner was dying, while his two golden retrievers were getting old. This book is a lovely meditation on grief and aging."

History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life, by Jill Bialosky
"This memoir of the author's sister, who took her own life, is a beautiful and moving literary adventure."

Lisa Scottoline:

The Brutal Telling, by Louise Penny
"Penny is a Canadian mystery author whose writing is lyrical and very attuned to place."

Life, by Keith Richards
"Keith's memoir is about the creative process. It's fantastic, and I learned that musicians and writers create in roughly the same way."

Alice Hoffman

Location: Wellfleet, Massachusetts

Reading spot: My backyard

The acclaimed author's 20-plus books include Practical Magic and The Red Garden. Her latest novel, The Dovekeepers, comes out this month.

I spend summers in a little farmhouse on Cape Cod. The yard is a wonderful combination of settled and wild: It's surrounded by a white picket fence, but there's a view directly into the woods. I've seen foxes, blue herons, and ospreys. I usually write from 5 a.m. until 3 p.m.; afterward I'll go outside with a book, a glass of wine and my Polish sheepdog, Angel. Nobody's around, the phone's not ringing, the Internet connection is often on the fritz. The only interruptions are dragonflies and bumblebees. Often I'm reading nonfiction, research for whatever I'm writing. For The Dovekeepers, it was history -- books like The Jewish War by Josephus, who was the ancient historian of everything that happened during the Roman occupation of Israel. But in summer I also have the urge to reread writers I loved when I was young, like Ray Bradbury and Shirley Jackson.

Just read it and loved it:

Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
"When I was a girl, this one was a life-changer for me. Such an American, magical story."

Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout
"This book features a character who's unlikable but you get to know her so well that you wind up having compassion for her. And it's beautifully written."

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, by Susan Orlean
"Orlean is a wonderful writer and this is a wonderful book -- a dog story and a Hollywood tale. Plus, I'm crazy about German shepherds."

Janet Evanovich

Location: Naples, Florida

Reading spot: My living room

As America's best-selling female author, Evanovich is known for her Stephanie Plum series of romantic adventure novels. The latest installment, Explosive Eighteen, will be published next month.

I'm a workaholic and I have a hard time shutting off my mind. I'll wake at 1 a.m. thinking about Stephanie, my protagonist, and her latest predicament: She's in an apartment with a guy who's covered in Crisco, and he's so fat her handcuffs won't fit his wrists and she has no idea how she's going to get him down the stairs. I've got to figure it out. So I traipse downstairs and sink into my couch. I don't like reading fiction when I'm writing, because the words and made-up worlds of other writers crowd out mine. But I'm hooked on cookbooks. It's an escapist fantasy because I'm a really bad cook. I'll snuggle with Ollie, my 2-year-old Havanese, and go through recipes. He and I eat cookies and get crumbs all over the couch. After an hour and a half I go back to bed. The next morning I wake up full of ideas.

Just read it and loved it:

Medium Raw, by Anthony Bourdain
"I watch his show on the Travel Channel. His writing is like his food -- very rich." Bobby Flay's Throwdown! "I watch his show, too. Religiously. My son-in-law P.J., who loves to cook, makes the recipes."

Dream Houses, by Joie Wilson and Penny Taylor
"A picture book about the little historic cottages here in Naples. Not a cookbook, but I adore it."

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, October 2011.