Welcome to Shelf Life, ELLE.com’s books column, in which authors share their most memorable reads. Whether you’re on the hunt for a book to console you, move you profoundly, or make you laugh, consider a recommendation from the writers in our series, who, like you (since you’re here), love books. Perhaps one of their favorite titles will become one of yours, too.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia isn’t bound by genre. She’s written crime, fantasy, magic realism, horror (last year’s New York Times bestseller Mexican Gothic), and noir, including Velvet Was the Night (Del Rey), out this week. Her seventh novel due out next year, The Daughter of Dr. Moreau, is science fiction.
As a kid, the Mexico-born, Vancouver-based Moreno-Garcia was fascinated by books with jackets featuring women fleeing from castles. She’s not only an acclaimed author but a science fiction and fantasy columnist (Washington Post), a publisher (Innsmouthfree Press) and an editor of numerous anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, the subject of her master’s thesis in science and technology studies at the University of British Columbia, where she works in communications.
She’s joked that stubbornness made her go into writing as a dyslexic, did a Hot Victorian Scientist of the Week (think Nicolas Tesla) while doing her master’s, plots her books on Post-Its or napkins and creates Pinterest boards and playlists for them, is in the LibraryReads Hall of Fame, and will serve as an executive producer for the Hulu TV adaptation of Mexican Gothic.
Likes: old movies, old things, 60s-70s music (the daughter of journalists who worked at a radio station grew up among a large vinyl collection, looking at clothes in museums. Interests: mycology, cults, academic papers on obscure subject matters.
The book that:
…I read in one sitting, it was that good:
When I was a teenager I zipped through an omnibus of The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny during a weekend. He also wrote a very fun novel called A Night in the Lonesome October, which I’m surprised hasn’t had a new edition.
…I swear I’ll finish one day:
A few years ago I read two very cute, funny mystery novels by Kellye Garrett, Hollywood Homicide and Hollywood Ending. I was waiting for the third in the series to come out, but her publisher closed shop. I hope someone else will pick up the series.
…I recommend over and over again:
Bear by Marian Engel is an award-winning Canadian novel that, unfortunately at one point in the 1970s, was graced with a book cover that made it look like a bodice ripper. It’s actually a very good novel about womanhood, loneliness, and nature. And yes, there’s a bear. No, it’s hardly sexy unless you think the depression and mental breakdown in The Bell Jar was sexy. It’s a beautiful, sad little book that I wish more people would consider without snickering.
…currently sits on my nightstand:
Review copies of My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones and a copy of Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson.
…I’d pass onto my kid:
I didn’t pass it on, but one of my kids stole my copy of Stephen King’s The Shining. Their verdict: It’s ok.
…I’d like turned into a Netflix show:
I’m surprised nobody has adapted Tanith Lee. She had a magnificent set of dark fantasy novels set in an alternate Paris called The Secret Books of Paradys. Also the Héctor Belascoáran Shayne novels. I know Paco Ignacio Taibo II is not as well-known in the U.S. as he is in Latin America, but that series of detective novels beg to get the TV show treatment (they have been adapted before in Mexico as movies, albeit with modest budgets).
…made me laugh out loud:
I chuckled all the way through the section on Conan the Barbarian in Nobody Cries at Bingo by Dawn Dumont, which details life growing up at the Okanese First Nation reservation.
…I last bought:
I just ordered Bath Haus by P.J. Vernon. I heard someone say it was like Fatal Attraction with a gay protagonist, and I loved watching that movie when I was younger. I also bought a copy of The Servant by Robin Maugham, so maybe I’m following an unconscious theme.
…has the best title:
Most of the classic crime novels of the pulp golden age have magnificent titles. The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Bride Wore Black, A Kiss Before Dying. You can’t top that.
…has the best opening line:
“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.” From The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.
…has the greatest ending:
Aura by Carlos Fuentes has one of the most surprising and bizarre endings.
…I’ve re-read the most:
I own a pocket copy of The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.
…features the coolest book jacket:
For old book covers, the 1972 cover of A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess is a blast. But for more recent books, the orange cover of Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams with the details of the face missing and an elaborate hairdo is pitch perfect. And all the covers of Grady Hendrix books hit just the right note.
…surprised me in some way:
I had not read Moby Dick by Herman Melville because I thought it was a boring book. Then I began reading this Moby Dick Twitter account and loved the quotes it posted so much, I read the book. I had been lied to for years—it’s not boring at all!
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