Amherst Magazine

What They Are Reading

We asked Constance Congdon, playwright-in-residence, what she has been reading lately. Here’s what she told us:

I have a small city of books by my bed. There is, first, the tent city. It is composed of books I’m halfway through and, lacking a book marker, have put face down to keep my place. I see these making up a sort of “Hooverville,” or a temporary squat for homeless books. They are homeless because I will probably never finish them, so they won’t be given away to someone who would take care of them, nor will they ever find a place on one of my book shelves. They are mostly paperbacks.

However, the tent city is dwarfed by the nearby stacks of hardback books and borrowed books and paperbacks that I want to keep in good condition. I would call this the downtown area of my book city. It is from these cantilevered structures that I will make my list:

Autobiography of Red is a novel in verse by Anne Carson (1999). The Rabbi’s Cat, by Joann Sfar (2005), is a graphic novel that I got because visiting writer Alex Chee recommended it, and he was right about Epileptic (by David B., 2006), which was another graphic novel that was amazing. There is a book of plays by Stanislaw I. Witkiewicz called Tropical Madness and a historical novel called Perilous Times (by Geoffrey R. Stone, 2004).

Also in the downtown area is a book about an ecological crisis. The crisis is the subject of a play I am writing. The book’s title is Water Wars (by Vandana Shiva, 2002), and there’s subtitle but I… can’t… quite… see… it because it is wedged between The History of Hell (by Alice K. Turner, 1995) and We (by Yevgeny Zamyatin, 1921). We is a terrific Russian dystopian novel that preceded and influenced George Orwell.

The book I am currently reading, which I have in bed with me right now, is The Shakespeare Wars, by Ron Rosenbaum (2006). I’ve already annotated about half of it because it is fascinating and I want to remember it.

In the bathroom I have a copy of The Family, Kitty Kelly’s book about the Bush family (2004). I read a bit whenever I go into that particular room to sit. Oh, and there is this tremendously upsetting but wonderful book that I just finished called The Worst Hard Time, by Timothy Egan (2005). Egan collected and wrote several stories of people who survived the Dust Bowl era, the period of drought in the southwestern Great Plains between 1930 and 1940. Since that is part of my family history, I had to read it, and I’m so glad I did.