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Julie Ziegler

Humanities Washington’s executive director on who, what, when, and how she reads—and how the “Little House” books helped her be a better parent.

Julie Ziegler is the executive director of Humanities Washington. Reading Habits is a recurring series that asks authors, artists, leaders, and others about their lives as readers.


A book you’re reading right now. 

I just finished the Eighty Dollar Champion.  My next book will be a Northwest author.  That’s actually what I read the most these days.

Your favorite place to read.  

Like so many people I read later in the evening when the house is quiet. If I could pick an absolute favorite spot, it would be sitting on a window seat or deck chair where I can see the ocean.

Your least favorite place to read but you often end up reading there anyway. 

If I’m reading a book, I don’t have a least-favorite place. If I’m reading email – my kitchen.

You’re banished to a desert island. For reading material you’re allowed to take the complete works of just one author. Who is it?    

Ivan Doig. I love how he has captured so many different aspects of the west so beautifully.

A book you’ve read more than once.

To Kill a Mockingbird.

What you’re holding when you read: a paper book or an e-reader. Why?

A “real” book—paper—always. I love the tactile experience, and I already spend a lot of my day looking at blue light. I also like the conversations that can ignite when someone sees you reading a certain book they have read and liked or loathed, or one they would like to read in the future.

A book that changed your life in a significant way. 

I can’t really name one—they all are unique experiences and many have shaped me in equally significant ways.

You become the librarian for the entire world. As part of your new-found powers, you get to require everyone on earth to read one book. Which one, and why?

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House series. I remember reading it as a child and it provided all sorts of fodder for play-acting in my backyard! As a parent of two girls I appreciate the gentle, yet firm, and encouraging approach the Ma and Pa took to Laura’s and her sisters’ upbringing.

A book that was better than the movie.

Isn’t just about every book better than the movie? Where the Red Fern Grows.

A book you found too disturbing to finish.

I don’t remember setting a book down because it was too disturbing.  I almost didn’t start Room because I thought it would be too upsetting. I was so happy I did read it—it is a testament to the magical world that a mother can create for a child despite horrific circumstances.

A book you’re embarrassed to admit you like.

I’m a sucker for any book—fiction or non-fiction—that involves horses. Some are more “literary” than others.

A classic you think shouldn’t be considered a classic.

Ulysses. Classics like that turn people off of other classics in general, which is a shame.

A book you think should be considered a classic, but isn’t.

I think it will be in time: The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Where you buy most of your books.

When I can squeeze in a trip: an independent bookstore. When I’m desperate for new material and pressed for time,

A genre you think is under-appreciated.

Science fiction. It can be an interesting format with which to examine our society and the forces at play within it.

Longest number of hours you’ve ever spent reading something. What was it?

I binge read The Kite Runner. My family didn’t see me for three days.

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