It’s Lit Part II – A Curated Winter Reading List

Photographed by Shelby Duncan.
Welcome to It’s Lit – a series of discussions about books. Join us every month to find out who’s reading what. This month, TV writer Camilla Blackett spoke to us from her Los Angeles home. Born in Reading, Camilla started writing for television at the tender age of 18 on the first series of Skins. Since moving to LA she’s worked on Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom and New Girl. She is currently executive story editor of Fresh Off the Boat, a critically acclaimed sitcom that challenges Asian American stereotypes with alternative immigrant narratives. As a writer, Camilla acknowledges that “it would be a bit silly if I didn’t read.” For her, books are not only educational but are also “a form of therapy, time travel and relief,” she says. Who taught you to read? That's a good question and I'm not entirely sure. I'd say a mixture of my first primary school teacher June Hardcastle and my Uncle Andrew, who brought me a constant stream of Roald Dahl books every Friday. Also, I think being a solitary child who preferred books to other children certainly helped.

What are you reading right now?
I just finished Swing Time by Zadie Smith, which was both riveting and disappointing. Also, Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit, which I thoroughly recommend for anyone depressed after this tampon fire of an election.
Photographed by Shelby Duncan.
What were your main news sources during the election? The Guardian, Washington Post, The New York Times, Al Jazeera and The Economist. But also Fox News and Breitbart – I found it important to read what the other side was saying, even if it was fucking insane. LA is full of fantastic independent bookshops – do you have a favourite? Stories Books & Cafe in Echo Park, though Bookmarc on Melrose Place is a close second. Stories wins out because, as well as being a well-curated mix of mainstream, niche and local literature, it's also a very pleasant place to sit and write for an afternoon. Also they recently started serving wine and honestly, what could be more civilised?

Where and when do you tend to read?
On the sofa, in the kitchen, in my office and I get a lot done in the bath. Do you read books to research screenwriting projects? How did you prep for The Newsroom? Of course. Newsroom required a lot of news consumption, obviously. I read Ted Turner's book [Call Me Ted] and Lifespan of a Fact by John D'Agata and Jim Fingal, which is a brilliant book co-written by a journalist and a fact-checker. It's essentially a journalistic piece with the fact-checker challenging at every step. It's wonderfully antagonistic, dynamic, very enlightening and terribly gripping.
Photographed by Shelby Duncan.
Do you read a lot of magazines? I love a good magazine. I have a subscription to Texture, which is basically Netflix for magazines, and I can't live without it. I am equal parts Architectural Digest, NYMag, Women's Health and Vanity Fair, although they really need to cool it with features on Jackie O – like, we get it. Are you part of a book club? I find the idea of joining one very appealing but as I loathe the idea of homework I fear that it would add to my perennial obligations anxiety. I do hear they have cheese and wine though, so I'll probably come around eventually.
How do you choose/ find out about what to read next? My friend Nadia, my friend Priyanka, The Guardian book reviews and, shamefully, the Amazon app. What book would you give as a gift? Cookbooks usually. I do know I need to stop giving out Marie Kondo as nobody enjoys a passive-aggressive gift telling them to tidy up a bit.
Photographed by Shelby Duncan.
Photographed by Shelby Duncan.

How do you organise your books at home?
They are scattered in piles around my house. One day I will get bookshelves.

Do you keep track of what you read?
I don't, which is why I need bookshelves and for someone to help me tidy up a bit.

What do you use as a bookmark?
Whatever receipt happens to be next to me. Do you have a favourite biography? I thoroughly enjoyed Anthony Kiedis' Scar Tissue and Ronnie Wood’s book. I try to read one music memoir a year to remind myself of why I'd be rubbish at heroin. What was your favourite book as a teenager? Who Killed Kurt Cobain? was up there.
Photographed by Shelby Duncan.
Which book do you identify with the most? Most recently, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. As a non-American Black woman I hadn't realised how desperately I needed someone to identify this very specific experience, to give it a name and to make fun of it. The ideology of America is often perceived as this goal for all foreigners, which is a largely false and problematic narrative for many reasons – to have someone as skilful as Chimamanda chip away at that was beautifully reaffirming. Which three books would you recommend to a stranger? Only three? The Whitsun Weddings by Philip Larkin because it's wonderful, still and always. God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens because, while he was an eye-rolling misogynist this is, for me, the definitive exploration of religion – also, he's got jokes. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit because I feel strongly that every male should have to read this when they turn 13 so that they’d learn not to act like damn fools. Camilla’s Reading List Matilda by Roald Dahl
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit
Lifespan of a Fact by John D'Agata and Jim Fingal
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo
Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis
Ronnie: The Autobiography by Ronnie Wood
Who Killed Kurt Cobain? by Ian Halperin and Max Wallace
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Whitsun Weddings by Philip Larkin
God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

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