Reading Habits: Shawn Vestal

The author of “Daredevils” has figured out how to arrange his life so that there are no bad places to read.

Not every adventure has to involve a motorcycle and a canyon jump. Spokane author Shawn Vestal, whose latest novel Daredevils covers just such territory, takes thrill-seeking dives into fiction of all genres when he reads for pleasure. Reading Habits is a recurring feature that asks authors, artists, leaders, and others about their lives as readers.

A book you’re reading right now.

I’m reading Tinkers, by Paul Harding, which I’m really enjoying, and some of the Dead Man poems by Marvin Bell, which are truly wonderful. In the middle of that, I took a two-day break and raced through Elmore Leonard’s Killshot, because sometimes you need a jolt of Elmore Leonard in your life.

Your favorite place to read.

Sitting on the couch in my living room, when there is no one else home, so I can read a passage — or some lines of poetry — out loud if I choose to, like the senile old man I am becoming.

Your least favorite place to read, but where you often end up anyway.

I don’t love to read in bed, but I don’t often end up reading in bed, either, and when I do I find I prefer it to not reading. There may be no such place — I have managed to arrange my life so it contains no unhappy reading places!

You’re banished to a desert island, with the complete works of just one author. Who is it?

What a terrifying prospect — so much booklessness! But it would have to be Shakespeare.

Paper book or e-reader? Why?

Paper book. It’s probably just habit, honestly, but it’s just a sensory experience that I much prefer. I also like to underline and write in them occasionally, and then come back years later and try to figure out why in the world I underlined THAT passage.

A book that changed your life in a significant way.

The Book of Mormon, hands down. If only based on the number of hours I had to spend in church as a child, and then the amount of thought I have given the book, and the religion, ever since I left the church.

A book you would force all humans to read if you had the power.

One of mine. OK, that’s not fair. Maybe the complete Shakespeare? Too much? How about a few of the plays – say a Lear-Macbeth-Hamlet value pack? I’ll lend all humans my copy of The Riverside Shakespeare, if they promise to return it by the time I’m banished to that desert island.

A book that was better than the movie.

All of them? Maybe not quite. I often think that Jesus’ Son is one of the better triumphs in both forms, though the book is better.

A book you found too disturbing to finish.

I think disturbing doesn’t drive me away, necessarily. Some of my favorite books are disturbing, truly unsettling, and I find that not only do I not stop reading them, I reread them. I’m thinking of Blood Meridian, Lolita, Sabbath’s Theater — novels of perplexed moralities and bad behavior.

A book you’re embarrassed to admit you like.

I don’t know if there is one. I’m happy to have read just about anything, even terrible novels. When I was a teenager there were a couple of books I read solely for the promise of sexual content — Norman Mailer’s Ancient Evenings comes to mind — so I suppose that’s a little embarrassing. But not very.

The best bookstore you know.

I have a special fondness for Auntie’s in Spokane. Part of this is based on the fact that it’s a great bookstore, and part is based on the fact that I have a personal connection with the people who work there, and this town. Apart from that, I would live in Powell’s in Portland, if they’d let me. Just set up a cot in the aisles.

Shawn Vestal is debuting an original short story as part of Humanities Washington’s Bedtime Stories literary fundraiser in Spokane on October 28. More here.

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