Ann Hood is the author of the new novel The Book That Matters Most. Her other books include The Knitting Circle and The Red Thread. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New York Times and The Paris Review. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for this novel, and do you think most people do have one book that matters most to them?
A: I have been wanting to write a book that celebrated reading and the magic of books. One night I visited what seemed like the perfect book club. They were smart, funny, enthusiastic--and over 30 years of meeting had become like family.
On my way home that night it clicked--my book that celebrated reading could revolve around a book club.
I think most people have a book that mattered most during different times in their lives--in childhood, as a teenager, when they were in crisis, etc.
Q: You tell the story from the perspective not just of your character Ava and her daughter Maggie, but also various other characters. Did you plan that approach from the beginning, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: I typically write from multiple points of view, so I did know I'd use other characters' POVs.
Q: Many of the books your characters discuss at their book group are classics--did you assume your readers would know a certain amount about those books and how much background on them did you feel was needed?
A: When I can up with the idea, I asked everyone who came to my house what book mattered most to them. A couple dozen books came up an overwhelming amount of time, so I decided to use those for my fictional book clubs. I hope it inspires readers to reread these novels, or to read them for the first time.
Q: As someone who's been in and visited a variety of book clubs, what do you feel are some of their contributions, in both a literary and a social way?
A: Book clubs contribute a lot to the literary conversation, which I think is important. But they also provide a community for each other, a community that revolves around books but extends to emotionally supporting each other through good and bad times.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm working on two memoirs--one about the books I read as a teenager that helped shape me as an adult, and the other a memoir about food. And I've just started a new novel.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I hope The Book That Matters Most has readers pause and celebrate not only the books that mattered to them, but also the magic of reading.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb