Caroline Phelps: Novel Women
Her author dinner sounds like a dream.
I’m thrilled to welcome Caroline Phelps for the first official installment of Novel Women, a series where we look at the reading lives of women.
Enjoy Caroline’s interview!
Caroline lives in her beloved Cincinnati neighborhood of (East) Walnut Hills with her cat, Dobby. By day, she serves as the Executive Director of SOTENI International, an NGO focusing on public health and economic wellbeing in Eastern and Southern Africa. By night, she is a voracious reader, needlepointer, and foreign policy nerd. She can be found occasionally on Instagram @carocincinnati and Goodreads.
What's one of your earliest/first memories of reading?
CP: One of my earliest memories of reading is reading storybooks before bed with my dad or listening to books on tape (yes, tapes!) on road trips. Another favorite early reading memory is reading The Magic Treehouse series (by Mary Pope Osborne) aloud to my brother during summer break.
When and how do you read during your day? Do you prefer audiobooks, Kindle, or paper? A mix of all three?
CP: I listen to audiobooks during the day (I always have an audiobook going) and read every night before bed. While I am not opposed to paperback or hardcover books, most of my reading is done on my Kindle because I have a cat that loves to lay on top of books and e-readers tend to be more maneuverable. I also travel a lot for work, and they are great for packing light! This has been a game-changer for the kid who used to bring duffel bags of books on summer vacations.
What's a book you finished recently? Can you give us a one-sentence review?
CP: “The Fellowship of the Ring”, J.R.R. Tolkien. This story is well-known and loved for good reason; Tolkien sets up a dark and impossible quest and turns it into an epic that is strangely comforting and true.
What's your dream reading scenario?
CP: My very favorite activity is setting up my hammock at my family's lake house in Northern Michigan and reading until I fall asleep.
Where do you find recommendations of what to read next?
CP: Friends, Goodreads, podcasts, etc... Pretty much everywhere!
If you could have dinner with three authors (at the same time), who would you choose? Any particular reason why those three?
CP: Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Mindy Kaling. I think all three would have lots to share about humor in general and in their specific contexts (Regency vs. Victorian vs. 21st Century, British vs. American, etc.) and it would be hilarious. They'd also have interesting conversation about different genres and mediums. Austen defended the novel, Dickens made it respectable, and all have opinions about acting. Kaling, obviously, would contribute insights about TV, movies, and adaptations. I'd LOVE to know what Austen and Dickens think about how their work has been adapted to different mediums.
I could go on, but maybe one last thing is I'd love to hear them interact on the topics of ethics, colonialism, and "charity." Austen had a lot to say about morality in terms of faith and personal relationships, but only briefly touched on social justice issues like slavery and local charity toward neighbors. Dickens, on the other hand, wrote a lot about social issues and absolutely skewered missionaries and "do-gooders" with characteristic sarcasm and wit. Kaling has written and spoken a lot about the effects of British and American colonialism in the modern world and her thoughts on moral outrage are both fascinating and funny.
One of my favorite podcasts, Currently Reading, "pressed" books for the first few seasons of their show. A "press" is a book that they think a variety of readers would enjoy.
What's a book you want to "press" and why?
CP: I recently "pressed" “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee into the hands of my best friend and she loved it! This book might not be an easy read for everyone (it's a lengthy, sometimes tragic family saga) but I think it's one that you'll keep thinking about even if you don't like it. Now that I've made that caveat, I'll say that I loved it and couldn't put it down. The story is so compelling, and has wonderfully illustrated insights on faith, family, war, love, racism, culture, and so much more. It has definitely influenced the way I see the world and I can't recommend it enough!
“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
—Rainer Maria Rilke—
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