Samantha Irby: By the Book

Samantha Irby

The comedian and blogger Samantha Irby, whose collection “Meaty” has just been reissued, would love to see celebrities’ grocery lists: “I’m so curious about other people’s daily needs. What’s in your bathroom cabinet right now?”

What books are currently on your nightstand?

“Children of Blood and Bone,” by Tomi Adeyemi; “Call Me Zebra,” by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi; “Mean,” by Myriam Gurba; “The Book of Essie,” by Meghan MacLean Weir; and “The Talented Ribkins,” by Ladee Hubbard. IT’S A BIG NIGHTSTAND, O.K.

What was the last truly great book you read?

I loved, like beyond all measure, Hanif Abdurraqib’s “They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us.” It’s a collection of essays about music and culture that are written with such insight and tenderness that I read it in a day and immediately read the whole thing again because it cracked my heart all the way open and had me crying over Fall Out Boy and I was like “Hold up, did that really happen?” It’s spectacular.

Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?

This is really a Sophie’s choice kind of situation for me and I don’t like it, but here is an abbreviated list: Kara Brown, Jia Tolentino, Bunmi Laditan, Michael Arceneaux, Megan Stielstra, Ijeoma Oluo, Kiese Laymon, Ira Madison III, Roxane Gay, Porochista Khakpour, Lindy West, Samhita Mukhopadhyay, Fatimah Asghar, Doreen St. Felix and Jessica Hopper.

What’s your favorite thing to read? And what do you avoid reading?

My favorite books, hands down, are thrillers. But only the fancy ones, the $16 paperback ones. I’m the perfect simpleton: I never see the twist coming! The killer pretty much has to climb out of the pages and punch me in the face! I also love a gripping family drama, and I read lots and lots of Y.A. I tend to avoid fantasy because I’m not very good at seeing imaginary worlds in my mind. I get caught up in whether or not I’ve mentally constructed it correctly and it ruins the book.

What do you read when you travel?

I always have an ambitiously packed carry-on when I travel even though I know that as soon as the announcements are over I’m going to plug in my headphones and watch a movie with John Cena in it. The last book I read on a flight to Los Angeles was “Eat Only When You’re Hungry,” by Lindsay Hunter, and it messed me right up. I couldn’t even look at those tiny bags of airplane chips.

Who’s your favorite comedian-turned-writer?

W. Kamau Bell. “The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell” was so smart and funny.

What are your favorite movies or shows based on books?

Is “The Real Housewives of New York City” based on a book? Haha just kidding. I want to say something like “Atonement,” by Ian McEwan, so that I can trick you into thinking that I am a serious person, but the truth is I never read the book OR saw the movie. I read “Misery,” by Stephen King, and that movie was amazing. I can’t wait for some overzealous fan to kidnap me and make me write about diarrhea at gunpoint!

And what book would you most like to see turned into a movie or TV show?

“I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter,” by Erika L. Sánchez, would be such a good movie. It’s about a very real girl dealing with real girl problems, craving independence and coping with anger and depression while grappling with boys and her parents and the death of her sister and all that. It’s sad and funny and hopeful, and it would be amazing on the big screen.

What’s the last book that made you cry?

I read a lot of Y.A. books, and I just finished this book “Being Fishkill,” by Ruth Lehrer, that made me ugly cry in a public place which was incredibly embarrassing!

The last book that made you laugh?

“Everything Is Awful,” by Matt Bellassai. That dude is so bent out of shape about so many things and so am I, because everything is horrible and embarrassing. I’m almost sure we are the same person. It was like reading my diary.

The last book that made you furious?

“The Girl on the Train.” I read it because everybody else read and loved it, plus I’m really into Emily Blunt, and halfway through the book I was like “WHAT.” Homegirl was infuriating! Literally why did she keep going back to that house?! Is this the kind of thing where Americans say we like something even though it’s terrible because we don’t want to look dumb because British people made it? I was rooting for her to die the entire time.

What kind of reader were you as a child?

Voracious. I had an old mom, who definitely was not a cool mom, who encouraged me to stay indoors and avoid human interaction, so I just read all the time. All of the Sweet Valley High and The Baby-Sitters Club books and every single unrequited teenage love story released between 1989 and 1995, when I discovered grunge and focused my sadness there instead.

Did you ever get in trouble for reading a book?

My mom once threw an R. L. Stine book in the trash because she thought it was demonic. It was a library book! I had to pay a fine!

Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Your favorite antihero or villain?

Maybe this is my misandry showing, but boy did I love Amy from “Gone Girl.” I didn’t even really hate Nick, in fact I could identify with a lot of things going on in his life? But ultimately, when the twist came, I tented my witchy fingers and was like “HAHAHAHAHA YES. FINISH HIM.”

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

The President’s Daily Brief, by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers are invited?

Listen, isn’t it weird when people pretend they want to dig up F. Scott Fitzgerald or whoever and eat catered sandwiches with them? It’s not like dude is going to know what good movies are out or who just got kicked off “Survivor,” and I’m not enough of a conversationalist to dream up something other than whatever E! News alert popped up on my phone to talk about. “Oh hello, Ernest Hemingway! Help yourself to some grocery store cubed cheese! Would you like to talk about the latest episode of ‘Vanderpump Rules’?”

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

Any history book I’ve ever been assigned.

What’s the one book you wish someone else would write?

I would love to read a book of famous people’s lists. Like, what does Drake pack in his overnight bag? What are Forest Whitaker’s grocery essentials?! Honestly, I would read anyone’s lists of anything. I’m so curious about other people’s daily needs. What’s in your bathroom cabinet right now?

Who would you choose to write your life story?

Alissa Nutting! She writes with a disgustingness and urgency that could really make my boring life sound spicy.

What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?

Every history book that I’ve ever been assigned. Also: I rushed out and bought “Pachinko,” by Min Jin Lee, in hardcover when I saw it on all the “Best of the Year” lists because in theory I want to be up on the zeitgeist and reading that one thing that everyone else read and loved, and I added it to the stack of things on my desk and promptly started reading something else. Who even knows what. So now it’s just sitting there mocking me and making me feel bad but I swear I’m going to get to it soon.

What do you plan to read next?

“Dread Nation,” by Justina Ireland!

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