Kate DiCamillo Says ‘Paying Attention Is a Way to Love the World’

What books are on your night stand?

On the literal night stand, the pile includes Alice McDermott’s “The Ninth Hour” (I loved last fall’s “Absolution” so much that I went searching for every McDermott I had missed); “The Best American Short Stories 2023”; and Niall Williams’s “This Is Happiness” (a book that I am rereading in an attempt to figure out the magic and calm my soul). At the top of the pile that is by my armchair (and where I give myself permission to read a little in the afternoon, after the writing is done): “The Water Dancer”by Ta-Nehisi Coates; Gene Luen Yang and LeUyen Pham’s new graphic novel, “Lunar New Year Love Story”; and a little book called “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics”by Carlo Rovelli.

How do you organize your books?

They weren’t organized at all until the pandemic. During that time of solitude and uncertainty, I went through every bookshelf in the house. There were many duplicates of books that I loved (three copies of “Gilead,”two of “Old Filth”) because I could never find them when I wanted them, and so I would end up just buying another copy. I’m happy to report that the books are now organized alphabetically by author, and the extra copies have been put into other people’s hands.

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

I am most myself when I am sitting in an armchair holding a physical book. I am an underliner, a dog-earer. I like a patch of sun, a cup of coffee and a dog somewhere nearby. This is heaven.

What’s the last great book you read?

For me a great book is a book that I want to make someone else read immediately. And, too, a great book is one that makes me want to tell a story back. The last story that made me feel that way was in the 2023 “Best American Short Stories.” It’s by Da-Lin. A story entitled “Treasure Island Alley.” Will you read it? Huh? Huh? Will you?

What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?

One of the great, good gifts of being older is that I have learned to say these words: “I don’t know” and “I haven’t read that.” Being able to say those things gets rid of the embarrassment. That said, there are books that I would like very much to read that I have not. On that list: “Remembrance of Things Past” and “Don Quixote.” Wish me luck.

What’s the last book that made you laugh?

“A Bear Called Paddington” by Michael Bond.

That made you cry?

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