J.J. Johnson is the author of the novels “Believarexic,” “The Theory of Everything,” and “This Girl is Different,” which have received numerous honors and been translated into six languages. She has a Master of Education from Harvard University and lives in the Northgate Park neighborhood in Durham.
Recommended read: “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley. Stay with me here, people. I promise this book is not what you think. A lot of folks don’t know that the book is subtitled “The Modern Prometheus.” (In Greek mythology, Prometheus was a more-powerful-than-the-gods Titan who created mankind and gave us fire, which he stole straight from the gods.) So, Mary Shelley, a 19-year-old girl in 1816, gets dared by Lord Byron to write a ghost story – and she ends up writing a masterpiece that radically questions what it means to create life, what it means to be alive. Sure, it’s creepy, but it’s not too creepy, and more importantly, it is a riveting, insightful, beautifully written investigation into the meaning of creation, and science, and what makes us human.
Currently reading: “The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck. Written in 1931, it’s about rural village life in China before World War I. A neighbor left it in the Little Free Library I maintain in front of my house, and it caught my eye. I tend to take a mixed-salad approach to reading: I’ll read a classic novel, then a nonfiction book (history, urban design, political theory, biography, you name it), and then a contemporary novel of any genre. Keeps things eclectic and interesting.
Who or what taught you to love to read? My parents are enthusiastic readers; I have fond memories of reading aloud with them, from when I was teeny to when I was a teenager. And my school librarians were darling, daring souls whose love of books was absolutely contagious.
What is your favorite book that nobody’s heard of? The Tomorrow Series, by John Marsden. It’s famous in Australia, but little known here. It’s about a group of Aussie teenagers who go camping and come back to find their country has been invaded and their families taken hostage. It is smart, well written, and keeps you on the edge of your seat for all seven books.
Where do you go for book recommendations? I get my best recommendations from my mom, my mother-in-law, and the shelves and displays at the Durham Public Libraries. Librarians are the unsung heroes of literature, y’all.
Longman, 343 pages