Laura Lundgren: Novel Women
Her "press" is on my TBR and her recent read is one of my new favorites.
I’m thrilled to welcome Laura Lundgren for this installment of Novel Women, a series where we look at the reading lives of women. I’ve had the joy of sharing a few meals with Laura at different conferences over past five years. We actually met for the first time at the 2018 Festival of Faith and Writing Conference, which feels fitting considering this interview is ultimately about our favorite writing and authors. It was wonderful to get to know her as a “reader” through this interview.
Laura is an English teacher at a Christian school, teaching English at various levels from 6-12th grade. Laura likes run with her dog in the morning before work, and fit in as much reading, baking, and socializing as she can after work. She’s also a pastor's wife and very involved in her church community both in leading worship and in many less formal roles.
What's one of your earliest/first memories of reading?
LL: For several months in a row, I asked my parents to read the same book to me every night before bed. I remember reveling in the details and unfamiliar words like "delicatessen." It gave me a glimpse of life in an urban neighborhood that was very different from my small-town home. I longed to know the magic that allowed adults to get the words out of the books, and I don't really remember being taught to read. I just know that by the time I was in school I could and would read anything I could get my hands on, from cereal boxes and newspaper cartoons to novels.
Why do you read?
LL: I think I began reading because I was always pretty slow to process my own emotions, and stories gave me characters who could mentor me through different emotional situations. An early example of this is when my parents had to put my cat down. I didn't cry when they told me about the cat, but a few days later when we read about Laura Ingalls's dog Jack dying, I guess I cried a lot. That delayed reaction has always been typical for me and I think books gave me space to do that.
But that isn't the only reason. I read because I love really daring and nimble sentences. I read because there are so many good books. I read because I'm an extrovert and I want to be involved in any book-related conversation that ever happens; I want to be ready to recommend a great book to anyone who asks or to talk with equal enthusiasm about a book someone loved. I read because I've spent a lot of time learning how to be a good reader, and it is simply a pleasure to use those skills. I read because I'm curious about a lot of things. I read because books, through the library, are a free addiction (and usually an addiction people applaud). And I have to admit to less pure motives—fear of missing out on a great book and the thrill of achievement when I read a notoriously difficult book.
When and how do you read during your day? Do you prefer audiobooks, Kindle, or paper? A mix of all three?
LL: I am almost always in the middle of an audiobook (to be listened to when on walks/runs with my dog, or while doing chores), in the middle of a kindle book (to be read before bed or in the wee hours of the morning when I don't want to turn on the light) and a paper book (usually a book I've borrowed from a friend or the library and can't get on my kindle). I read more on the weekends and less during the week (for pleasure) though the nature of my job as an English teacher is that I am reading or engaging with poetry, plays, and scripture almost constantly.
What's a book you finished recently? Can you give us a one-sentence review?
LL: “Small Things Like These” by Claire Keegan. Watch as a quiet man begins to gather all the small things in his life, tracing the threads backwards and forwards, eventually realizing there is only one choice to be made.
What's your dream reading scenario?
LL: Hammock reading is my favorite because the posture is so perfectly suited to fully laying down while also supporting the neck at the proper angle for reading. But next to a roaring fire or locked in the driver's seat while I'm waiting for one of my kids are also perfectly delightful options as well.
Where do you find recommendations of what to read next?
LL: Readers I trust, Bookpages magazine from the library, AP Lit book lists (I'm an AP teacher), Goodreads, Authors I've loved in the past, Lithub Bookmarks reviews. It is a rare day when I don't look up a book I think I might enjoy.
If you could have dinner with three authors (at the same time), who would you choose? Any particular reason why those three?
LL: Madeline L'Engle—she read widely and could engage with so many different topics & she always saw possibility where others saw conflict.
Daniel Nayeri—he's so gracious and wise and fully aware of all the potency of language.
Wallace Stegner—his observations about human nature are poignant and rich.
All three write as if they are hungry to know more about the world & I would love to be in the presence of their curiosity and passion.
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?
LL: I've already "pressed" Everything Sad is Untrue on to anyone who would listen. I am always looking for that nearly impossible feat: a book that displays honest, fully-tested faith in God inside of a compelling, can't-put-it-down plot that uses daring literary techniques. Daniel Nayeri's story is a master class in storytelling and an unforgettable, unexpected hero's journey about his mom. I've read it many times and am increasingly in awe of his literary crafting every time. It's a work of genius and it's a story everyone should hear.
“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
—Rainer Maria Rilke—
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