Lily King ‘By the Book’

For Lily King, a Great Book Always Starts With the Sentences

“You can’t make a good spaghetti sauce with rotten tomatoes,” says the author of “Writers and Lovers” and other novels.

What books are on your nightstand?

“Spring,” by Ali Smith, “Friday Black,” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, “These Truths,” by Jill Lepore, “On Tyranny,” by Timothy Snyder, “Crooked Hallelujah,” by Kelli Jo Ford, “Shakespeare’s Kitchen,” by Lore Segal, “A Burning,” by Megha Majumdar, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” by Viktor Frankl, “Mai Sentita Così Bene,” by Rossana Campo, “Book of the Little Axe,” by Lauren Francis-Sharma, “Braised Pork,” by An Yu, “Epitaph of a Small Winner,” by Machado de Assis, and “The Education of an Idealist,” by Samantha Power, to name a few.

What’s the last great book you read?

“Becoming,” by Michelle Obama.

Can a great book be badly written? What other criteria can overcome bad prose?

No, not a great one. Not if it’s truly bad prose. Nothing can compensate. The entire experience comes through the sentences. You can’t make a good spaghetti sauce with rotten tomatoes.

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

Morning. Cup of tea. Beside a fire or under a tree or (best of all) on a train in a foreign country. With a book that jolts my imagination in some way so that I am flipping to the back and scribbling ideas on the end pages. Read the full interview at The New York Times.

Lily King’s Writers & Lovers is one of our current book club favorites. To read more about it — and everything else we’re currently loving — visit our Books in the Bag page. Please consider joining us for our Books and Breakfast event featuring Lily King on April 21!

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