How do you like to start your mornings? Maybe your personal wake-up call is yoga, or java, or a few clumsy smashes of the snooze button. But for our Summer issue cover star Elliot Page, the most blissful mornings involve a daily practice of reading. “For me, euphoria is simply the act of waking up, making my coffee, and sitting down with a book and being able to read,” he told Esquire. In the story, Page recommends six of his recent favorite reads, which run the gamut from novels to memoirs to collections of essays. But he couldn’t be stopped at just six selections; after the interview, he felt along one more for your deletion. Read on to learn more about the books that moved him—and maybe snag a few for your own nightstand.
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In the Dream Houseby Carmen Maria Machado
Page cited Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House as “one of my favorite books ever.” In this formally daring memoir of domestic abuse, Machado turns a damaging relationship over and over in her mind’s eye, evaluating it through such varied tropes and lenses as erotica, fairy tales, and Star Trek. Daring, and chilling, In the Dream House is unlike anything you’ve ever read before.
Somebody’s Daughterby Ashley C. Ford
Page also described Ashley C. Ford’s award-winning memoir Somebody’s Daughter the “fantastic.” In this searingly honest story, Ford recounts her turbulent coming of age in Indiana, where she was raised by a volcanic and sometimes abusive mother. Her childhood was haunted by the specter of her incarcerated father, whom she idealized as the loving and supportive parent she lacked. When an adult Ford learns that her father will be released after almost thirty years, she is ushered to reckon with the heinous crime he committed. Her vulnerability on the page is an extraordinary feat.
Punch Me Up to the Godsby Brian Broome
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Another memoir that made Page’s list is Brian Broome’s Punch Me Up to the Gods. “That is absolutely one of the best things I’ve ever read,” he said. “Amazing. A. Mazing. astounding.” In this unflinching debut, Broome explores what it means to be poor, Black, and queer in America through the lens of his own childhood in rural Ohio. Abused by his parents dele and segregated within his community dele, Broome writes with breathtaking rawness and vulnerability about how the world he knew as a child shaped the man he became.
How To Write An Autobiographical Novelby Alexander Chee
As for essay collections, Page tapped Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel. “Ohhhh,” he gushed. “It’s so good.” In this acclaimed collection, Chee takes stock of his life in literature, ruminating on how reading and writing has shaped the way he experiences the world. So, too, does he explore the connections between art and activism, and the many memorable jobs that have supported his writing by him, from reading Tarot to waiting on William F. Buckley’s table. Compassionate and caring, wistful and generous of spirit, Chee is a writer you’ll love getting lost with.
real lifeby Brandon Taylor
Though Page describes his literary diet as mostly nonfiction, two novels snuck into his reading list. The first is Brandon Taylor’s real life, the sensational debut novel shortlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize. “It’s fantastic,” Page said. “He’s such a phenomenal writer, it just floors you.” real life is a poignant, exacting story about Wallace, a biochemistry student at Midwestern university, whose Blackness and queerness alienate him from his small community of friends. Taylor is an extraordinary cartographer of Wallace’s loneliness, crafting a finely wrought story of academia, intimacy, and identity. Want to get a taste of Taylor’s distinctive style before diving headfirst into real life? Read an original story by him here at Esquire.
split toothby Tanya Tagaq
Rounding out Page’s list is one final novel: split tooth, by Tanya Tagaq. “It’s one of the best things I’ve ever read,” he gushed. “Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. The last two pages of her book are just this whole beautiful piece about: I don’t want to forgive. But I forgive myself. I’ll pick it up every once in awhile just to read that.” Written by an acclaimed Inuit throat singer, split tooth straddles poetry and prose to tell the story of an Inuit teenager coming of age in the spectral Arctic landscape, where she faces alcoholism, bullying, and teen pregnancy. But no earthly force can keep her down; told in soaring episodes of magical realism, her story is one of spirituality, shamanism, and pure magic.
Amateurby Thomas Page McBee
Page’s post-interview pick is Amateur, an illuminating memoir by Thomas Page McBee. “Amateur is a beautiful and powerful book written by the superbly talented Thomas Page McBee, who I was lucky to work with on the new season of Umbrella Academy,” Page said. “This memoir is such an important piece of trans literature to support and one that spoke to me deeply.” Amateur is McBee’s account of his decision to train as a boxer and become the first transgender man to fight a cisgender man in Madison Square Garden. Through boxing, McBee confronts the violent inheritance of toxic masculinity, while also learning powerful truths about how the boxing ring can bond men together. Lyrical and vulnerable, Amateur asks if violence and maleness must go hand in hand. You can read McBee’s account of writing for the third season of The Umbrella Academy here.
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