By the Book: Nishette Isaac

April 16, 2020

The New York Times has a weekly installment called “By the Book” which is a series of questions and answers about the reading habits of notable writers. Walker’s eighth chapter features Dean of Digital and Library Services Nishette Isaac.

What books are on your nightstand?

Right now, I have six books on my nightstand: These Ghosts Are Family by Maisy Card, Eloquent Rage by Brittany Cooper, Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat, The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland and They Came Before Columbus by Ivan Van Sertima.

Describe your ideal reading experience.

Lying in bed on a rainy day under the covers with a hot mug of Ovaltine or Milo on my nightstand.

Which writers working today do you admire most?

I love works by Caribbean authors: Jamaica Kincaid, V.S. Naipaul, Derek Walcott (from my homeland), etc. I think they tell a story that is comforting and familiar to me. It’s in the way they tell stories that bring vibrant images to life. Stories of hardship, struggle, perseverance, family, humor and sadness, all rolled in a beautiful tapestry.

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

Romance Mystery novels are my go-to and favorite. I tend to avoid horrors; I’ve got a very active imagination and get scared easily.

Which book might we be surprised to find on your bookshelves?

Cookbooks! Lol, I’m not the best cook and only know a few dishes. My family and friends are surprised to see a number of cookbooks on my shelves. I’m constantly ordering cookbooks, in the hopes that one day, I will create an awesome meal.

How do you organize your books?

As a child, I watched my aunt organize her books by genres and I’ve adopted her system. I go by genre, then by size. It looks good aesthetically.

What is the best book you have ever received as a gift?

Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett. My best friend, knowing how much I was obsessed with quotations in college, bought it as a birthday gift for me. There’s now a database – but I still obsess over the print version.

What do you plan to read next?

The Reverse Underground Railroad: Slavery and Kidnapping in Pre-Civil War America. Early this year, I went to a reading at the Connecticut Historical Society with Ms. Grisanti to see the author, Dr. Richard Bell, discuss his work and have been very excited to read this book. We have an autographed copy in the library.

Do you like being read to or reading aloud?

I prefer reading aloud. Being a librarian and for many years, a children’s librarian, I’ve always loved reading aloud to people.

If you could require your friends to read one book, which would it be?

OMG! One of my favorite books of all time: The Dew Breaker by the incomparable Edwidge Danticat. I first read this book when I was in my twenties and it made a huge impression on me. It can be read both as a novel or a collection of short stories. Also, focusing on Haitian history of Papa Doc and Baby Doc, it is similar stories to what I heard as a child growing up in the Caribbean.