Inspired by the Book is a series of interviews with Connecticut College folks about their literary lives. Inspiration comes from The New York Times Book Review series called By the Book.

Lyndsay works in the library as the art librarian and director of digital scholarship, and teaches an art history class at Conn called “Art Crimes and the Value of Art.” The arrival of her son during the pandemic gave her a new perspective on free time, and she began to devote most of it to reading all the kinds of books she had missed out on while in graduate school for art history. When she’s not working on her daily page goals, she loves caring for her garden plants and house in New London.

What books are on your night stand?

I’m currently reading Ukraine in Histories and Stories: Essays by Ukrainian Intellectuals, edited by Volodomyr Yermolenko. My #tbr stack is an anxiety-provoking 21 books deep right now:

What’s the last great book you read?

There’s no way I can pick one! 

Lately I’ve read several books on Ukraine, and I’ve long been a fan of books on Russia. I highly recommend Andrey Kurkov’s Ukraine Diaries: Dispatches from Kiev–the diary format is really effective at giving you a palpable sense of the uncertainty and confusion inherent in the day-by-day experience of living through a major event–in this case, from the beginning of the Euromaidan in 2013 through Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the beginning of the war in Donbas. I also just finished Catherine Belton’s Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Took on the West, which is an amazing-but-horrifying, meticulously researched account of the many schemes carried out by Russian oligarchs and people high up in the Kremlin since the fall of the Soviet Union, 1) to maintain unimaginable wealth and power, and 2) to funnel black cash into Europe and America with the aim of corrupting politicians and degrading the integrity of institutions. It’s a serious commitment of a book, but worth it. 

Other fantastic non-fiction I’ve read since the new year: Clint Smith’s How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America, Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, and Erika Fatland’s Sovietistan: Travels in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.

Fiction-wise, this year I’ve loved T.J. Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea and Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. Klune is creating an exciting new array of memorable stories and really loveable characters. Kingsolver has an awe-inspiring command of her craft.

Whom do you consider among the best writers working today?

Masha Gessen, Gary Shteyngart, Olga Tokarczuk, Barbara Kingsolver, Madeline Miller, Erika Fatland.

Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?

I’m working on reading all of the Brontë sisters’ novels and a sampling of Russian classics.

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

In this moment, maybe Masha Gessen’s Surviving Autocracy.

What’s your favorite book no one has heard of?

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk. She’s a Nobel Prize winning author, so she’s certainly well-known by many, but I haven’t heard other Americans talking about this book.

Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? Any which you avoid?

I like a constant rotation of nonfiction, classics, contemporary fiction, and travel writing. I haven’t had much interest in sci-fi or fantasy, but I’m willing to give those genres a try. I’ll take recommendations!

What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?

I grew up during the era of 90s YA pulp horror fiction–the Fear Street series, Christopher Pike, Richie Tankersley Cusick, etc.. I read every Fear Street book and still have my complete collection on my bookshelves.

How do you organize your books?

They’re loosely organized by genre and geographic region. I especially love the bookshelf devoted to language-learning textbooks and dictionaries, travel guides, and travel writing.

Do you count any books as guilty pleasures, or comfort reads?

Guilty pleasures: Joanne Harris’s Chocolat and some of her other books. I fell in love with her writing when I was a Francophile in high school.

Comfort reads: any travel writing or memoirs about living in the European countryside.

Disappointed, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? 

Recently, I really disliked Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. The machismo is just too gross to read in the current sociopolitical climate. About halfway through, I began to hope that the main character would die by the end. And, well…

What question would you like to see added to this list? And what’s your response?

Do you have a Goodreads account?

Yes! Follow me there.