Sunday Times bestselling author Curtis Sittenfeld discusses the books that have defined her life.

The book I loved as a child

Curtis Sittenfeld says, “I was very fond of a book called Oh, Were They Ever Happy! by Peter Spier, which was about three siblings who paint every surface of their house when their parents go away for the day. I remember this book as very festive and colourful, a kind of tribute to reckless creativity. I think it’s out of print, but I’d love to get my hands on the book to see how it matches my memory.”

The book that makes me laugh

“In my household, we’re big Saturday Night Live fans, and one day during a recent “quarantine lunch,” I read aloud to my husband and kids an excerpt in The New Yorker of the writer and comedian Colin Jost’s memoir A Very Punchable Face. The excerpt, which claimed he still feels kind of chubby and out of place (in spite of being engaged to the actress Scarlett Johansson), was quite funny. My family can’t wait to read the rest.”

The book that always makes me cry

“There’s a children’s book called Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, and any time I read it aloud when my kids were younger, there was a 200% chance that I’d be unable to reach the end without breaking down in tears. It’s basically about the parental impulse to always look out for one’s offspring, but the truly devastating part is when it becomes time for the child to take care of the parent.”

The book that changed my life

“When I started reading the stories of Alice Munro in high school, the world opened up to me as both a person and a writer. Her work is so ambitious and complex in scope and simultaneously so intimate. As I get older, I also have found that I can reread one of her stories, especially one about marriage or motherhood, and perceive it in a different way as I myself evolve.”

The book that inspires me

“As research for Rodham, I read memoirs by all the female Unites States Senators who ran for President in 2020. The last chapter of Elizabeth Warren’s This Fight Is Our Fight makes a powerful case for standing up for the causes you believe in—at the level of pushing for legislation if you hold elected office, but also in smaller ways like wearing a “Love Trumps Hate” pin even now to show you don’t support racist or homophobic rhetoric.”

curtis sittenfeld

The book I always go back to

“I read the essay collection Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino last fall, and I keep recalling her brilliant insights about writing, gender, and how we perform our identities on the Internet. Early on in the book, she describes how she often wonders if her analysis and writing about a topic could have just as easily led her to the opposite conclusion as to the one she reached. I’ve felt this precise self-doubt for my entire life.”