Gabrielle Union Likes to Read in the Bathroom

“It’s quiet, I am left alone, it’s optimal temperature, I feel like I’m killing a couple birds with one stone, and I can retain what I’ve read,” says the actress and activist Gabrielle Union, whose new memoir is “You Got Anything Stronger?”

What books are on your night stand?

“Seven Days in June,” by Tia Williams, and “The Other Black Girl,” by Zakiya Dalila Harris.

What’s the last great book you read?

The last great book I read was “She Memes Well,” by Quinta Brunson.

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

To be completely truthful, I prefer to read during my bathroom time. It’s quiet, I am left alone, it’s optimal temperature, I feel like I’m killing a couple birds with one stone, and I can retain what I’ve read.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

I have loved this book called “Goodnight, Beautiful,” by Dorothy Koomson for many, many years. I optioned it and I’m still as obsessed with it as I was when I first read it.

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

Roxane Gay, Tressie McMillan Cottom, Brit Bennett, Brittney Cooper, Glennon Doyle and Brené Brown.

You’ve written a lot about your difficult path to motherhood. Did any books help you through that process, either emotionally or practically?

Authors that have helped me emotionally are Glennon Doyle, Brené Brown and Roxane Gay. Their work speaks specifically to a lot of the trying issues that I’ve dealt with in the last 10 years. Some are friends in real life, some are just friends in my mind, but they have helped me up and kept me afloat when I didn’t feel like I had a lifeline.

Of all the characters you’ve played, which role felt to you the most novelistic?

Probably the one I just finished, the role as “Jenna Jones” in “The Perfect Find,” written by Tia Williams. Maybe it’s because we just turned it into a movie but there were so many layers in the book that I was so excited to explore onscreen that challenged me in ways that I’ve never been challenged before. It made me rethink aging, rethink true love, rethink the notion of soul mates and what women deserve.

What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?

I learned that vulnerability is my superpower (thank you Brené Brown). I always looked at vulnerability as my kryptonite, something to be ashamed of, not something to lean into, and once I realized that I am who I am, and I am capable of greatness because of my vulnerability rather than in spite of it, it shifted my worldview.

Which subjects do you wish more authors would write about?

The intersection of race, gender, identity and class. I would be very interested to read about that in a piece of fiction.

What moves you most in a work of literature?

Character development, story pacing and, honestly, I need to be titillated. The more titillation the better.

Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?

The genres I enjoy reading are historical fiction first and foremost, epic sweeping romance novels that cover the globe.

How do you organize your books?

I don’t. I get a lot of them, some just because I’m an obscene fan of books and words in general and I just love books which I’ve passed onto my daughters, but they’re pretty much “organized,” and I’m using my finger quotes here, by how they arrive in my house. So, the books on the top of the shelf are generally the oldest.

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

“Confessions of a Video Vixen,” by Karrine Steffans. It’s juicy — she spills all the tea and whew, yeah.

What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?

I was a voracious reader, I loved the library, I loved bookstores. My mom had to kind of put a limit on it because I was just flying through books so quickly. I love, love, love books. When I was very, very small I loved Dr. Seuss, who has turned out to be problematic, so Kaav, my daughter, doesn’t have Dr. Seuss in the way that I did. When I was first starting chapter books my mom gave me “Coming of Age in Mississippi,” by Anne Moody, and I just devoured it. I’ve read it a few times since and I recommend it to all young women.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

Angela Davis, Roxane Gay and Brittney Cooper.

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?

Pretty much the vast majority of the books that I read that were assigned reading probably from seventh grade on. The only book that stuck with me in a positive way was “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou. But “The Great Gatsby,” “Huckleberry Finn,” “Tom Sawyer,” you can keep it. “Slaughterhouse-Five,” keep it. “White Fang,” “The Old Man and the Sea,” “Moby-Dick” — please, keep it. My life did not change for reading any of those. If I didn’t have to write papers and do assignments on them, I would’ve gladly never finished them after the first chapter.

What do you plan to read next?

I plan to read my own book coming out, “You Got Anything Stronger?,” because I’ll be doing the audio recording for it, so I’ll be rereading my own book. The last time I did my audible for my first book, “We’re Going to Need More Wine,” I discovered things on the page that I didn’t realize I revealed, so it was like reading my first book for the first time and being terrified and exhilarated and excited all at once all over again.

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