Today we present May’s featured reader for our Page Turners of Jefferson County series, which asks a local resident to reflect on the role books and reading have played in his or her life.
Faithe McCreery is a curator and public engagement specialist at the Jefferson County Museum. A recent transplant to Charles Town, Faithe has been a great asset to the museum, where she has developed some really wonderful displays this season! Be sure to stop into the Jefferson County Museum and say hello.
What books are currently on your nightstand?
Well, there are two books that I always keep on my nightstand because they’re a great inspiration for starting or ending the day: a copy of We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and a book of excerpts from Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches that I bought at Dr. King’s birth home in Atlanta. I was reading What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell before bed last night, so that’s also sitting on my nightstand right now.
What genres do you especially enjoy reading?
I think my tastes are pretty eclectic. I love mysteries, psychological thrillers, science fiction, biographies, world history, anthropology…and you can’t go wrong with the literary “classics” (although I recognize that’s a subjective term). I keep track of everything that I read, and I try to keep it roughly balanced between fiction and nonfiction.
Where and when do you most like to read?
I always carry a book with me so that I can squeeze in a few pages when I have nothing else going on: when I’m in a long line at the grocery store, I’m out to dinner by myself, I show up early to an appointment…There’s never a good time NOT to read! The radio in my car doesn’t work very well, so I’ve recently started listening to audiobooks while I drive, which is a new experience that I really like.
Which book most impacted your career?
175 Best Jobs Not Behind a Desk, by Michael Farr and Laurence Shatkin, helped me to realize what I wanted to do for a living (although, ironically, I do work behind a desk). Reinventing the Museum, edited by Gail Anderson, helped me to clarify how I wanted to go about this kind of work.
Who is your favorite fictional character?
I’d have to go with Randle Patrick McMurphy from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, my favorite novel of all-time. He’s a brash, fearless, unbridled force who thwarts authority by laughing in its face and, ultimately, becomes a martyr to his values. In a practical sense, I wouldn’t say that I have a whole lot in common with McMurphy–but when I think about him walking onto the ward for the first time and laughing so hard that it laps against the walls and echoes around him…it gives me goosebumps.
What’s the last book you put down without finishing?
A couple of months ago, I got about halfway through a Da Vinci Code-esque thriller called Rule of Four, but I was just not into it. I donated it at a used book sale and brought home about five new books in its place!
Which three authors (living or dead) would you invite to a dinner party? What would you ask them?
I’d invite Zora Neale Hurston, Agatha Christie, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. We’d all dress up like the bee’s knees, and it would be fabulous. I don’t even know what I’d ask them; I’d just sit back and let them talk while I absorbed it all. Well . . . I’d ask Fitzgerald to mix cocktails.
What book read in school made the greatest impression on you?
When I was in high school, Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities really opened my eyes. It’s about disparities in American public schooling, and the way that certain segments of our population are treated like second-class citizens. Sadly, although the book is a quarter-century old, not much has changed in many of these communities. I’ve gone on to read many of Kozol’s books and have seen him speak in person, and am a very big fan of his work.
If you had to name a book that made you who you are today, what would it be?
I don’t think that I could pick just one. One of Chuck Palahniuk’s characters said, in Invisible Monsters, “I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known.” I think reading is like that. Some books feel more influential than others, but every single thing that you take in makes a mark on your psyche and leaves you a slightly different person than you were before. It’s the accumulation of all these small and major changes together that makes us who we are.
Which five books would you take with you on a desert island?
This is a really hard question! It’s like choosing which of my children I love the most . . . but since I have to give you an answer, I’ll go with Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, and James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.
Is there a book you’ve read & liked that you’re embarrassed to admit? Guilty pleasure?
Ohhhh, yes. I’m a bit sheepish about how much Stephen King I read. I also have a real soft spot for schlocky, forgettable mysteries and Philippa Gregory-type historical romances–stuff that doesn’t make me think too hard, like junk food for my brain. A friend of mine tells me that any reading is good reading, and that we shouldn’t place value judgments on the ways that we choose to expand our minds. I agree, in theory–but would I rather a house guest notice the copy of Dante’s Inferno on my shelf before The Other Boelyn Girl? Haha, yes.
What do you plan to read next?
I have multiple “to-read” piles around my house. I may change my mind, but Alan Cumming’s memoir Not My Father’s Son, Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, and Carl Sagan’s Contact are all pretty high on the queue right now.