my life in books

Tavi Gevin­son, ac­tress and edi­tor of on­line mag­a­zine Rookie, talks the books that have shaped her life and ca­reer

ELLE (Australia) - - Contents -

Tavi Gevin­son on the reads that have shaped her.

FLOW­ERS FOR ALGERNON by Daniel Keyes ($22.99, Ha­chette Aus­tralia) I was ob­sessed with dark sub­jects as a kid; I read this when I was 12. It’s about a man called Char­lie who has an IQ of 68 and un­der­goes an op­er­a­tion to in­crease it. It’s ini­tially successful, but then he de­te­ri­o­rates. I cried – my dad ex­plained that if the op­er­a­tion had worked, Char­lie would have been liv­ing in a per­fect world where you can just fix things. It was a rad­i­cal con­cept for a 12-year-old. THE VIEW FROM SATUR­DAY by EL Konigs­burg ($7.99, Si­mon & Schus­ter) I first read this book when I was 10. It’s about a group of four gifted kids who are in­volved in a com­pe­ti­tion at school. When it comes to the fi­nal ques­tion, they are all able to an­swer it, but for dif­fer­ent rea­sons. I was hard on my­self in school and this book taught me to let go. It was good for me to learn that there are other types of knowl­edge, not just aca­demic. By the time I got to high school, I was get­ting a mix of grades – some weren’t good – but it felt okay be­cause I’d dis­cov­ered other in­ter­ests, such as blog­ging and fash­ion, which re­quired a dif­fer­ent type of knowl­edge. MISS­ING OUT: IN PRAISE OF THE UNLIVED LIFE by Adam Phillips ($24.99, Pen­guin Ran­dom House) This book is about peo­ple striv­ing to un­der­stand what art means. Phillips paints a pic­ture of a world where “get­ting it” means you miss out on other ex­pe­ri­ences. I read this last year when I per­formed in The Cru­cible. When you do a play, you have an idea of how a story should be told – if I said my lines only one way, I’d miss out on all the other facets of the char­ac­ter. THE SELFISHNESS OF OTH­ERS: AN ES­SAY ON THE FEAR OF NARCISSISM by Kristin Dombek ($26, Far­rar, Straus And Giroux) Narcissism is a spec­trum we’re all on. Dombek looks at the way the word is used to dis­miss peo­ple, of­ten to make the per­son do­ing the dis­miss­ing ap­pear more vir­tu­ous – a symp­tom of narcissism. This book is about mil­len­ni­als, so­cial me­dia and the way that the term “nar­cis­sist” can be used to turn peo­ple into heroes or vil­lains. It’s easy to list the rea­sons Trump is an in­com­pe­tent Pres­i­dent, but it’s more use­ful to ask, “What are the pow­ers that cre­ated him?” ARE YOU MY MOTHER? by Ali­son Bechdel ($37.99, Pen­guin Ran­dom House) I emo­tion­ally lost my­self in this book, which is about self-cen­tred par­ent­ing. I read it at a time when I was in the habit of dis­miss­ing peo­ple too quickly, but the book was very hu­man­is­ing. It made me re­alise that peo­ple aren’t per­fect; they’re a prod­uct of their cir­cum­stances and some­times peo­ple can­not be there for you in a way you’d like them to be. GIO­VANNI’S ROOM by James Bald­win ($14.99, Pen­guin Ran­dom House) This is about two men who have a ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship in Paris. The pas­sages about hu­man be­hav­iour are ap­pli­ca­ble to en­tire move­ments and eras. There’s a won­der­ful mo­ment where Bald­win ex­plains self-de­cep­tion and why it’s eas­ier than the al­ter­na­tive. I can’t think of any other es­say­ist who is able to write fic­tion that feels so full.

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