In the summer of 2004, we asked authors featured in Meet the Writers to give us a list of their all-time favorite summer reads, and tell us what makes them just right for the season. Here's what Mary Yukari Waters had to say:
Here are my picks:
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain -- A fascinating peek at what really goes on in the kitchens of America's best restaurants.
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro -- Narrated by an English butler who is the last of his breed -- pitch-perfect, funny, and ultimately heartbreaking.
The Great Gatsby by Scott E. Fitzgerald -- If you've never read this wonderful American classic, make sure you read it during the summer.
A Room With A View by E. M. Forster -- A repressed Englishwoman discovers the passionate side of herself during a trip to Europe in the summer.
After the Banquet by Yukio Mishima -- The owner of a famous restaurant falls in love with one of her clients. My favorite Mishima novel.
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser -- I couldn't put it down. This expose of the fast food business is as strange as science fiction, but it's all true.
The Big Wave by Pearl S. Buck -- A boy loses his home and family in a tidal wave, but he can't imagine not living by the sea. I first read this as a child, and it was so powerful that it's stayed with me ever since.
My Antonia by Willa Cather -- A book whose gorgeous midwest scenes evoke all the heartfelt beauty of pioneer life. I always associate this book with summer.
The Red Pony by John Steinbeck -- This short book broke my heart when I was a child. It's yet another book that I associate with summer.
The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe -- A strange, unforgettable book about a man trapped in a strange desert village. It's also an excellent movie.
In the fall of 2003, Mary Yukari Waters took some time to talk with us about some of her favorite books, authors, and interests.
What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a writer -- and why?
As a child, I was profoundly affected by The Little Princess and The Secret Garden, which were both written by Frances Hodgson Burnett. They had an unusual beauty and depth that lingered long afterwards, and I've found over the years that they stand up to multiple rereadings.
What are your favorite books, and what makes them special to you?Violet Clay by Gail Godwin -- An insightful book about putting off your dreams and then having to come to terms with it. Told with a delightful sense of humor!
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee -- A wonderful book about justice, strength of character, and the magic of childhood -- who doesn't love this book?
To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf -- Amazing for how it deals with aspects of memory and distance. Woolf can evoke emotions and impressions that one would think are simply impossible to articulate in words.
Shirobamba by Yasushi Inoue -- One of the most affecting books I've read, about a young boy's childhood in old rural Japan.
A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf -- A lucid, fascinating treatise on the link between creativity and financial security.
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke -- I recommend this to anyone, poet or not. Rilke's is one of the most beautiful souls I've come across; his wisdom and insights are remarkable.
Summer by Edith Wharton -- A jewel of a book about a girl falling in love with a young man above her social station. Its pain and beauty are exquisitely rendered.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser, and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë -- because, for whatever reason, I find myself reading them again and again.
What are some of your favorite films, and what makes them unforgettable to you?
Afterlife, for its incredible creativity, humor, and rare ability to make you ponder the big issues for days afterward. I also like The Burmese Harp and A Scent of Green Papayas for their strange beauty.
What types of music do you like? Is there any particular kind you like to listen to when you're writing?
Lately I've been rediscovering Gladys Knight and the Pips, as well as Billie Holiday.
If you had a book club, what would it be reading -- and why?
Atonement by Ian McEwan -- a beautifully written book, and its ending just blew me away.
What are your favorite kinds of books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
I love attractive hardcover versions of my -- or their -- favorite books.
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