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By the Book: Ellie Lardner '23
By the Book: Ellie Lardner '23

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 tenth chapter features student Ellie Lardner '23.


Describe your ideal reading experience.

My ideal reading experience does not involve rain, a fireplace, or a warm blanket wrapped around me, though I do love all those things. Instead, I am a person who enjoys reading best when surrounded by lots of action. In the gym where I do gymnastics, tucked away into the corner of the locker room, as people file in around me, waiting for practice to start. That, along with a good book, is my ideal reading experience.

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

I would claim to read pretty much any book, but that would be a lie. I will give most everything a chance, though if I decide I really don't like a book, I won't feel obligated to finish it – well, I'll give everything a chance except historical non-fiction, which I have a particular hate for. Sorry to all the history teachers out there but I do like learning about history, just not reading about it in a dry, boring, small-print book. My all-time favorite genres are fantasy and science fiction, but I don't like the pocket-sized, mass-produced science fiction books that are written just for money and all have remarkably similar plots. The allure of these types of books – when well-written – is in the characters, and how they handle themselves in unorthodox situations. Despite my love for these genres, it can be hard to find a well-crafted book in either of them sometimes.

How do you organize your books?

Currently, my books or organized by genre – albeit a rather loose system that sometimes is ignored for the sake of space on my book shelf. However, for a while, my books were color coded, then they were alphabetized and even on one day of pure boredom, reorganized in order of favorite to least favorite.

What books are on your nightstand?

My room is currently without a nightstand of any sort, but if I did have one, I can tell you exactly which ones would be there. First and foremost, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which is my all time favorite book. It is one of the only books that I have read over and over again and has yet to get old. I would recommend this book to anyone, no matter their age. The next book on my metaphorical nightstand would be Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel which is another favorite that I frequently peruse. Right now, The Lord of the Rings would also be there, because I am re-reading the entire series. If I had a night stand, there might be a few more assorted volumes on it, but, since I don't, my books generally all remain shelved on the tall white bookshelves in my bedroom.

What kind of reader were you as a child? What should everyone read before the age of ten?

From a young age, I was a reader who flew through every book I could get my hands on. The thing that really got me into reading was my family. After all, when they all settled down with their various books, and there was no one to play with young me, what was I supposed to do but follow their example? One of my first favorite books was The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall, and I think every young girl should read that before they turn ten. It is quite an easy read, but for young girls who have grown bored of the endless stories about princesses, fairies and long hair, it is a refreshing story about a family that has a normal life and almost seems to be real.