Have you ever read Lawrence Wright’s books?
Lawrence Wright (born 2 August 1947) is a fascinating American writer and journalist, who is also a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, and a fellow at the Center for Law and Security at the New York University School of Law. He is best known as the author of the 2006 nonfiction book “Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11”, which won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 2007.
In a recent chat with The New York Times, he answered some questions about books and suggested that a reader’s impression of the quality of a book/writer is dependent on time. Are you wondering how? Find out in the interview here:
What books are on your nightstand?
I just finished Elaine Pagels’s “Why Religion?” and replaced it with “The Sullivanians,” by Alexander Stille. I’ve started “Mornings in Jenin,” by Susan Abulhawa. I’m waiting to begin A.J. Liebling’s collection of World War II writings. Some books on my nightstand I’ve read long ago but pick them up to get a taste of what they meant to me. Two in that category are “Moby-Dick” and “Sophie’s Choice.” Three or four others at the bottom have rooted in place.
What’s the last great book you read?
“The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” by William L. Shirer. It had been weighing down a shelf (over 1,200 pages) for years, but I was in a gloomy mood about our politics and thought it might help me understand the historical parallels. Shirer was on the ground as Nazi power reached its height, then he covered the war that followed. It is an unsettling, shocking book, but a thrilling piece of reporting.
Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?
“The Last Hurrah,” by Edwin O’Connor. I was writing a novel about politics and this is one of the great ones. My novel is set in Texas, and O’Connor’s in New England, but the precision of detail made his Irish Catholic city immediately believable and wonderful fun.
Can a great book be badly written?
Books are creatures of their time. I often look back on a book I thought was wonderful and inspiring and found it to be maudlin and flowery or have some other defect of character I overlooked. It could be that literary fashions have changed or I’ve gotten older, and of course, both are true. But I’m struck by the fact that so many writers I grew up loving (Walker Percy, Günter Grass, Saul Bellow) have been plowed under while an elect few (Hemingway, Didion) manage to stay current.
What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?
I’m surprised so few people read Liebling, whose book “The Earl of Louisiana” — about Earl Long, the governor, and Huey’s younger brother — was among the ones that inspired me to set my sights on The New Yorker. He’s a great reporter but he also has a wicked eye for detail. I just love that book.
Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?
Ayad Akhtar, David Chase, Suzan-Lori Parks, Jesse Armstrong, Ian McEwan, Jane Smiley.
Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?
A few years ago three of my friends and I decided to read “The Denial of Death,” by Ernest Becker. It was too intimidating to tackle alone. We were all grappling with mortality. It wasn’t a book club and we never read another book together, but that experience of meeting once a week in a beer garden to talk over our fears and the meaning of our lives was a bracing and bonding experience.
What book would you recommend for America’s current political moment?
I’ve just started the galley for “Gods, Guns, and Sedition: Far-Right Terrorism in America,” by Bruce Hoffman and Jacob Ware, which provides an incisive look at the rise of extremism on the right. It’s a chilling tale.
We love this interview! Lawrence Wright is undoubtedly a renowned American author, journalist, and screenwriter known for his investigative reporting and non-fiction books. He has received accolades for works like “The Looming Tower,” which delves into the events leading up to 9/11, and he has earned a Pulitzer Prize for his in-depth journalism.
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