On My Nightstand: Christina Hoag
From a Jane Eyre spinoff to a James A. Michener classic, author Christina Hoag shares the books on her nightstand—and why they’re so meaningful.
I’m an eclectic reader so at any given time I’ve got a mixture of genres and authors in the tower beside my bed.
- Just finished: Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. I loved this book. It was a highly original story about a hardened young woman, Victoria, as she emancipates out of the foster-care system and finds that the only thing that moves her emotionally is flowers. Diffenbaugh’s portrayal of Victoria’s damaged character is completely realistic, and I love flowers so I found this a real page-turner.
- Reading now: Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. Rhys invented a terrific backstory of the madwoman in the attic from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, placing her in 19th century Jamaica around the time of the emancipation. The language is as lush as the setting, and we are reminded of how limited choices were for women in the past.
- The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. I got this after seeing the author on a panel at the A. Times Festival of Books in April, and it sparked my interest because I’d just visited Vietnam in January. It turned out it’s on for my book club this month. It’s a brilliant book and I love the narrator’s wry observations about Americans.
- Mexico by James A. Michener. Having lived for a decade in Central and South America, I’m a big fan of authors from and stories set south of the border. I read a bunch of Michener’s books when I was younger. They’re great for learning history. I actually found this book abandoned in the alley behind my house. It seemed to be waiting for me so I picked it up. I’m now waiting for a good time to get through its 625 pages, but I’m sure it’s going to be a good read.
- Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano. I don’t read much nonfiction, and when I do it’s mainly memoirs or gritty crime stuff. This fits the latter category, written by an Italian journalist about the Camorra organized crime network in Naples, far more powerful than the Sicilian Mafia. From the few pages I’ve skimmed, it looks like an amazing work of reportage showing how organized crime has infiltrated every aspect of society. I also just found out the book spawned a hit TV show in Italy, which is coming to the Sundance Channel soon. Can’t wait.
Christina Hoag is the author of Skin of Tattoos, a literary thriller set in L.A.’s gang underworld (Martin Brown Publishers, September 2016) and Girl on the Brink, a romantic thriller for young adults (Fire and Ice YA/Melange Books, August 2016). She is a former reporter for the Associated Press and Miami Herald and worked as a correspondent in Latin America writing for major media outlets including Time, Business Week, Financial Times, Houston Chronicle and the New York Times. She is the co-author of Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence, a groundbreaking book on gang intervention (Turner Publishing, 2014). She resides in Los Angeles. For more information, visit www.christinahoag.com.
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