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Celeste Ng: By the Book

“I try to read omnivorously, because I never know what’s going to spark a new idea. Often the things that I least expect to seize my imagination end up being the most productive.”

The author of, most recently, “Little Fires Everywhere,” often returns to “The Count of Monte Cristo”: “Right now, I see it as an exploration of the complexities of good and evil and how easily one shifts into the other.”

What influences your decisions about which books to read? Word of mouth, reviews, a trusted friend?

Friends. Taste is idiosyncratic, so I don’t love everything people recommend me, and I don’t love everything my friends love. But if a friend adores a book or thinks I will, there’s always something in there that’s interesting and worth thinking about and discussing.

What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?

I was reading about life in the Soviet Union, looking for information about samizdat for novel research, and learned that people shared banned music by cutting old X-ray film into circles and making records out of them. They called them “ribs” or “bones.” I’m fascinated by the ways people under repressive regimes still manage to share information — and joy.

What kinds of books bring you the most reading pleasure these days?

I read with my 6-year-old son every night, and frankly, with the state of the world, it’s a relief to turn to children’s literature. We’ve been enjoying some classics like “The BFG” and some new books like Abby Hanlon’s “Dory Fantasmagory” and Shannon and Dean Hale’s “The Princess in Black” series, which make both of us laugh. And picture books — especially really thoughtful, beautiful ones like Aaron Becker’s “Journey” trilogy, Carson Ellis’s “Du Iz Tak?” and everything by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen — are a balm for the soul. They give me hope for the next generation.

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Children’s Books Missed These Immigrant Stories. So Students Wrote Them.

Greatness surrounds Melissa Cabrera when she attends classes at Bronx Community College. That should not be surprising, because the campus is home to the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, where busts of scientists, scholars and statesmen, among others, line a grand colonnade that wraps around Gould Memorial Library, an architectural treasure designed by Stanford White.

Classical tributes are fine, but the greatness of which Ms. Cabrera speaks was found sitting alongside her in a children’s literature class she took at night, when her fellow students came straight from work, still dressed in the uniforms of nurses, fast-food workers or security guards. A few brought their children, because money for child care was scarce. English was often their second language, and most were the first in their immigrant family to go to college.

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