Welcome to our Ten Book Challenge where our favorite authors share their “Book-It List”—a book bucket list with 10 of their most beloved and memorable reads—from the books with their favorite covers and best opening lines, to the reads they gift and the bookstores they frequent. This is a peek into your favorite authors’ perfect bowl of literary comfort food. We hope you discover something delicious!
We don’t know about you, but it feels like readers can’t get enough fiction that touches on the darker side of motherhood, especially when a thriller element is in the mix. We’ve been eating up the influx of dark fiction about the fears, oppression and sacrifice that calls of motherhood, particularly set in fantasy and dystopian worlds. So if you’re a fan, be prepared to meet your next favorite read: Elsewhere (June 28) by Alexis Schaitkin. If the name sounds familiar, it’s probably because you may have heard of a little book called SAINT X, Alexis’ critically acclaimed thriller debut, named a New York Times 100 Notable in 2020 and currently in development as a mini-series for Hulu.
Elsewhere is a speculative novel about the complicated undertaking of motherhood, and the myriad of ways in which a woman can lose herself within that task. Not just the constant questioning, guilt and judgment, but the unknowns, errors, and deciding on what legacy she wants to leave behind. Elsewhere centers around a secluded mountain town, where mothers vanish—into the clouds—without a trace for no rhyme or reason. When Vera was a young girl, her mother disappeared—and now, on the cusp of motherhood herself, she and her friends are left with the burning question of wondering who will disappear next. The townspeople are convinced that these mothers are chosen because of some peculiarity in the love for their children, and Vera can’t help but wonder: should she continue on her path to motherhood, or test fate and see what will cause her to disappear?
I last bought/am currently reading: Trust by Hernan Diaz
I recommend to everyone: Matrix by Lauren Groff. The protagonist, Marie de France, is such a force of nature. She’s big in every way: in body, in desire, in spirit, in ambition, and I felt powerful just reading her story.
That was my favorite to read last year, and why: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. The writing is so gorgeous and moody—it’s the perfect book to devour on a rainy day.
Whose author I would love to have lunch with: I love everything Kazuo Ishiguro and Jennifer Egan have ever written. You can feel the genius coming off the page like heat when you read their books. It would be kind of terrifying to have lunch with them, but I’d do it just to hear their minds at work.
That made me realize language had power: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson, which I read in fourth grade. It was the first book I stayed up all night reading, and I sobbed at the end. I remember being shocked that such intense emotions could come from reading words on a page.
I’d like to see adapted to the screen: The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor. It’s the story of a terrible misunderstanding that leads to a little girl being separated from her parents. It’s tragic and dramatic, plus I’ll watch any show with a stunning British Isles setting.
That made me laugh out loud—or cry—while reading it: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. The dialogue is a delight—you laugh because it’s so right in how it captures the way a wealthy white woman talks with the young Black woman who babysits her daughter. It also has some of the funniest, most accurate “little kid dialogue” I’ve ever read.
That has the most gorgeous cover: Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder. It’s shocking and lurid but also somehow really sexy.
With the best opening line: It’s a legendary line, but I love it too much to choose any other: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice,” from One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez.
Bookstore that I frequent/is my favorite: The Bookstore in Lenox, MA and Northshire Books in Manchester, VT are my two local bookstores—the first one is tiny, the second one is huge, and they’re both amazing.
Bonus: Book that changed your mind about something: I always thought I hated graphic novels. Then I read Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, Fun Home, and it absolutely blew my mind. It’s hilarious, it’s sad, it’s so freaking smart—if you haven’t read it, you must!
Read on for our exclusive interview with Alexis Schaitkin on the catalyst of clouds, being surprised by her own story, and how Elsewhere is a metaphor for childhood.