What Are You Reading, Cassandra Powers?

Cassandra Powers, baker at Lux Coffeebar and creative writing student at ASU, always has a book (or two or three) close at hand. She confidently recommends poetry and the books in her living room are as warm and inviting as a hearth.

What are you reading?
I always have too many books going at once. Right now, I'm reading Nightwood by Djuna Barnes, Living to Be 100 by Robert Boswell and a slew of American Modernist poetry (think Pound and Loy) for school.

What was your last guilty pleasure read? When I have time, I read westerns. Unashamedly, though, so I don't know if I'd consider them guilty pleasures. My copy of Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry has started to fall apart from the number of times I've read it.

To answer the question, then--the last western I read was True Grit by Charles Portis, which was pretty awesome.

Paper or e-book? 
Okay, so I get the appeal of e-books. If you travel frequently or if you're a student who doesn't feel like schlepping around a ton of textbooks, than an e-book would be pretty convenient.

That being said ... paper, paper, paper. There's something special about holding a book in your hands. It's a tangible object; it has its own weight and feel. You can write in it. You can underline sentences that move or intrigue you. You can spill coffee on its pages and years later, upon rereading it, remember how you simultaneously burned your lap and stained the couch.

Most importantly, though, is how you can develop a relationship with a book. They take on a life of their own, those strange little vessels that get worn and mishandled and loved.

An example: I still have my copy of As I Lay Dying from high school. On one of the pages, in the margin, fourteen-year-old me wrote, "this is so stupid." I laugh every time I see that because it's now one of my favorite books. That marginalia is a physical testament to my personal growth--once, I thought Faulkner was stupid for trying to negotiate fifteen (fifteen!) first person narrators; now, I think he's brilliant for doing it successfully and for writing a story that leaps off the page and lingers.

You can't really have that kind of relationship with a digital book. Besides, there have been about a hundred million studies on content retention in relation to paper reading and e-reading. If you read something on a page, you're more likely to remember it than if you read it on a screen. I may have exaggerated the number of studies; I really only read one. That was not intended as a factual statement. But you get the point. 

Name three books that should be required reading...

Two that are already almost always required reading, and should stay so: To Kill a Mockingbird and Huck Finn. Both are incredible stories that get people hooked and also have a deeper meaning to them.

I remember the first time I finished To Kill a Mockingbird and thought, 'oh.' Like, that punch in the gut feeling you get from really good fiction. I loved the story and I loved the message. Everyone and their mother should read both of those books.

I also think people should read more contemporary poetry, and because I have a habit of pushing my literary tastes on others, I am going to recommend that everyone stop what they're doing right now and acquire a copy of Winter Stars by Larry Levis. That collection of poetry will incapacitate you every single time you revisit it. In my imaginary dream world, Larry Levis would definitely be required reading.

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