What My Nightstand Reveals About Me by Seth Margolis
Author Seth Margolis can’t help but wonder what his picks say about him. Find out his favorites–including one with a plot twist so shocking he had to read it twice to make sure he read it right!
When my wife and I rent vacation houses, we have fun concocting a hypothetical portrait of our landlords based on the books they leave behind. So I imagine that readers could get a pretty good portrait of me by examining the books I have on my nightstand.
Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast. I’d avoided reading this book, despite the rapturous reviews and my friends’ increasingly stern insistence that I MUST read it. It’s an autobiography, told in words and drawings, by a wonderful New Yorker cartoonist about taking care of her elderly parents as they slip into dementia. I’d been spared that responsibility in life and didn’t think I wanted to go there in a book. Then my brother lent it to me and I ran out of excuses. Good thing, because it was wonderful: moving, funny, insightful, excruciatingly honest. The moment I finished it I read it straight through a second time. Now I can’t bear to give it back, so it sits next to my bed, awaiting either a third reading or the reluctant return to my brother (only if he asks for it).
Elizabeth’s London by Liza Picard. My new novel, The Semper Sonnet, is a thriller that takes place in contemporary New York and Elizabethan London. I’m pretty well versed in the former, having lived in Manhattan most of my life, but sketchy on the latter. So this book was research. It was also a great pleasure. Like seemingly half the world, I’m fascinated by Elizabeth I. But most biographies of her ignore what life was like for her subjects. This book is so well researched and so energetically written, you can practically smell London in the 16th century, taste the codlings (baked applies) and sheep lungs (no explanation needed), hear the cries of street vendors along Cornhill and Cheapside. There’s also fascinating information about Elizabethan childbirth, which was useful, since in my novel the Queen does indeed … but I’m giving too much away.
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson. There’s a plot twist near the end of this novel that literally caused me to gasp. I had to put the book down to absorb it, and then I went back to reread the chapter, just to make sure I had gotten it right. I had. The twist wasn’t just a clever narrative device. It transformed an interesting story of family life into one of the most powerful anti-war books I’ve ever read. I’ve subsequently read every book Atkinson has written, but this one I’m not ready to put back on the shelf.
Othello. Ever since I was forced to read this play in high school it’s been my favorite of Shakespeare’s tragedies. I read it again in college, and I’ve seen it performed at least twice. I think I was drawn to the rawness of the impulses and desires that drive the Moor and Iago to inevitable tragedy. You spend half the play wanting to shout at both Desdemona and Othello, “Can’t you see what’s happening? Open your eyes!” I’ve been working on a novel that retells (very loosely) the Othello story, set in contemporary New York. So it will sit by my bedside for quite a while longer.
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. This is one of those novels whose pleasures creep up on you. You’re gradually seduced by the laser-sharp characterizations, the almost sociological depiction of a specific caste of people trying to muddle through London between the wars. And then the story takes a totally unexpected turn and you find yourself reading a very different book from the one you picked up. By the end you feel as if you’ve been taken on a voyage whose itinerary you hadn’t expected – the best kind of journey.
Seth Margolis lives with his wife in New York City and has two grown children. He received a BA in English from the University of Rochester and an MBA in marketing from New York University’s Stern School of Business Administration. When not writing fiction, he is a branding consultant for a wide range of companies, primarily in the financial services, technology and pharmaceutical industries. He has written articles for the New York Times and other publications on travel and entertainment.
Learn more about his latest novel, The Semper Sonnet, here.
There's nothing we love more at Shelf Pleasure than a ..
Author and Shelf Pleasure contributor Karen A. Chase on how ..
One of author Mary Miley’s favorite things about being a ..
Author and police psychologist Ellen Kirschman, Ph.D., weighs the pitfalls ..
Little known fact about Shelf Pleasure's Kristen: she's obsessed with ..
Although Debbie De Louise has been a librarian and avid ..