We’re so excited to formally introduce the latest editor to join the Books Editorial Team, Alexandra Woodworth (you can call her Al). Al has been at Amazon for 7 years, working on different books businesses all while lending her time as a valuable reader for Best of the Month. So we’re thrilled to have her as an official member of the team, and I took the opportunity to sit down with her for a Q&A so we can all get to know her a bit better.
Sarah Gelman: What’s your earliest reading memory?
Al Woodworth: I remember carrying Angelina Ballerina everywhere, loving The Araboolies of Liberty Street, and being very proud of my stack of library books every week. One of my favorite memories though is lying in my twin bed, my dad in the other, reading My Side of the Mountain every night before going to bed.
When did you start to identify as a bookworm/book lover?
I’m not sure I can pinpoint an age. Books are like breathing to me – they are necessary and invigorating. As a kid, I was always encouraged to read by my parents: I can remember vividly being sprawled on the floor, with books surrounding me and never wanting to be called down to dinner. To me, books have always been a place of refuge, of inspiration, of learning, and living, and that continues today.
What’s the last book you gave as a gift?
I just gave my mom Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House--one of my favorites this year. It’s such a great story about the ineffable bond between siblings, and how formative childhood relationships, experiences, and homes can be.
When someone asks you for a reading recommendation, do you have a go-to book you recommend? What is it?
Mostly I recommend books I’ve read recently and loved, which means if you’re anywhere close to me right now you’re going to hear a lot about: Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House, Adrienne Brodeur’s memoir Wild Game, Tupelo Hassman’s gods with a little g, Kevin Wilson’s Nothing to See Here, and Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys.
But, I also try to figure out what the person I’m recommending a book to is in the mood for – are they in the mood to laugh, to learn, to be swept up in a world different than the one we live in –and then go from there.
What’s the last book you purchased?
Yesterday I bought Susan Choi’s novel Trust Exercise, which was just named a finalist for the National Book Award, and I’ve heard great things. I also just bought Ducks, Newburyport, because yes, I am a person that is completely intrigued – compelled, even – to check out a 1040 page book comprised of eight sentences. Have I mentioned I love long sentences? I really do.
If your apartment were on fire and you could only save three books, what would they be and why?
Funny, my smoke alarm went off last night when I was cooking and I immediately thought of this question. Okay, so I would take my copy of Eloise--filled with my annotations (crayon drawings on the elevator page that unfolds); White Noise by Don DeLillo, which my grandmother gave to me; and, Infinite Jest, because I never finished David Foster Wallace’s magnum opus, and what better moment to reclaim it. For those concerned about the alarm: it was the dripping butter from the garlic bread that set it off. Rest assured the garlic bread was cooked to perfection and I still have all of my books.
What books do you regularly re-read?
A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean – because I live in the crowded grid of New York City, this book is like a nature shot to the system, and a reminder that rhythm—in fishing and in life—is constant, but also what make you make of it. This one gets me to slow down and appreciate the beauty.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier – one of my all-time favorites. I read it every few years and every time I find myself thrilled, shocked, and enthralled. It is atmospheric and lush, filled with dark secrets, unforgettable characters, and a house whose name you will never forget: Manderly.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion – I am in love with her prose. This book always makes me cry, but it’s also rock-steady.
Where do you read?
Everywhere – on the subway, on benches, under trees, wrapped in blankets on my couch, wrapped in blankets in my kitchen, under my duvet in bed. On planes, on trains, rarely on boats – because I’m too busy pretending to be the first mate – but you get the idea.
How do you organize your books?
Aspirationally, alphabetically – but I separate fiction and nonfiction and story collections and tiny books (I’m looking at you Penguin Pocket Books). My bedroom has my favorite books and my non-fiction books on publishing – which I adore.
What’s the most exciting thing about joining the editorial team?
So many things! I’m just so excited to share great books, offer recommendations, encourage reading, champion writers and their amazing work, and help readers discover new writers. But, also – a few days ago I had the chance to interview the inimitable, nanny of my dreams and childhood singalongs, Julie Andrews, and that was pretty darn thrilling.
What book are you looking forward to the most in 2020?
2020 is going to be good. There are new novels from personal favorites like James McBride (Deacon King), Ottessa Moshfegh (Death in Her Hands), Lilly King (Writers & Lovers), Hilary Mantel (The Mirror and the Light) that I’m looking forward to and our team is absolutely buzzing with excitement for Jeanine Cummins debut, American Dirt.
But, as always, I’m giddy with anticipation for the writers and books that are unknown – for that unfettered moment of reading a first page and knowing that what I hold is something special and that for the next few hours I will be in the capable hands of a master. There’s nothing like it.
You might also like:
Subscribe to the Amazon Book Review, featuring picks for the best books of the month, author interviews, reading recommendations, and more from the Amazon Books editors.