Welcome to our Ten Book Challenge where our favorite authors share some 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!
When National Book Award-nominated Lauren Groff’s (and our September She Reads guest editor) ground-breaking Fates and Furies released in 2015, The Atlantic declared that year “the best year in history for the average human being.” Now, six years later, she’s releasing Matrix, her first book since Fates and the Furies. And the climate is a bit different. Yet, this is an author whose imagined the worlds of three other wonderous books—Arcadia, Florida, and The Monsters of Templeton—and she may argue that the world within Matrix, a medieval historical fiction read, is not so different from today’s.
In Matrix, cast out of the royal court by Eleanor of Aquitaine, deemed too coarse and rough-hewn for marriage or courtly life, seventeen-year-old Marie de France is sent to England to be the new prioress of an impoverished abbey, its nuns on the brink of starvation and beset by disease. At first taken aback by the severity of her new life, Marie finds focus and love in collective life with her singular and mercurial sisters. In this crucible, Marie steadily supplants her desire for family, for her homeland, for the passions of her youth with something new to her: devotion to her sisters, and a conviction in her own divine visions. Marie, born the last in a long line of women warriors and crusaders, is determined to chart a bold new course for the women she now leads and protects. But in a world that is shifting and corroding in frightening ways, one that can never reconcile itself with her existence, will the sheer force of Marie’s vision be bulwark enough?
Equally alive to the sacred and the profane, Matrix gathers currents of violence, sensuality, and religious ecstasy in a mesmerizing portrait of consuming passion, aberrant faith, and a woman that history moves both through and around. Lauren Groff’s new novel, her first since Fates and Furies, is a defiant and timely exploration of the raw power of female creativity in a corrupted world.
The book …..
I last bought/am currently reading: I was sent Samira Sedira’s People Like Them, a novella-length book that Leila Slimani called “disturbing and powerful,” and I’ll be starting it this evening before bed.
I recommend to everyone: Everyone I have ever recommended Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson to has absolutely loved it.
That was my favorite read last year, because: Fernanda Melchor’s Hurricane Season was my absolute favorite book of last year because it was so witchy and strange and hilarious and wild.
Whose author I would love to have lunch with: I would love to have lunch with Joy Williams, whose Visiting Privilege is a book of stories so unbelievably full of genius that I’d like to watch her brain move in real time.
That made me realize language had power: When I was twelve, one of my close friends gave me Emily Dickinson’s poems, which were so compelling and elliptical and breathtaking that I became a poet to try to see a little into her power and mystery.
I’d like to see adapted to the screen: I think it would be hilarious to see Marion Engles’s Bear given full cinematic treatment.
That made me laugh out loud—or cry—while reading it: Patrica Lockwood is the funniest writer around, and her novel No One is Talking About This slayed me.
I think has the most gorgeous cover: I don’t know if it’s gorgeous, but I have not been able to get Ottessa Mossfegh’s cover for My Year of Rest and Relaxation out of my head since the book came out in 2018.
With the best opening line: 124 was spiteful, from Beloved by Toni Morrison.
Bookstore that I frequent/is my favorite: I frequent so many bookstores that I’m afraid to say any is my favorite. But my local bookstore is Third House Books, here in Gainesville, FL, a tiny Latina-owned store owned by a friend.