Angela is Cosmopolitan's Editor-at-Large for Books, and host of a podcast about literature called The LitUp Show. But to me, she's the best friend I longed for when I was nine and felt like no one on earth would understand who I was and why I liked Stacy better than Dawn, and Claudia better than the rest of the Babysitters Club book characters. Though I've left that nine year old girl behind, a part of her still exists inside me, and Angela is the steadfast, book loving friend of my childhood dreams -- and perhaps yours, too.
Photography by: Laurel Golio
GAL: As Books Editor-at-Large at Cosmopolitan you receive hundreds of review copies from publishers. How do you choose what to read and review for the magazine?
AL: First, I ask myself if the Cosmo reader would be drawn to the book. Will she want to hear from this writer? Is the book going to be part of the cultural conversation? Will she relate to it, or will it inform her in some way? Lastly, would I support her spending money on it? If I can say yes to most of these questions, then I include it. I work with two excellent editors Katie Connor and Rachel Mosely, together we have these kinds of discussions and then work out the mix for coverage.
GAL: Is there a "profile" of the Cosmo reader that informs your choices?
AL: To me the Cosmo reader is fun-loving, smart and savvy. She’s interested in reading the latest celeb memoir and the buzzy literary novel everyone’s talking about.
GAL: How do you select the authors for your podcast Lit Up? Does the process differ?
AL: It differs slightly. I think of myself as the Lit Up listener and I gravitate towards many international authors and some more serious topics. Lit Up’s producer Britton Schey is an avid reader. She helps me decide who’s right for the show. We choose writers we admire and think will be spontaneous and sincere in an interview situation. We try to mix up the tone of each episode. No one wants to hear only dark and troubling stories, as necessary as they are. I get quite affected by what I’m reading so I have to balance the light and the dark.
GAL: What book, or books, turned you into a lifelong reader?
AL: I’ve always been a reader. My Diary: by Kylie Mole by Maryanne Fahey, the Sweet Valley High series and Judy Bloom’s Are You There God it’s Me Margaret were very important to me as a kid, as well as Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta. Orwell’s Animal Farm astounded and crushed me. I distinctly remember studying Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy and Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens in high school and reveling in these studies of human nature. I have to give credit to the school I went to, Abbotsleigh, in Sydney, Australia. English class was the favorite part of my day. I wrote a romance novella in year 9 that involved a dog in labor during a dangerous storm. It had a steamy conclusion though it thankfully didn't involve the newborn puppies. I also had (and still have) a childhood friend, Fiona, who influenced my reading habits early on. She was a very sophisticated reader for a twelve-year-old, so she would discover the books and pass them on.
GAL: Are lifelong readers born, or they created over time?
AL: You’re lucky if you get born into a family that reveres books and encourages reading, but I think readers can be created over time. It only takes one special book to get you hooked. There are also so many genres to pick from—there’s no need to think reading has to be stuffy and serious.
GAL: Do you have a favorite genre? Do you prefer non-fiction to fiction?
AL: I like good books whatever the genre, though I do gravitate towards literary fiction. I often read to learn about different places and ideas and to understand a new perspective, so non-fiction and memoirs hit the spot too.
GAL: Who is your favorite author?
AL: My favorite writer is almost whoever is on Lit Up that week, so I switch allegiances weekly. If I have a lovely experience with someone it cements them at the top of the list. That said, I greatly admire Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Americanah is a special book to me because it captures the push and pull of home. Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Max Porter’s Grief is the Thing With Feathers and Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation have stuck with me long after putting them down. I adore Zadie Smith and love listening to her on podcasts—anything to hear her voice and her opinions on the world. I have to include Siri Hustvedt and Ann Patchett. And Tolstoy—the brilliance of Anna Karenina is still shocking to me.
GAL: What are you currently reading for yourself, not for the purpose of reviewing?
AL: I often pick up one of my favorite books, Interviews with Artists 1966-2012, by art critic Michael Peppiatt. It’s the kind of book you can open at any page when you need a snippet of insight from a great artist. Sometimes I pinch his questions.
I also just started reading this start this year’s Pulitzer Prize-winner, The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen.
GAL: We have a friend who has a “Sanity Shelf” dedicated to books she returns to again and again, to reread for pleasure, knowledge, and solace. What books would be on your Sanity Shelf?
AL: Michael Peppiatt’s book would be there for sure. For me a sanity shelf would include comforting books. For me, that includes poetry by Mattea Harvey and Emily Dickinson, as well the children’s books The BFG, The Wind and the Willows, and Winnie the Pooh. I’d add Lauren Redniss’s three visual non-fiction books and anything by Charles Dickens because I like how the wicked get what’s coming to them in his books. Essays by Zadie Smith’s and Christopher Hitchens for common sense would be there, and all the books by Australian art historian Robert Hughes. And Shakespeare.
GAL: How satisfying is it to do your podcast?
AL: It is the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done to date.
GAL: Do you have a favorite podcast or two you'd recommend as an introduction to your program?
AL: I recently interviewed Maria Semple. She entered the room with the most positive and infectious energy and the conversation was wacky and wonderful because of it. Stephanie Danler and I had a lot in common because we’d both worked in restaurants for years. Her experiences inspired her book Sweetbitter—a great read. The episode with Mary Louise Parker episode sticks in my mind. Her book Dear Mr. You affected me very deeply and speaking with her in person was a lovely experience. I was extremely nervous beforehand and had to do some breathing exercises to keep it together!
GAL: What do you hope to accomplish with LitUp?
AL: I want to continue to offer a platform where people can hear from the writers they love, and I hope to provide a place where listeners can discover new and important voices. Ultimately, I’d love it to reach as many book lovers as possible.
GAL: Please name three books you recommend reading.
AL: The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
I'm Supposed to Protect You from All This by Nadja Spiegelman