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.

An interview with Emerson Norteman (they/them), currently a Junior at Connecticut College majoring in Anthropology with a concentration in Archaeology, double minor in Classics (Medieval track) and Art History, and following the Museum Studies pathway. Outside of academics, they can be found reading voraciously, writing poetry or fiction, playing violin, Irish Fiddle, or piano, acting, singing, drawing, or knitting! Their favorite genres to read are historical fiction, fantasy, realistic fiction, poetry, and adventure.

What’s the last great book you read?

I’m currently reading I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O’Farrell, and it’s absolutely riveting. It’s a memoir of the author’s life told through seventeen brushes with death in non-chronological snippets that are wonderful on their own but together weave a vivid, heartfelt tapestry of an incredible life. Her vivid prose and honesty captivated me from page one, and I haven’t put it down since! Update: I read it all in a couple of hours and then immediately started it over again – it’s that good.

Was there an author who particularly inspired you?

Yes! Though I had many favorite authors growing up, only one inspired me to start writing my own books when I was a kid – Edgar Allan Poe. I’ve always loved the genres of mystery and horror and his eloquent, macabre short stories inspired me to undertake my own tales of psychological horror. While I tend to write historical fiction and fantasy more often now, I hold a special place in my heart for Poe’s deeply human, existential side of mystery and psychology that lingers in my writing today. More recently, other writers have also inspired me, such as the works of Maggie Stiefvater and Samuel Beckett.

What books do you find yourself returning to again and again?

I tend to read books over and over again out of comfort and familiarity, and I love finding details and themes that I had originally missed. These are the few books that traveled to my limited bookcase at Conn, the ones I would happily stay up all night reading if it weren’t for morning classes. Some of my favorites are The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, a well-worn copy of The Four Tragedies by William Shakespeare, and Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. I will never tire of these favorites.

How do you organize your books?

My bookcase at home is organized first by color and then by size, with the largest books on the edges and the smallest ones in the center. Additionally, for some of my older books and the old copies of dictionaries that I’ve collected (yes, I’m that nerdy – but I work in the library, what did you expect?) are separated by Classic fiction and Classic nonfiction. There are also stacks separated by Graphic Novel and other categories. It’s all an organized chaos, I promise. Can one ever have too many bookcases?

Disappointed, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

This probably will read as controversial, especially since I’ve now established myself a lover of the Classics, but one book that I really tried to love from AP English Literature summer reading was Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield. Though I’ve liked some of Dickens’ other works, I found this book to be drawn out and prolonged, probably because Dickens was being paid for it in installments and at that time in his life he was swamped by debt. I felt like I should love some of the acclaimed classics, especially since Dickens is revered for portraying the lives of the lower classes accurately in Victorian literature, which wasn’t done at the time, but I personally found that absorbing so much of his normally dense, florid prose was headache-inducing. Don’t tell my fellow literature nerds though. I don’t remember the last book that I put down without finishing because I usually try to forge on ahead out of sheer stubbornness because I owe it to the author who spent so much time laboring over their brain child to not give it a chance.