It's Lit! The Host Of Fascinating New Podcast Stance Shares Her Reading List

Photographed by Holly Whittaker
Welcome to It's Lit – a series of discussions about books. Join us every month to find out who's reading what.
Chrystal Genesis worked for BBC radio for just shy of a decade before she and her friend Heta Fell founded the podcast Stance earlier this year – a razor-sharp series that reveals diverse, global perspectives in arts, culture and current affairs. Recent guests have included Homegoing author Yaa Gyasi, Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Fazeelat Aslam, and actor Riz Ahmed. Topics range from the female prison experience in the US versus the UK, to threats facing California's burgeoning Afro House scene, and the problematic representations of race and gender in the tech industry.
With an MA in global history and a postgraduate in broadcast journalism, Genesis admits to being obsessed with "people, stories, culture, history and facts." An avid collector of art and music books, her Borough home – which she shares with her husband and two young children – is full of beautiful coffee table tomes she's picked up on her adventures around the world. "I love travelling, specifically travelling alone!"
Authors Genesis would love to have as guests on Stance include "Claudia Rankine, Junot Diaz, Alice Walker, Malcolm Gladwell, Elena Ferrante, Salman Rushdie, Marlon James and Jung Chang."
What are you reading right now?
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy – a birthday present from Heta, my Stance podcast co-founder.
Photographed by Holly Whittaker
Who taught you to read?
My mum. She's an artist and performer so there was always an element of drama whenever she read to me. There were five of us and she's so patient… I have no idea how she did it. It was a madhouse but the chaos was very much organised.
Where and when do you like to read?
I’d say in bed or while travelling. That's when I can relax and reading helps me do that.
Do you have a favourite bookshop?
Definitely Bookmongers in Brixton. It’s a secondhand bookshop and one of a handful of local places to have weathered the accelerated gentrification of the area. I remember going in often as a child with one of my family members and being able to buy a book from there – and sweets in Woolworths down the road on the high street – if I'd been well behaved. Nowadays, I try and pop in there when I’m in the area. You don’t go in there to buy something specific but you’ll always leave with something brilliant in hand. You can always find something super interesting or super random; from a book about 20th century transatlantic female Pan-Africanism or a kid’s book for my goddaughter, to cookery, philosophy and all the great historical masterpieces by Tony Judt, Stuart Hall and Frantz Fanon.
Do you have a Kindle?
No way. I want to hold things. I know it’s old-fashioned, and that it’s hard to read when in bed and half-asleep and your arm starts hurting, but I love to look at and touch a book. I also hope one day when I die my kids may find some of them interesting but I doubt that – they'll end up in Bookmongers!
Do you read a lot of magazines?
Yes, I love them. I love Riposte, which is aimed at women – usually a bad sign, as most seem to be there to make women feel inadequate – but it’s a very different type of female magazine, in that it provides such great content, which is refreshing. I really like Typical Girls too, which a friend picked up for me as he thought I'd like it. I also enjoy reading The Atlantic, which I really got into when I lived in Washington DC while working as a journalist there. The news and culture are spot-on – they've published some absolute gems such as "The Case for Reparations" by Ta-Nehisi Coates and "My Family's Slave" by Alex Tizon. I have a subscription, which is about 10 years too late but it's important to support real journalism, otherwise we are left with Dacre and Murdoch – scary. I also like the London Review of Books and recently read a great essay in there by John Lanchester called "Between Victoria and Vauxhall: The Election", which was brilliant. I love The New Yorker too, and art magazines that you can pick up years later and find something interesting that you didn’t spot before Nka Journal of Contemporary African Art or Majestic Disorder. With Stance, we are really keen on showcasing different topics, or exploring regular stories but with unlikely narrators. These magazines are inspiring and informative, which feeds into a lot of our work.
Photographed by Holly Whittaker
Are you part of a book club?
Yes, I am and the only rule is that we read books by women and we meet quarterly. We recently finished Swing Time by Zadie Smith, which I absolutely loved.
Is there a book you’ve read more than once?
Quite a few but one that comes straight to my mind is a book called Women Are Heroes by JR. It's essentially an art book and I have it in the main room of my house and when we have guests over, someone always ends up picking it up, and I read it quite often as well. It’s beautiful, insightful, tender and important. Also Great Jewish Short Stories by Saul Bellow, bought for me by one of my best friends about 10 years ago. I read it over and over again – it was the best introduction to short stories.
How do you choose what to read next?
Usually via a friend or a gift bought by a friend. Or my husband who usually has similar taste to me. I might also listen to the radio and hear about the release of a new book that way or via an article I've read.
What book do you give as a gift?
So many, although after reading Viv Albertine’s Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys., I bought 10 copies for friends as birthday presents! I love the musical history in it – it's such an entertaining read, and I love her.
How do you organise your books at home? Do you have a system?
There is no system. I'd say the books in the bookshelves are based on size and what we can squeeze in there. The books on the table in the main room are based on what I want to look at every day so I change that every few months. Sounds of the Universe record shop always has the best books to buy, so I usually have a few from there or I’ll regularly buy a book from an art exhibition I enjoyed seeing.
What do you use as a bookmark?
I try and use one if I have it to hand but if not it's a folded page.
Do you prefer fact or fiction?
Fact! Boring, I know. There’s just so much history and real stories that I’m obsessed with.
What are some of your favourite non-fiction books?
I visited one of my favourite cities in the US, Philadelphia, specifically to see the Keith Haring mural. Towards the end of my trips my parents-in-law – who came too – bought me the book Keith Haring Journals, which I absolutely love. I'd also recommend Studs Terkel's Giants of Jazz, which was the first book my husband ever got me. I became obsessed with Terkel after reading it.
Photographed by Holly Whittaker
Photographed by Holly Whittaker
Which three books would you recommend to a stranger?
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, it resonated in so many ways with me – it’s such a brilliantly current and modern book. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell, the first Orwell book I ever read, and anything by James Baldwin as he is my hero. Let’s say…The Fire Next Time. One of my favourite bookshops that recently closed down was called the Society Club in Soho – one of the owners, Babette, knew I loved Baldwin and kept a second edition for me which I now have at home.
Chrystal’s Reading List:
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Women Are Heroes by JR
Great Jewish Short Stories by Saul Bellow
Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. by Viv Albertine
Keith Haring Journals by Keith Haring
Giants of Jazz by Studs Terkel
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
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