17 Apr What is Anna Cohn Orchard Reading?
Today, in our series What Are You Reading, we ask Director of the Exeter City of Literature Anna Cohn Orchard what she’s reading now, her favourite books of all time, and the one that never gets away!
What are you reading at the moment? Why would our readers enjoy reading it?
I’ve got 3 books on the go at the moment: Histories by Herodotus, which at first was overwhelming with names and places but once I started reading it as a story for pleasure rather than a history book to learn from it became a lot more enjoyable, and even funny at times. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead–my friend and I are in a 1-1 book club together, so we’re reading it to discuss later. I’ve only just begun, but I’m hooked. And Becoming Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty. Jaclyn is one of my favorite writers (and humans). No one writes an epistolary novel like her or can combine quirkiness and warmth in equal measure like her.
The most memorable book you read in 2020; and why?
Sula by Toni Morrison. Toni Morrison is a master, an absolute craftsperson of the written word. The only reason I haven’t devoured all her books already is because I give them to myself as treats, knowing that there’s a finite amount of her work left to read. Everything Morrison conjures up is evocative and memorable in some way; each reader can take away something different, but profound, from her work. In my first read, it was memorable because of the hows and whys people leave or stay in a small town, and the rules we create within our relationships. Who knows what I’ll come away with in my second, third, and fourth re-reads.
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters came out the first week of 2021, so I sort of consider it a 2020 book. I rarely read books when they first come out, but my sister Martha lent me their copy and I thought it was a brilliant read: sardonic, witty, charming.
A book you return to and reread; and why?
Re-reading books is a great pleasure for me, though the ones I return to the most are the children’s and young adult books I read at that age. To go back into the mind of a teenager, and all the angst and energy that comes with that, I’ll reread my sister Rachel Cohn’s books. For the comfort of childhood, I’ll re-read anything by Astrid Lindgren.
Your favourite book of all time; and why?
This is an impossible question! Favourite is such a fluid term; my favourite book will depend on my given mood, what my Swiss cheese memory can recall, my emotional needs at the time of reading (or re-reading)…This is why I could never go on Desert Island Discs. My favourite book about art and the arbitrary constraints we put on ourselves is My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok (if you loved the Netflix show Shtisel, you’ll love this book and vice versa). My favourite book when I need a cry is On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. My favorite book about self-determination, and for the beauty of language, is Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. My favorite novel for humor, rage, and spirit is Zuckerman Unbound by Philip Roth.
Anna Cohn Orchard
Anna Cohn Orchard comes to the Exeter City of Literature from a background rich in literature and partnership-building. Anna began her career interning at Scholastic under David Levithan in New York before becoming Assistant Editor. A lifelong reader of Roald Dahl, Anna ran the US celebration of Roald Dahl’s centenary in 2016, designing immersive campaigns in partnership with businesses, bookshops, and nature organizations that attracted thousands of participants nationwide. At the Museum of Food and Drink in Brooklyn, Anna turned public programming into a robust and successful outfit, creating and producing sold out event series such as Eat*Drink*Read and Global Cultures, Global Cuisines. Anna returned to Exeter to do her master’s at the University of Exeter having grown up here as a child. She received her B.A. in English Literature from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. A love of literature runs deep in the family; Anna’s Jewish-American father was a bookseller who owned bookshops around the world—including Anagram in Prague, Westside in Wells, and Logos in Amherst—and her older sister is the author, Rachel Cohn. (Photo credit: Nicole Lebenson Angulo)