The internet is a weird and terrifying place, but it can also lead you to meet some of the coolest people you might not otherwise have encountered in your day-to-day. Meet Grace Astrove, my pen pal and avid bibliophile currently residing in NYC. Grace loves books almost more than anyone I know. I mean, she has more than 900 books in her NYC apartment! So naturally, I thought of Grace when it came time to reach out to someone for our 13 Questions With A Book Lover feature. Read on to learn more about this delightful bookworm.
If you had to write the author bio for your imaginary book jacket, what would it say?
Born and raised in Richmond, VA, Grace Astrove moved to New York City 9 years ago to work in the museum field. She currently oversees corporate philanthropy and partnerships at the American Museum of Natural History. An avid reader and art lover since childhood, Grace spends much of her time reading, browsing her favorite bookstores and visiting museums and galleries in NYC.
What’s your earliest memory of falling in love with a book?
I have vivid memories of making my parents read me the same picture books again and again at bedtime, but what really made me fall in love with books and museums was reading From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg when I was 7 or 8. It was the first time I remember reading a book all on my own that wasn’t assigned in school and that I absolutely loved. I was swept up in the adventure and couldn’t put it down. I wanted to be Claudia Kincaid, and I definitely wanted to spend the night at the Met Museum, but I also wanted to find more stories to enjoy and more characters and places to help me understand myself and the world around me.
What types of books are you drawn to?
The sadder the better because I cannot resist a book that will break my heart. In terms of literary genres, I am drawn most to memoirs, contemporary fiction and historical fiction. As an avid bookshop browser and #bookstagrammer, I definitely do judge a book by its cover, for better or worse, and am drawn to cover art that I find visually engaging. I just hope that the pages behind the cover are equally as incredible!
What are three books you think Glitter Guide readers should read and why?
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is my most beloved book and one that I have returned to many times. It is a classic that every woman should read or re-read. Though written nearly 60 years ago, it feels incredibly modern and I love that as I change and mature, the book impacts me differently with each reading. Touching on themes of mental health, isolation, imposter syndrome, feminism, societal expectations and mother-daughter relationships, there is something for everyone.
No One Tells You This by Glynnis MacNicol is one of my favorite memoirs. Her writing is sharp and insightful, haunting and empathetic. I think it is an essential read for women who are going through it or encountering/embracing the questions that plague many women in their 30s and 40s about careers, marriage, children and friendships. I don’t want to give away too much other than I know you will want to immediately share this with the women in your life.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh is dark, funny, painful and weird in the best possible way. I urge you to take a chance on this book even if it doesn’t seem like your cup of tea at first. A perfect book for this era of languishing brought on by the pandemic, which many of us are feeling deeply, it made me understand physical, mental and emotional rest in a new way.
One more, because I cannot resist — read more poetry! It is available so widely and for free on social media and websites like Poetry Foundation, poets.org and Poetry is Not a Luxury. Read, explore and discover what you love; I recommend Mary Oliver, Claudia Rankine, Sara Teasdale and Kate Baer to get you started.
What was the last book you read?
I just finished reading Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong for my book club and I highly recommend it!
If you were to write your own memoir, what would the title be?
High Anxiety, Low Maintenance: A Memoir
How do you like to organize your books?
My four main bookshelves are organized by genre (fiction, memoir, essay collection, short story collection, poetry, non-fiction, art history, feminism, classics, cookbooks, books on books, books about NYC, books about Paris, etc.) except where an entire author’s work lives together. The rest of my books are in piles around my apartment wherever I can find room. There are many piles of exhibition catalogues and art books, a stack on my bedside table of reads I revisit often, a TBR pile sitting on my windowsill, some childhood favorites on my desk and then an overflow pile from the main bookshelves. It’s very organized chaos, which is what you would expect with 900 books in a NYC apartment, but I love it.
Paperback, hardcover, digital or audio?
All of the above! I like to read physical copies of books whenever possible and don’t have a strong preference for paperback or hardcover. I read quite a lot on my Kindle, either New York Public Library digital loans or when I am lucky enough to get digital advance reader copies from NetGalley. I was not an audiobook listener until recently because I felt like I couldn’t retain the information from a novel unless I was physically reading it, but I have started to really enjoy listening to memoirs or nonfiction audiobooks and always have one going.
What literary character has stuck with you long after you finished the book?
I still think about Camille Preaker from Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects almost a decade after reading it. She is messy and damaged with an unforgiving and critical outlook on the world and the people around her. Though I have never experienced the degree of pain and trauma the character has, there is something universal in her experiences and how she deals with them. Since reading Sharp Objects I have been drawn to more books with these types of female characters — Lisa Taddeo’s Animal, Kate Elizabeth Russell’s My Dark Vanessa and Melissa Broder’s The Pisces, for example.
Do you have any favorite local bookstores?
I almost exclusively buy used books and love the shopping experience of used bookstores because you get to discover hidden treasures and buy more for less. I am so lucky to live in NYC where there is a wealth of used bookstores, some of my favorites are Argosy Book Store, Westsider Rare & Used Books, Mercer Street Books and Strand, which has a mixture of new and used.
Do you have a preferred setting or any rituals when you read?
My ideal setting for reading is at my family’s house on the Chesapeake Bay — on the dock, in the sun, with the sound of the waves rolling in or on the porch outside my bedroom in the evening. At home in NYC, I read every night for an hour or two before bed, a ritual that I committed myself to doing a few years ago. I usually light a candle, the Paddywax library collection candles are the perfect size and scent for my nightstand, and curl up with my cat, George, and do my best to not check my phone in between each chapter.
Which three authors would you like to have a drink with?
Fran Lebowitz, Susan Orlean and Melissa Broder
What is currently on your TBR pile?
It’s a very long list, but at the top of the TBR pile is Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland, The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris, Know My Name by Chanel Miller, Leonora in the Morning Light by Michaela Carter and Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason.
Thank you, Grace! Connect with her on IG at @gracieisbooked
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