Anne Whitney Pierce reads fiction because the real world is reality

pierce: I just got acquainted with all the novels of Elena Ferrante Napoli. This was a good trip. One of my daughters is a big reader, and she gave me some books to read, “A Little Life” by Hania Yanagihara, which was great, and “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides. I also read “The Candy House” by Jennifer Egan. I was amazed by her previous book, A Visit from Goon Squad. I don’t think her latest book lives up to that. This is the way things go at some point.

books: How would you describe yourself as a reader?

pierce: I loved all those long books with endless conversations and introspection. This was the kind of reader I was even in my teens. I loved the Bronte family and George Eliot. I majored in French literature in college so I was reading Stendhal and Thomas Hardy, the old fashioned TV series. This is what I love.

books: Do you largely read fiction?

pierce: I do. The real word is real enough for me. I love the feeling of being lost in the novel. There are times when you have more time to get lost in a book than in another. When I had three children who were close in age, it was a great time to read short stories.

booksWhat contemporary short story book are you reading?

pierce: I always go back to Alice Munro. There is no one better than him. She doesn’t write stories per se, but her entire work is an epic of the Canadian countryside. She also wrote me a nice letter so I am very grateful to her. My mother dared to send my things to her. She did and she wrote to me again, which is unusual.

books: Do you always finish books to begin with?

pierce: I can’t think of a book I won’t finish. I think if I had 50 pages in a book and it didn’t pull me in, I might stop. In general, if I read a fair part of a book, I want to get to the end, not just as a reader but as a writer. I want to see how the writer works things out. I finished [Jonathan] Franzen “Corrections”, which was very cool, and “Freedom”. After “Freedom”, Franzen lost me as a reader.

booksDid your upbringing in Cambridge shaped you as a reader?

pierce: Just to the extent that encouraged me to read. After school we went to the library. You would ride your bike there. That was in the early sixties. You had a wire basket on your bike and you filled it with ten library books. Cambridge is still a place imbued with this academic aura. I’m sure this played a role.

booksDo you have a favorite book to give as a gift?

pierce: “Little Fur Family” by Margaret Wise Brown is my favorite children’s book for young families. In terms of adult writers, I recently presented a collection of stories related to Elizabeth Strout “Olive Kitteridge”.

booksWhat is the best book I gave you as a gift?

pierce: A friend gave me a French copy of Stendhal’s “The Red and Black,” which her grandmother, an amateur bookbinder, had wrapped. It is very beautiful. My father-in-law gave me a signed copy of “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll.

books: Do you keep all your books?

pierce: I was trying to shrink my books. Summer is when I do some cleansing. I’m thinking about if I’ll ever want to read this book again or if my children or grandchildren will. Emotional value really gets in the way. But if I memorized all the books I have in my life, I would have no place for me.

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @GlobeBiblio. Amy Sutherland is the author of “Save BennyIt can be accessed at

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